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Asset Forfeiture Laws by State

The police take your property, yet you are never convicted of a crime. Sounds like an Orwellian fantasy in a dystopian universe, far from something that would happen in modern America, right? Think again. This practice is known as "civil asset forfeiture." Civil asset forfeiture happens when a person’s property is permanently taken from them even though they never were convicted or pled guilty to a criminal offense. Property taken through asset forfeiture is theoretically used in the commission of a crime or obtained through criminal activity, such as drug trafficking.

It's a way for law enforcement officials to seize millions of dollars worth of cash and property every year. Depending on state law, the law enforcement agency generally gets to keep the profits from the sale of these assets in many cases. Some have called it "policing for profit" or highway robbery, others believe it's a valuable tool that aids law enforcement and helps weaken criminal organizations by hitting them in the wallet, so to speak.

Federal vs. State Law

In 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a plan to bring back a federal program known as the "Equitable Sharing Program." Under this program, state and local police agencies can collaborate with federal agencies to seize assets from individuals and then transfer those seizures to federal control. In doing so, local agencies can skirt some state-level regulations limiting forfeitures. The federal government eventually takes all the funds and sends 80 percent back to the state agency itself. This method has been sharply criticized for circumventing state laws in some cases.

Purpose of Asset Forfeiture and Possible Reforms

Civil forfeiture laws were originally intended to target ill-gotten gains associated with the so-called "War on Drugs." Yet some states have since expanded that reach to include any felony offense. There’s also no limitation on the type of property that can be seized.

Asset forfeiture reform is gaining momentum in many areas of the country, a trend that is likely to continue in the months and years to come. Why? Revenue-generating systems in which police can arbitrarily seize and forfeit property from a person who is never even charged with a crime is said to violate the constitutional rights of citizens.

Asset Forfeiture Laws by State

Asset forfeiture laws are changing regularly, with new legislation being introduced into state legislatures on a somewhat frequent basis. Be sure to check with an attorney in your state to learn if there have been any recent updates to the forfeiture laws.

Below, you will find a list of asset forfeiture laws in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, including the states' burden of proof for seizing property that may be connected to a crime, law enforcement’s reporting requirements (if any such requirement exists), and which entities have access to forfeiture proceeds..

State

Asset Forfeiture Statute

Law Enforcement Burden of Proof

Reporting Requirements/Where Forfeiture Proceeds Go

Alabama

Ala. Code § 20-2-93(h)

Preponderance of the evidence, Alabama can seize any property, proceeds or instrumentality of any kind if used in commission of a crime

None, 100 percent of forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement

Alaska

Alaska Stat. § 17.30.112(c), Alaska Stat. § 17.30.110

Reasonable suspicion that article being seized is related to a crime

None, 100 percent of property goes to law enforcement if the property is worth $5,000 or less and something other than money, and up to 75 percent in all other cases

Arizona

Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 13-2314.01, et. seq.

Preponderance of the evidence, but this may change due to HB 2477, may change to a "clear and convincing"evidence standard

Law enforcement agencies are required to file quarterly forfeiture reports with the AZ Criminal Justice Commission, which must aggregate those reports and submit them to the Legislature, Law enforcement keeps 100 percent of forfeiture funds

Arkansas

Ark. Code Ann. §§ 5-64-505, 10-4-417

Preponderance of the evidence, but may change due to SB 727

Law enforcement must submit reports of seizures and final disposition to the Arkansas Drug Director, which maintains the Asset Seizure Tracking System database, 100 percent of forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement

California

Cal. Health & Safety Code § 11495, § 11488.4

A criminal conviction is required prior to forfeiture in any state case where the items seized are cash under $40,000 or other property such as homes and vehicles regardless of value due to SB443 signed by Governor Brown

California Attorney General required to compile annual aggregate forfeiture reports using data provided by counties, 66.25 percent of forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement

Colorado

Colo. Rev. Stat. § 16-13-701

Clear and convincing evidence, See HB 1313

Prosecutors are required to file annual forfeiture reports with the Department of Local Affairs

Connecticut

Conn. Gen. Stat. § 54-36a

A criminal conviction is required prior to forfeiture, see HB 7146 signed by Governor Malloy in 2017

Seizing agencies must maintain an inventory of seized property, 69.5 percent of forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement, except in cases of sexual exploitation, prostitution and human trafficking, when 100 percent of proceeds go to a victims’ compensation fund

Delaware

Del. Code Ann. tit. 11, §§ 4113, 4115

Probable cause, owner can rebut by a preponderance of the evidence

None, law enforcement can keep 100 percent of the forfeiture funds

District of Columbia

D.C. Code § 41-312

Preponderance of the evidence, but clear and convincing evidence for

  • Motor vehicles,
  • Real property and
  • Up to $1,000 in currency

Note: If the property is the primary residence of the owner, owner of the property must be convicted of the offense

