Forfeitures & Seizures
Frequently Asked Questions
Answers to questions about Asset Forfeitures and Seizures is available at the following link:
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Asset Forfeiture Division of the State of Tennessee
Asset Forfeiture Statute: Tennessee Code Annotated (T.C.A.) Sections 40-33-201 et seq.
Table of Contents
- Property Seizure: Who Seizes?, Why is Property Seized?, and Where Does the Paperwork Go?
- Notice of Property Seizure and Forfeiture Warrant
- Forfeiture Warrant: When a Forfeiture Warrant Can Be Appealed, What Happens After the Appeal, and What Happens if There is no Appeal
- Filing a Petition to Request a Hearing
- After the Petition is Filed: Setting the Matter for a Hearing, Sending a Notice of Hearing, What Happens if a Lienholder is Listed on the Title of a Seized Vehicle
- On the Hearing Date: Negotiating a Settlement (Settlement Reached, Settlement Not Reached - Having a Hearing) or Seeking to Have a Hearing on Another Date
- The Results of a Hearing, Final Order, and Filing an Appeal
Property Seizure: Who Seizes?, Why is Property Seized?, and Where Does the Paperwork Go?
Law enforcement agencies may seize property consisting of vehicles, money, real property, and other miscellaneous property. Property may be seized for possession of narcotics, illegal or prescription. Vehicles may be seized for driving on a driver’s license which has been revoked for driving under the influence (DUI) and for driving under the influence (DUI) for a second or subsequent time. Both DUI charges must have occurred within five (5) years of each other. The seizing agency then sends the paperwork to the Legal Division of the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security to process since authority has been given to the Commissioner of the Department for the disposition of the seized property.
Notice of Property Seizure and Forfeiture Warrant
The Notice of Property Seizure and Forfeiture of Conveyances form (commonly called the Notice of Seizure) is completed by an Officer at the time the property is seized. The Officer gives a copy of the Notice of Seizure to the person in possession of the property being seized as a receipt to show that the property is, in fact, being seized. The Officer is then responsible for taking this Notice of Seizure and a completed Forfeiture Warrant to a local Judge to show probable cause for the seizure. If the Judge finds probable cause for the seizure, the Judge signs the Forfeiture Warrant.
Forfeiture Warrant: When a Forfeiture Warrant Can Be Appealed, What Happens After the Appeal, and What Happens if There is no Appeal
A person in possession, a secured party, or the owner of the property seized can appeal the issuance of a Forfeiture Warrant if the Forfeiture Warrant was issued (signed) by a Magistrate or Judicial Commissioner. The interested parties may appeal the Forfeiture Warrant within ten (10) days of issuance for review by the General Sessions Court in the county in which the seizure occurred. On appeal, the General Sessions Court shall conduct a hearing and review the issuance of the Forfeiture Warrant within ten (10) days of the appeal being filed.
If the result of the appeal hearing is that the Forfeiture Warrant is upheld, the Notice of Seizure and the signed Forfeiture Warrant are submitted to the Legal Division for processing.
If no appeal was filed, the Notice of Seizure and the signed Forfeiture Warrant are submitted to the Legal Division for processing.
If the Forfeiture Warrant was issued by an elected Judge, there is no appeal and the Notice of Seizure and the signed Forfeiture Warrant are submitted to the Legal Division.
Filing a Petition to Request a Hearing
Notice that a Forfeiture Warrant has been signed is sent by certified mail to anyone reasonably located who may have an interest in the seized property. If the Forfeiture Warrant is upheld or if the parties do not appeal the issuance of the Forfeiture Warrant, they are responsible for filing a petition requesting a hearing within thirty (30) days of receiving the letter and signing the certified mail receipt.
After the Petition is Filed: Setting the Matter for a Hearing, Sending a Notice of Hearing, What Happens if a Lienholder is Listed on the Title of a Seized Vehicle
Once a petition is filed, the case is set for a hearing to determine the disposition of the property. Within thirty (30) days of receiving the petition, a Notice of Hearing is sent to all parties who have filed a petition. The hearing will be presided over by an Administrative Law Judge out of the Secretary of State Administrative Procedures Division. The State has prosecuting attorneys for these hearings. Claimants may hire their own defense attorney, at their expense, or may choose to represent themselves.
If a lien holder is listed on the title of a seized vehicle and a claim is filed by this lien holder only, there is not a hearing set. The State’s Attorney will review the case and verify the lien. An Order will be then be issued forfeiting the property to the seizing agency subject to the lien. This allows the vehicle to be returned to the lien holder to satisfy the lien, or for the Agency which seized the vehicle to keep the vehicle and pay the lien holder their respective lien (being the lien at time of seizure less any payments made).
On the Hearing Date: Negotiating a Settlement (Settlement Reached, Settlement Not Reached - Having a Hearing) or Seeking to Have a Hearing on Another Date
On the hearing date, the State’s Prosecuting Attorney and a representative of the law enforcement agency that seized the property will first try to negotiate an out of court settlement for the case with the claimants.
If a settlement is reached, the State’s Attorney will prepare a Proposed Civil Settlement Agreement and Release of Liability form available here. The parties will all sign showing agreement with the settlement, a proposed Order of Compromise and Settlement is prepared by the State's Attorney, and property disposition does not occur until an Administrative Law Judge issues an Order of Compromise and Settlement.
If no settlement can be reached, the case will proceed to a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge assigned by the Administrative Procedures Division of the Tennessee Secretary of State's Office. If there is a hearing, the Administrative Law Judge has up to ninety (90) days to render a decision.
If you need to continue the hearing to a new date, continuances will require a Motion for Continuance and a ruling by an Administrative Law Judge.
The Results of a Hearing, Final Order, and Filing an Appeal
The Administrative Law Judge’s ruling is normally for the property to be sold at public auction, put into service, or returned to the claimant. Public auctions are the responsibility of the law enforcement agency that seized the property.
The Administrative Law Judge’s ruling is a final order for purposes of appealing the Order.
An appeal may be had by filing a petition for review in the appropriate Chancery or Circuit Court as indicated in Tennessee Code Annotated Section 4-5-322. Such petition shall be filed within sixty (60) days after the entry of the final order.