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No conviction, no charge: police still seize property

It is hard to believe that it happens in America, but it does. It even happens right here in Shelby County: law enforcement officials seize property from people who have not been convicted of any crime. In fact, sometimes they have not even been charged with a crime.

Take the case of a 54-year-old man not far from Memphis. His teenage son was driving his 2005 Mercedes when he was pulled over by Millington police and arrested "on marijuana charges." The police department seized the Army veteran's car under the civil asset forfeiture law and intended to sell it, though its owner had not been charged or convicted.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions last month said he is restarting the federal program that enables police to seize cash and property from people they believe are connected to criminal activities.

Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich says she's all for civil asset forfeiture. It’s a valuable tool in fighting drug crimes, she says. "Forfeitures are how we hit back against drug dealers: take their drugs or take their drug money – drug dealers hate both," she says.

Last year, the Shelby County Sheriff's Office seized $1.9 million in property and cash. Memphis police declined to comment for a recent news article on civil asset forfeiture.

And what of the dad whose car was seized in Millington? With the help of an attorney, he was able to get the vehicle returned.

"What really took me aback is I have spent 29 years in the Army, combat tours defending this country and this is still the mentality of if I can take your property, it is mine," he said. "I don't think that is the spirit of the law. That is not what the law is designed to do."

You can fight for your freedom, property and rights with the help of an experienced lawyer. Contact the Memphis law office of Jack P. Sherman, attorney at law, for more information.

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