FEAR-List Bulletin posted by Leon Felkins, February 10, 1998
The once proud and dignified state of Tennessee, birthplace of the great congressman, David Crockett (who was of the opinion that the government had no right to steal from one group to give to another -- see "Not Yours to Give"), is now hesitantly moving down the path of taking of private property under its new forfeiture laws. According to the local press, there are a few difficulties which should be worked out in time.
According to the CROSSVILLE CHRONICLE (http://www.crossville-chronicle.com) as of January 1, 1998 two new laws have been added to make it easier to combat DUI's (Tennessee already has the law that allows police to "administratively" seize a suspects driver's license without the annoyance of a trial). I quote from the newspaper article (see http://www.crossville-chronicle.com/archive/newlaw1.htm):
"One law, which amended TCA 55-10-403, allows for the seizure and possible forfeiture of a vehicle upon a person's second DUI arrest. It was a part of Gov. Don Sundquist's legislative crime package that focused on stiffening the state's DUI laws. The other new law, amending TCA 55-50-504, allows for seizure and forfeiture of a vehicle when an individual is charged with driving on a revoked license if that license had been revoked for a DUI conviction."
"Quite simply, it's an attempt to take what has become a deadly weapon out of that individual's hands," explains state Safety Commissioner Mike Greene. This concept of simply putting a dangerous weapon away for safe keeping is a partial justification for the law, apparently. Of course, this logic could be applied to many of us, drunk or not!
But there are a few problems. In a later and recent article, titled "New DUI seizure law having a different effect than lawmakers had anticipated" (http://www.crossville-chronicle.com/archive/n0059.htm), the CROSSVILLE CHRONICLE explains that:
"While counties across the state have been seizing vehicles belonging to repeat drunk drivers, they are doing so at a price, and it's costing counties more than they have bargained for. . . Where the problem facing some counties comes in is the state gets 85-percent of the money generated from the seizure and sell of the drunk driver's vehicle, leaving the county with only 15-percent. More times than not, the county stands to lose money after paying for the towing fee and storage of the vehicle, breaking even at best."
The article goes on to quote Roane County Narcotics Officer, Dennis Worley:
"We got five cars the first five days after the law took effect," Mr. Worley said, "we haven't had that many problems except that we're running out of storage space to put the ones we bring in."
Mr. Worley said profits have been made from drug seizures, but for DUI seizures almost no profits are made, if any.
If that doesn't confirm that this country is going to hell, I don't know what would. When a police department can't make a decent profit, we are in deep doodoo.
Others in enforcement agencies have even expressed doubts about the constitutionality and fairness of the laws:
"Questions have been raised testing the vagueness of the law. What if someone loans the car to a sober driver who later gets drunk? Is it constitutional? Lt. Burgess said another problem may arise if a member of a one-car family, who isn't employed at the time, takes the car and gets arrested for DUI and has the car forfeited, leaving the one family member who does work without transportation."
The Attorney General, however, assures everyone that the laws are constitutional. It will all get worked out in due time. A Lt. Burgess is quoted as saying:
"It's like the drug seizure law when it first came out, there were a lot of problems but they changed it around to where it's now workable."
We should never lose faith in the dedication and perseverance of our Civil Servants and Law Officers.
Posted by Leon Felkins on 10 Feb. 1998.