NASHVILLE, Tenn. (OSBORNE) -- A mid-state man is suing the City of Mt. Juliet for seizing and holding his car for months even though police admit he broken no laws.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed the federal suit Tuesday in Nashville on behalf of disabled Vietnam Veteran Lewis C. Cain.
Back in September Mr. Cain woke to find detectives with the Mt. Juliet Police Department standing over his bed. They had entered his home without a warrant looking to arrest Mr. Cain’s son on drug charges.
The officers confiscated Mr. Cain’s car, saying the son had used it while selling cocaine.
Such so-called civil forfeitures are routine nationwide. The law does allow police to seize cash and property without a conviction if they believe the items were used to commit a crime.
To get property returned, owners have to go to court to prove the items were not involved. The ACLU’s Hedy Weinberg says that process gets expensive.
“Many innocent property owners, they choose not even to contest forfeitures because the costs of taking time off from work, hiring a lawyer to challenge the forfeiture, often exceeds the value of the property.”
Weinberg says the ACLU has been working with Tennessee lawmakers for years to revise the state’s forfeiture laws. She say there have been incremental improvements, but contends more needs to be done.
“Our goal is that property should not be seized unless, at a minimum, there’s an arrest, but really until there’s a conviction.”
In a statement sent to WMOT Mt. Juliet Police admit seizing the car was a mistake, but offer no apology.
Would you like to read the entire ACLU/Cain lawsuit?
A copy of the statement sent to WMOT by Mt. Juliet Police is copied below.
It is unfortunate that Mr. Lewis Cain’s car was seized due to his son’s actions of selling cocaine from the car. After a lengthy investigation, Mt. Juliet police detectives secured three felony indictments from a Wilson County Grand Jury in September 2017 in relation to 50-year-old Lance Cain, a convicted felon and the son of Mr. Lewis Cain, distributing illegal drugs. During the investigation, detectives witnessed Lance Cain selling cocaine from Mr. Lewis Cain’s car multiple times, and over 6 grams of cocaine was seized during the investigation.
Therefore, the car was seized during the arrest of Lance Cain on September 18, 2017 when he was arrested on a 3-count indictment for the Sell of a Schedule II Drug- Cocaine. A detective’s error in the seizure process led to the Mt. Juliet Police Department agreeing to a voluntary dismissal of the asset forfeiture, and the department worked to immediately return Lewis Cain’s car back to him. The actions of Lance Cain should not be a reflection on his father, Mr. Lewis Cain, who admirably served our Nation in the armed services. The department appreciates Mr. Lewis Cain’s service to our Country.
Captain Tyler Chandler
Mt. Juliet Police Department