Attorney General and Metropolitan Police Department required to create aggregate forfeiture reports, All currency and proceeds from sales of forfeited property must be deposited in the general fund

Florida

Fla. Stat. §§ 932.7061–932.7062

Beyond a reasonable doubt that property is linked to a crime, see S B 1044

None, up to 85 percent of forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement

Georgia

Ga. Code Ann. § 9-16-19

Preponderance of the evidence

Up to 100 percent of forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement, Required to report to:

Hawaii

Haw. Rev. Stat. § 712A-16

Preponderance of the evidence

Office of the Attorney General required to aggregate law enforcement forfeiture reports and submit to the Legislature, 100 percent of forfeiture proceeds for various law enforcement projects

Idaho

Idaho Code § 37-2744

Preponderance of the evidence

None, 100 percent of forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement

Illinois

725 Ill. Comp. Stat. 150/5, 720 Ill. Comp. Stat. 550/12

Probable cause unless property is worth less than $150,000 AND is not real property, the government doesn’t need to make any showing. Forfeiture is automatic in these circumstances unless an owner files a claim and deposits a bond worth the greater of $100 or 10 percent of the value of the property

Law enforcement must provide an inventory of drug-related seizures to the Director of the Department of State Police and reports of all property seized for forfeiture to the state’s attorney for the county, 90 percent of forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement

Indiana

Ind. Code §§ 33-39-8-5(7), 34-24-1-4.5

Preponderance of the evidence, but see SB 8

Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council required to aggregate forfeiture reports submitted by judicial districts, no forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement

Iowa

Iowa Code § 809A.13(7)

If property valued at f a property is valued at under $5,000, the owner must first be convicted in criminal court before their property can be forfeited in civil court. See Senate File 446

None, 100 percent of forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement

 

Kansas

Kan Stat. Ann. § 60-4117

Preponderance of the evidence

Law enforcement is required to submit forfeiture reports to their budgetary authorities, 100 percent of forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement

Kentucky

Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 15A.342, 218A.440

Clear and convincing evidence to forfeit real property but need only show “slight evidence of traceability” to a crime for other property

Law enforcement must report their forfeitures to the Office of the State Auditor and to the Secretary of the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet, 100 percent of forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement

Louisiana

La. Stat. Ann. § 40:2616

Preponderance of the evidence

Prosecutors required to file annual seizure reports with the state Legislature, 80 percent goes to law enforcement, remaining 20 percent goes to the criminal court fund

Maine

Me. Stat. tit. 15, § 5825

Preponderance of the evidence

No forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement, all forfeiture proceeds go to the general fund with some exceptions

Maryland

Md. Code Ann., Crim. Proc. § 12-601–602

Preponderance of the evidence, in most circumstances

None, no forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement

Massachusetts

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 94C, § 47

Probable cause

Law enforcement must maintain an inventory of seized property, 100 percent of forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement

Michigan

Mich. Comp. Laws § 28.111–.117

Clear and convincing evidence

Law enforcement required to file annual forfeiture reports with the State Police, which must compile those reports at the county level, submit them to the state Legislature, Up to 100 percent of forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement

Minnesota

Minn. Stat. § 609.5315

A criminal conviction is required for civil forfeiture

90 percent of forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement, Law enforcement required to report forfeitures to the state auditor on a monthly basis, and the auditor must then make annual reports to the state Legislature

Mississippi

Miss. Code Ann. § 41-29-179(2)

Preponderance of the evidence, See HB 812

None, seizing agencies must report their forfeitures to the Office of the State Auditor and to the secretary of the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet, 80 percent of forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement (generally)

Missouri

Mo. Rev. Stat. § 513.607

Preponderance of the evidence and a criminal conviction or guilty plea

Agencies are required to report seizures to the prosecuting attorney or attorney general, who must then create annual aggregate reports and submit them to the state auditor, no forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement, all go to fund schools

Montana

Mont. Code Ann. § 44-12-207(1)

Criminal conviction required first, then a showing of clear and convincing evidence to forfeit property

None, up to 100 percent to law enforcement with some exceptions,

Nebraska

Neb. Rev. Stat. § 28-431

Beyond a reasonable doubt, unless the seizure is gambling-related, in which case the government’s burden is preponderance of the evidence, See LB 106

Agencies to provide detailed reports to the state auditor on assets they seize, 50 percent of forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement

Nevada

Nev. Rev. Stat. §§ 179.119, 179.1205

Clear and convincing evidence and a criminal conviction

Agencies must submit annual forfeiture reports to the Office of the Attorney General, and the attorney general must then aggregate those reports, up to 100 percent of forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement, with some exceptions

New Hampshire

N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 318-B:17-f

Criminal conviction as a prerequisite to civil forfeiture proceedings, clear and convincing evidence in civil proceedings, See SB 522

