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Indiana earns a B+ for its civil forfeiture laws:

  • Low bar to forfeit and no conviction required
  • Limited protections for innocent third-party property owners
  • By law, no forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement

State Forfeiture Laws

On paper, Indiana has some of the country’s better civil forfeiture laws, earning a B+, primarily because of a strong prohibition on the use of forfeiture funds by law enforcement; instead, the Indiana Constitution directs forfeiture proceeds to the state school fund. However, it appears that this prohibition is often undermined in practice. By statute, law enforcement agencies can deduct the “law enforcement costs” of a forfeiture case before depositing the remaining proceeds in the school fund. Exploiting this provision, several large agencies have reportedly begun classifying most—or even all—forfeiture proceeds as deductible law enforcement costs. Other features of Indiana’s civil forfeiture laws fail to protect property owners and need reform: Law enforcement need only connect property to a crime by a preponderance of the evidence in order to forfeit it, and, to win an innocent owner claim, owners bear the burden of proving their innocence for nearly all types of property. The only exceptions are vehicles and recording equipment allegedly used in the commission of a sex crime; in these cases, the government bears the burden. Although Indiana receives a high grade for its laws, property owners are likely at risk due to poor procedural protections and a strong incentive to seize, as law enforcement agencies are often able to stretch state law and violate the state Constitution with impunity.

In 2015, the Hoosier State adopted a new law that requires judicial districts to report their forfeiture activity to the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council, which is required to produce an aggregate report. The IPAC’s aggregate reports should provide more information about forfeiture activity, although they may require an Indiana Access to Public Records Act request to obtain and the level of detail that will be included is not yet known.

Show State Law Sources
Standard of proof

Preponderance of the evidence.

Ind. Code § 34-24-1-4(a); see also Serrano v. State, 946 N.E.2d 1139, 1143–44 (Ind. 2011) (requiring state to prove a close “nexus” between vehicle and drugs); Lipscomb v. State, 857 N.E.2d 424, 428 (Ind. Ct. App. 2006) (requiring state to show connection between money and drugs).

Innocent owner burden

Depends on the property.  The state bears the burden when an owner makes a claim to equipment allegedly involved in the recording of a sex crime or makes a claim to a vehicle, but the owner bears the burden with respect to other property.

Ind. Code §§ 34-24-1-1(a)(10), (b), (c), (e), 34-24-1-4(a).

Profit incentive

No profit incentive.

Ind. Const. art. 8, § 2; Ind. Code § 34-24-1-4(c)–(d); Serrano v. State, 946 N.E.2d 1139, 1142 (Ind. 2011).

Reporting requirements

The Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council is required to aggregate forfeiture reports submitted by judicial districts and, beginning on July 15, 2016, must submit a compiled report to the Legislature.

Ind. Code §§ 33-39-8-5(7), 34-24-1-4.5.

Other sources

Gillers, H., Alesia, M., & Evans, T. (2010, November 7). Forfeiture law invites abuse of the system. The Indianapolis Star. Retrieved from http://archive.indystar.com/article/20101107/NEWS14/311070003/Forfeiture-law-invites-abuse-of-the-system.

State Forfeiture Data

No data available. Law enforcement agencies were not required to track or report their forfeitures prior to 2015. The Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council will be required to provide aggregate reports starting July 15, 2016.

Indiana ranks 39th for federal forfeiture, with over $55 million in Department of Justice equitable sharing proceeds from 2000 to 2013.

Federal Equitable Sharing

Indiana is ranked 39th in the country on equitable sharing. During the 2000 to 2013 calendar years, Indiana law enforcement received more than $55 million in Department of Justice equitable sharing proceeds. Most of these proceeds—79 percent—were the result of joint task forces and investigations, procedures largely unaffected by the DOJ’s new policy intended to curb equitable sharing. Further, Indiana agencies collected close to $6.9 million in equitable sharing proceeds from the Treasury Department between the 2000 and 2013 fiscal years.

View Local Law Enforcement Data
(calendar years)
(fiscal years)
2000 $2,515,075 $14,000
2001 $2,466,493 $210,000
2002 $3,777,263 $235,000
2003 $2,474,070 $265,000
2004 $1,778,229 $283,000
2005 $3,206,333 $870,000
2006 $2,508,652 $373,000
2007 $3,132,961 $291,000
2008 $6,218,137 $579,000
2009 $3,621,188 $1,240,000
2010 $3,471,980 $705,000
2011 $7,085,337 $334,000
2012 $8,481,825 $1,327,000
2013 $4,662,651 $135,000
Total $55,400,194 $6,861,000
Average Per Year $3,957,157 $490,071

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

Joint Task Forces and Investigations

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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