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Hawaii earns a D- for its civil forfeiture laws:

  • Low bar to forfeit and no conviction required
  • Poor protections for innocent third-party property owners
  • 100% of forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement

State Forfeiture Laws

Hawaii’s civil forfeiture laws are among the nation’s worst, earning a D-. State law has a low standard of proof, requiring only that the government show by a preponderance of the evidence that property is tied to a crime. Furthermore, innocent owners bear the burden of proving that they had nothing to do with the alleged crime giving rise to the forfeiture. Most troubling, law enforcement has a large financial stake in forfeiture, receiving 100 percent of civil forfeiture proceeds: 25 percent goes to police, 25 percent to prosecuting attorneys and 50 percent to the attorney general.

Reporting on forfeiture activity in Hawaii is better than elsewhere but still incomplete. Hawaii’s Office of the Attorney General must submit annual forfeiture reports to the Legislature. The reports, which are also published online, include the seizure and forfeiture activity of police departments, the types of property seized and forfeited, and the attorney general’s expenditures of forfeited funds—but not expenditures by other agencies nor other key details, such as whether forfeitures were civil or criminal or whether related charges were filed. The attorney general reports show that Hawaii’s state forfeiture income remained relatively constant between fiscal years 2000 and 2010 but dropped significantly between fiscal years 2011 and 2013.

Show State Law Sources
Standard of proof

Preponderance of the evidence.

Haw. Rev. Stat. § 712A-12(8).

Innocent owner burden

Owner.

Haw. Rev. Stat. § 712A-12(8).

Profit incentive

100 percent (25 percent to police, 25 percent to prosecuting attorney, 50 percent to attorney general for various law enforcement projects).

Haw. Rev. Stat. § 712A-16(2)–(4).

Reporting requirements

The Office of the Attorney General is required to aggregate agency forfeiture reports and submit them to the Legislature.

Haw. Rev. Stat. § 712A-16(6).

http://ag.hawaii.gov/publications/reports/reports-to-the-legislature/

State Forfeiture Data

Reported Forfeiture Proceeds

Year Currency Vehicles Other Total
2000 $555,715 $343,550 $224,071 $1,123,336
2001 $450,945 $536,040 $207,033 $1,194,018
2002 $503,762 $564,173 $547,110 $1,615,045
2003 $561,015 $194,600 $194,262 $949,877
2004 $737,668 $457,792 $461,625 $1,657,085
2005 $414,395 $332,230 $316,627 $1,063,252
2006 $698,035 $460,855 $334,709 $1,493,599
2007 $636,598 $468,290 $300,396 $1,405,284
2008 $492,398 $353,907 $627,362 $1,473,667
2009 $636,598 $468,290 $300,396 $1,405,284
2010 $622,497 $441,865 $733,513 $1,797,875
2011 $309,095 $331,375 $21,150 $661,620
2012 $131,127 $273,555 $131,129 $535,811
2013 $368,889 $356,176 $143,311 $868,376
Total $7,118,737 $5,582,698 $4,542,694 $17,244,129
Average per year $508,481 $398,764 $324,478 $1,231,724

Source: Fiscal-year reports of police departments’ forfeiture proceeds, presented in annual reports available on the website of the Hawaii Office of the Attorney General.

Hawaii is the 7th best state for federal forfeiture, with over $20 million in Department of Justice equitable sharing proceeds from 2000 to 2013.

Federal Equitable Sharing

The Aloha State ranked seventh on equitable sharing, indicating that its law enforcement agencies do not participate in the Department of Justice’s program as heavily as do those in most other states. Between 2000 and 2013, Hawaii agencies brought in $20 million in DOJ equitable sharing proceeds, averaging $1.4 million each calendar year. Almost all of these proceeds—93 percent—were the result of joint task forces and investigations, equitable sharing activity left mostly untouched by former Attorney General Holder’s 2015 policy change. Finally, Hawaii law enforcement agencies also brought in $169,000 in annual Treasury Department equitable sharing proceeds, for a total of about $2.4 million during fiscal years 2000 to 2013.

View Local Law Enforcement Data
YearDOJ
(calendar years)
Treasury
(fiscal years)
2000 $897,972 $0
2001 $851,441 $187,000
2002 $1,104,026 $75,000
2003 $2,301,702 $5,000
2004 $2,293,845 $4,000
2005 $1,976,669 $188,000
2006 $2,925,536 $496,000
2007 $2,230,865 $184,000
2008 $1,919,738 $67,000
2009 $640,898 $22,000
2010 $648,346 $798,000
2011 $565,622 $237,000
2012 $564,161 $12,000
2013 $1,337,168 $92,000
Total $20,257,989 $2,367,000
Average Per Year $1,446,999 $169,071

DOJ Equitable Sharing,
Adoptive vs. Joint, 2000-2013

Adoptions
Joint Task Forces and Investigations
Seizures
Proceeds

DOJ Equitable Sharing Proceeds, 2000-2013

Sources: Institute for Justice analysis of DOJ forfeiture data obtained by FOIA; Treasury Forfeiture Fund Accountability Reports. Data include civil and criminal forfeitures. Because DOJ figures represent calendar years and Treasury figures cover fiscal years, they cannot be added.

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