Sidebar: Best Practices: Forfeiture Reporting

All law enforcement agencies with forfeiture power should be required to track and report forfeiture activity, revenues and expenditures. Agency reports should be forwarded annually to a state agency, made publicly available online and compiled by the state agency into aggregate reports for legislators and the public. At a minimum, an ideal agency report would contain detailed information about each seizure and forfeiture, such as:

  • Date the property was seized
  • Type of property seized, including make, model and serial number (if relevant)
  • Estimated value of the property
  • The offense alleged when making the seizure
  • Whether there were related criminal actions and the outcome of any such actions
  • Whether the seizure was conducted under state or federal law
  • Whether the forfeiture was conducted under state or federal law
  • Type of forfeiture: civil, criminal or administrative
  • Whether the forfeiture was contested
  • Whether an innocent owner made a claim to the property
  • Final disposition of the property: returned, destroyed, forfeited, retained, distributed by settlement
  • Date of the final disposition
  • Total expenses from the forfeiture
  • Total net proceeds of the forfeiture

All agencies should also be required to report each purchase made with forfeiture revenue. In addition, they should report total expenditures for standardized categories:

  • Substance abuse and crime prevention programs
  • Investigation costs, such as witness protection and controlled buys
  • Victim reparations
  • Court costs and attorney fees
  • Salaries, overtime and benefits
  • Third-party services
  • Training and travel
  • Operating expenses: supplies, postage and advertising
  • Equipment
  • Capital expenditures

Even agencies with no forfeitures or expenditures to report in a given year should be required to file a report so that it is clear which agencies failed to comply with the reporting law. Detailed forfeiture information should be readily available to the public through searchable databases on public websites. Many databases already exist and should be made public.1 Audited reports should be submitted to the relevant legislative body and made available to the public, and a routine auditing process should be established to discourage abuse.

Continue Reading: Conclusion


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