The attorney general must submit aggregate forfeiture reports to the state Legislature, up to 90 percent of forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement divided in various ways

New Jersey

N.J.S.A. 2C:64-1

Preponderance of the evidence

None, up to 100 percent of forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement

New Mexico

N.M. Stat. Ann. § 31-27-9

Clear and convincing evidence and a criminal conviction are required to forfeit property, see SB 202

Law enforcement is required to submit annual seizure and forfeiture reports to the Department of Public Safety, which must aggregate the reports , no forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement, 100 percent goes to general fund

New York

N.Y. C.P.L.R. § 1349(4), N.Y. Exec. § 837-a(6)

Most forfeiture actions must be based on a criminal conviction, drug crimes need only establish that a drug crime has occurred by clear and convincing evidence and then connect property to that crime by a preponderance of the evidence in order to forfeit it

Police are required to make annual forfeiture reports to the Division of Criminal Justice Services, which must provide aggregate annual reports to the Legislature, 60 percent of forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement

North Carolina

N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 75D-5, 90-112

Forfeiture requires criminal conviction, civil forfeiture available in racketeering cases (preponderance of the evidence standard)

None, all forfeiture proceeds must go to public schools

North Dakota

N.D. Cent. Code § 19-03.1-36.6

Probable cause

No, law enforcement up to 100 percent in most cases

Ohio

Ohio Rev. Code Ann. §§ 2981.03(G),2981.11(B), 2981.13(C)(3)

Preponderance of the evidence

Agencies must maintain an inventory of seized property, Up to100 percent of forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement

Oklahoma

Okla. Stat. tit. 63, § 2-503(G)

Preponderance of the evidence

Agencies must maintain an inventory of seized and forfeited property, up to 100 percent of forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement

Oregon

Or. Rev. Stat. §§ 131A.450, 131A.455(5), 131.600

Criminal conviction is required for all civil forfeitures, preponderance of the evidence for personal property; clear and convincing evidence for real property

Agencies are required to report forfeiture information to the forfeiture counsel, which is required to report every seizure and its final disposition to the Asset Forfeiture Oversight Advisory Committee, up to 62.5 percent of forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement

Pennsylvania

42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 6801(i)–(j)

Preponderance of the evidence

Counties are required to submit annual forfeiture reports to the Office of the Attorney General, which must aggregate the reports and provide them to the Legislature, 100 percent of forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement

Rhode Island

R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 7-15-4.1(e), 21-28-5.04(d)

Probable cause

Agencies required to provide annual forfeiture reports to the state treasurer, and the treasurer and attorney general must submit aggregate annual forfeiture reports to the state Legislature, up to 90 percent of forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement

South Carolina

S.C. Code Ann. §44-53-520–530

Probable cause

Agencies are required to maintain an inventory of seized property and submit those inventories to the appropriate prosecution agency, 95 percent goes to law enforcement agencies

South Dakota

S.D. Codified Laws § 34-20B-70

Preponderance of the evidence

None, 100 percent of forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement

Tennessee

Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-33-211

Preponderance of the evidence

None, law enforcement can keep up to 100 percent of forfeiture proceeds

Texas

Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. art. 59.06

Preponderance of the evidence

The Office of the Attorney General is required to create annual aggregate forfeiture reports from reports submitted by law enforcement, up to 70 percent goes to law enforcement

Utah

Utah Code Ann. § 24-4-118

Clear and convincing evidence

Law enforcement required to maintain an inventory of seized property, 100 percent of forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement

Vermont

Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 18, § 4241 et. seq.

Clear and convincing evidence and a criminal conviction

Law enforcement required to submit reports of drug-related forfeitures to the state treasurer, 45 percent of forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement

Virginia

Va. Code Ann. § 19.2-386.4 et. seq.

Preponderance of the evidence

Agencies must report seizures and forfeitures to the Department of Criminal Justice Services, 100 percent of forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement

Washington

Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 69.50.505

Preponderance of the evidence

Seizing agencies are required to file quarterly reports of forfeited property with the state treasurer, 90 percent of forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement

West Virginia

W. Va. Code § 60A-7-707

Preponderance of the evidence

Police departments are required to submit annual forfeiture reports to their local budgetary authorities.100 percent goes to law enforcement

Wisconsin

Wis. Stat. § 961.555(3)

The state shall have the burden of satisfying or convincing to a reasonable certainty by the greater weight of the credible evidence that the property is subject to forfeiture

None, no forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement

Wyoming

Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 35-7-1049(y)–(z)

Preponderance of the evidence

None, Up to 100 percent of forfeiture proceeds can go to law enforcement

Note: State laws are always subject to change, usually through the enactment of new legislation but also through court decisions and other means. Contact an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Asset Forfeiture Laws by State: Additional Resources

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