Home » Reports » Policing for Profit » Policing for Profit: Ohio

Ohio earns a D- for its civil forfeiture laws:

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

State Forfeiture Laws

Ohio has terrible civil forfeiture laws, earning the state a D-. The government need only show by a preponderance of the evidence that seized property was used in or is the proceeds of a crime in order to forfeit it. Ohio law also places the burden on innocent owners to prove that they did not consent to, or have any knowledge of, the crime to which their property is allegedly tied. Compounding these problems, Ohio law enforcement agencies retain up to 100 percent of forfeiture proceeds in most cases and up to 90 percent in juvenile cases.

The Buckeye State’s forfeiture reporting requirements are also lacking. Agencies were previously required to provide the state attorney general with reports of their annual forfeitures, but this requirement was done away with in 2012. Agencies are now only required to keep an inventory of seized and forfeited property. Through an Ohio Public Records Act request made to the state Office of the Attorney General, the Institute for Justice was able to obtain some forfeiture records for the period of 2010 to 2012. However, several counties and law enforcement agencies failed to provide the attorney general with their forfeiture records, so the data included in this report are incomplete. Between 2010 and 2012, Ohio law enforcement acquired at least $25.7 million—likely much more—in forfeiture proceeds. Ohio could greatly improve law enforcement accountability and forfeiture program transparency with comprehensive reporting requirements.

Show State Law Sources
Standard of proof

Preponderance of the evidence.

Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 2981.05(D).

Innocent owner burden

Owner.

Ohio Rev. Code Ann. §§ 2981.04(E), .09(A).

Profit incentive

Up to 100 percent in general and up to 90 percent in juvenile cases.

Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 2981.13(B)(4).

Reporting requirements

Agencies must maintain an inventory of seized property.

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

State Forfeiture Data

Reported Forfeiture Proceeds

Currency Vehicles Real Property Other Total
2010
Police $2,617,510 $144,119 $35,494 $110,446 $2,907,570
Sheriff $953,616 $27,738 $15,545 $235,368 $1,232,267
Prosecutor $1,797,349 $28,753 $15,212 $81,299 $1,922,613
State Agencies $770 $0 $0 $293 $1,063
Task Forces $204,356 $37,171 $0 $2,976 $244,503
Total $5,573,601 $237,781 $66,251 $430,383 $6,308,016
2011
Police $4,807,982 $231,591 $0 $231,928 $5,271,502
Sheriff $1,369,994 $122,913 $90,701 $116,646 $1,700,254
Prosecutor $2,435,681 $37,237 $127,023 $82,124 $2,682,065
State Agencies $232,691 $0 $0 $75,675 $308,366
Task Forces $335,355 $28,237 $0 $2,039 $365,631
Total $9,181,703 $419,979 $217,724 $508,412 $10,327,818
2012
Police $2,892,867 $167,454 $9,308 $63,284 $3,132,914
Sheriff $1,985,042 $119,615 $0 $119,515 $2,224,172
Prosecutor $2,153,093 $8,428 $11,699 $104,134 $2,277,354
State Agencies $315,647 $0 $0 $48,850 $364,497
Task Forces $929,141 $47,403 $54,964 $61,521 $1,093,029
Total $8,275,790 $342,900 $75,971 $397,304 $9,091,965
Grand Total $23,031,094 $1,000,660 $359,945 $1,336,100 $25,727,799
Average per year $7,677,031 $333,553 $119,982 $445,367 $8,575,933

Source: Reports of calendar-year forfeitures from state and local law enforcement agencies provided to the Ohio attorney general and obtained by the Institute for Justice through an Ohio Public Records Act request. Several agencies did not report to the attorney general, and several reports contained forfeited vehicles for which no value or proceeds were listed. In 2012, the requirement for agencies to report to the attorney general was eliminated.

Ohio ranks 43rd for federal forfeiture, with nearly $139 million in Department of Justice equitable sharing proceeds from 2000 to 2013.

Federal Equitable Sharing

Ohio law enforcement agencies are also some of the worst offenders when it comes to participation in the Department of Justice’s equitable sharing program, ranking 43rd nationally. Between 2000 and 2013, Ohio agencies received $138.9 million in DOJ equitable sharing proceeds, averaging almost $10 million per calendar year. More than three-quarters of these proceeds were the result of joint task forces and investigations—practices left mostly untouched by former Attorney General Holder’s policy change attempting to curb equitable sharing. Ohio agencies also received $14.7 million in equitable sharing proceeds from the Treasury Department between 2000 and 2013, averaging over $1 million per fiscal year.

View Local Law Enforcement Data
YearDOJ
(calendar years)
Treasury
(fiscal years)
2000 $4,810,268 $7,000
2001 $6,816,723 $1,009,000
2002 $8,914,533 $254,000
2003 $10,672,377 $78,000
2004 $7,693,145 $1,212,000
2005 $7,251,515 $574,000
2006 $13,542,369 $117,000
2007 $14,695,725 $2,533,000
2008 $9,949,982 $2,021,000
2009 $8,041,896 $430,000
2010 $13,562,934 $970,000
2011 $10,017,794 $3,068,000
2012 $10,362,789 $1,673,000
2013 $12,525,943 $768,000
Total $138,857,992 $14,714,000
Average Per Year $9,918,428 $1,051,000

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.

JOIN THE FIGHT!   Sign up for newsletters:

JOIN THE FIGHT!