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Oregon earns a C+ for its civil forfeiture laws:

  • Conviction required, but low bar to connect most property to the crime
  • Stronger protections for innocent third-party property owners
  • As much as 62.5% of forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement

State Forfeiture Laws

Oregon’s civil forfeiture laws provide property owners with some protections, earning the state a C+ law grade. Oregon law requires a criminal conviction for civil forfeiture. Once the government wins a conviction, it must then link property to the crime in civil court to justify its forfeiture. In the civil proceeding, the standard of proof for most types of property is just preponderance of the evidence, though the standard is slightly higher for real property, such as a home or piece of land. In most cases, the government bears the burden of disproving an innocent owner claim, unless money or weapons are found in close proximity to drugs; in such cases, owners bear the burden of showing by a preponderance of the evidence that the property neither derived from nor played a part in a drug crime. Finally, Oregon agencies get to keep 62.5 percent of forfeiture proceeds when a case is brought by local law enforcement, and 57 percent when a case is brought by a state agency. These percentages are lower than those of most other states, but they still represent a sizable incentive to seize.

Oregon law enforcement agencies are required to report details of seized and forfeited property to the Asset Forfeiture Oversight Advisory Committee, which aggregates the data and publishes annual reports online. However, data are missing for 2009 and 2012 because the AFOAC did not have adequate funding to collect and compile reports during those years—even though forfeiture proceeds may have averaged more than $1 million annually between 2009 and 2013. Available data indicate that Oregon law enforcement agencies reportedly forfeited $5.2 million over the years 2010, 2011 and 2013. Unlike every other state except for Connecticut, Oregon reports civil and criminal forfeiture proceeds separately; civil forfeitures accounted for 58 percent of proceeds.

Show State Law Sources
Standard of proof

A criminal conviction is required for all civil forfeitures. Preponderance of the evidence applies to personal property; clear and convincing evidence applies to real property.

Or. Rev. Stat. § 131A.255(1), (3).

Innocent owner burden

Government, except in cases where cash, weapons or negotiable instruments were found in close proximity to drugs, in which cases the owner bears the burden of showing by a preponderance of the evidence that the items are not the proceeds or instrumentalities of a drug crime.

Or. Rev. Stat. § 131A.255(2), (5).

Profit incentive

62.5 percent when brought by local law enforcement; 57 percent when brought by the state.

Or. Rev. Stat. §§ 131A.360(4), (6), .365(3), (5).

Reporting requirements

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. The committee must aggregate these reports and submit them to the Legislature.

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

http://www.oregon.gov/cjc/assetforfeiture/Pages/Reporting.aspx

State Forfeiture Data

Reported Forfeiture Proceeds

Year Case Type Currency Other Property Total
2010
Civil $488,689 $41,933 $530,622
Criminal $212,796 $33,093 $245,888
Total $701,484 $75,026 $776,510
2011
Civil $1,192,532 $70,481 $1,263,013
Criminal $479,530 $49,573 $529,103
Total $1,672,062 $120,053 $1,792,116
2013
Civil $1,033,807 $208,105 $1,241,912
Criminal $1,316,736 $71,868 $1,388,604
Total $2,350,543 $279,973 $2,630,516
Grand Total $4,724,090 $475,052 $5,199,142
Average per year $1,574,697 $158,351 $1,733,047

Source: Reports of calendar-year civil and criminal forfeiture revenue obtained from the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission, either through its website for newer reports or through an Oregon Public Records Law request for older ones. The Asset Forfeiture Oversight Advisory Committee compiles data received from law enforcement agencies into aggregate reports, but it reportedly lacked funding to compile reports in 2009 and 2012.

Oregon ranks 14th for federal forfeiture, with over $16 million in Department of Justice equitable sharing proceeds from 2000 to 2013.

Federal Equitable Sharing

Ranking 14th in the nation on equitable sharing, law enforcement agencies in Oregon made less use of the Department of Justice’s equitable sharing program than did agencies in most other states. Between 2000 and 2013, agencies received over $16 million in DOJ equitable sharing proceeds, averaging almost $1.2 million per calendar year. Over 80 percent of assets seized and more than three-quarters of proceeds received resulted from joint task forces and investigations—the type of equitable sharing generally exempt from the DOJ’s new limits on the practice. Finally, Oregon law enforcement agencies also received $10.6 million in equitable sharing proceeds from the Treasury Department between the 2000 and 2013 fiscal years.

View Local Law Enforcement Data
YearDOJ
(calendar years)
Treasury
(fiscal years)
2000 $1,165,931 $607,000
2001 $128,834 $46,000
2002 $729,363 $826,000
2003 $336,960 $1,322,000
2004 $441,062 $449,000
2005 $1,037,933 $920,000
2006 $585,642 $528,000
2007 $1,913,000 $727,000
2008 $821,585 $896,000
2009 $2,063,316 $1,486,000
2010 $1,211,101 $974,000
2011 $1,918,465 $656,000
2012 $1,755,165 $730,000
2013 $2,231,360 $436,000
Total $16,339,718 $10,603,000
Average Per Year $1,167,123 $757,357

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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