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Mississippi earns a C- for its civil forfeiture laws:

  • Low bar to forfeit and no conviction required
  • Stronger protections for innocent third-party property owners
  • 80% of forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement in most cases

State Forfeiture Laws

Under Mississippi’s civil forfeiture laws, which earn a C- grade, the government just has to connect property to a crime by a preponderance of the evidence in order to forfeit it. However, the government bears the burden of disproving an innocent owner claim—an improvement over most states where owners must, in effect, prove their own innocence to win back seized property. Law enforcement agencies may retain 80 percent of forfeiture proceeds when only one agency investigated the case and a full 100 percent if more than one agency was involved, creating a troubling conflict of interest and a strong incentive to seize.

That conflict is on full display in Richland, Miss., where construction of a new $4.1 million law enforcement training facility was funded entirely by forfeiture proceeds garnered by police in Richland—a town of just 7,000 people. A sign in the building’s window boasts: “Richland Police Station tearfully donated by drug dealers.” The controversial facility illustrates the conflict of interest created when law enforcement can directly benefit from the proceeds of forfeiture. Such self-funding is especially worrisome in states like Mississippi where agencies are not required to track or publicly report forfeitures or expenditures from forfeiture funds, leaving the public and lawmakers in the dark.

Show State Law Sources
Standard of proof

Preponderance of the evidence.

Miss. Code Ann. § 41-29-179(2).

Innocent owner burden

Government.

Miss. Code Ann. § 41-29-179(2); Galloway v. City of New Albany, 735 So. 2d 407, 411–12 (Miss. 1999); Curtis v. State, 642 So. 2d 381, 384–86 (Miss. 1994); 1994 Mercury Cougar v. Tishomingo Cnty., 970 So. 2d 744, 747–49 (Miss. Ct. App. 2007). But cf. Miss. Code Ann. § 41-29-153(a)(4)(B), (a)(7)(A) (placing burden on owner, but statute has been interpreted in above cases to place burden on government).

Profit incentive

80 percent if one law enforcement agency participated in the forfeiture; 100 percent otherwise.

Miss. Code Ann. § 41-29-181(2).

Reporting requirements

None.

Other sources

Wing, N. (2015, May 19). Police in Mississippi town buy new station, cruisers with funds from aggressive civil forfeiture program. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/05/19/richland-mississippi-civil-asset-forfeiture_n_7312988.html.

State Forfeiture Data

No data available. Agencies are not required to track or report their forfeitures.

Mississippi ranks 20th for federal forfeiture, with over $47 million in Department of Justice equitable sharing proceeds from 2000 to 2013.

Federal Equitable Sharing

On equitable sharing, the Magnolia State places 20th in the nation. Between 2000 and 2013, Mississippi law enforcement agencies received an average of almost $3.4 million per calendar year in equitable sharing proceeds from the Department of Justice, totaling more than $47 million over that period. Ninety percent of those proceeds came through joint task forces and investigations, the type of equitable sharing generally exempt from new DOJ rules. Mississippi agencies also received almost $3 million in equitable sharing proceeds from the Treasury Department between 2000 and 2013, or approximately $208,000 per fiscal year.

View Local Law Enforcement Data
YearDOJ
(calendar years)
Treasury
(fiscal years)
2000 $1,702,015 $145,000
2001 $1,075,526 $291,000
2002 $1,081,900 $226,000
2003 $1,457,573 $107,000
2004 $4,781,097 $271,000
2005 $3,583,051 $462,000
2006 $6,341,369 $650,000
2007 $3,585,895 $40,000
2008 $3,783,495 $249,000
2009 $4,066,018 $25,000
2010 $4,478,419 $3,000
2011 $4,235,566 $195,000
2012 $2,979,259 $217,000
2013 $3,915,863 $25,000
Total $47,067,047 $2,906,000
Average Per Year $3,361,932 $207,571

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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