In 2017, Arizona adopted incremental but important bipartisan reforms of the state’s civil forfeiture system. These reforms included new transparency requirements for forfeiture, obliging agencies to report the value, type and date of a property seizure, whether any criminal charges were filed, and the final disposition of the seized property. This reporting reform was designed to ensure lawmakers and the public had a better idea of what was really happening on the ground when it comes to forfeiture.
While it will take years of reports to truly know what is happening with forfeiture under Arizona law, the first full year of these new reports—for Fiscal Year 2018—is already illuminating. The Institute for Justice’s analysis of these reports finds evidence of forfeiture abuse in Arizona. It also finds that the reports themselves are in some ways lacking. They can be improved through better property tracking, standardized reporting fields and clearer definitions for contested forfeitures.