Poor protections for innocent third-party property owners
As much as 75% of forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement in most cases
State Forfeiture Laws
Alaska’s civil forfeiture laws leave much to be desired, earning a D+. In Alaska, as in all other states, the government only needs probable cause to seize property. Owners of seized property must then show by a preponderance of the evidence that their property is not related to criminal activity in order to get it back. Further, an individual making an innocent owner claim bears the burden of proving that she did not know about or consent to the alleged criminal activity giving rise to the property’s seizure. In most cases, law enforcement retains up to 75 percent of forfeiture revenues. Where forfeited property is something other than cash and worth $5,000 or less, law enforcement keeps 100 percent of the sale proceeds.
The Department of Public Safety is required to keep an inventory of items seized, but other state and local law enforcement agencies are not required to track or report their forfeitures, severely limiting transparency and accountability.
State Law Sources
Standard of proof
Government must show probable cause for seizure, and the owner must show that the property is not forfeitable by a preponderance of the evidence. Resek v. State, 706 P.2d 288, 290–91 (Alaska 1985); see also Alaska Stat. §§ 17.30.110, .114(a).
Innocent owner burden
Owner. Resek v. State, 706 P.2d 288, 291 (Alaska 1985); see also Alaska Stat. § 17.30.110(4)(A)–(B) (placing burden on owner with respect to any conveyance, like an airplane or car).
100 percent if the property is worth $5,000 or less and something other than money, and up to 75 percent in all other cases. Alaska Stat. § 17.30.112(c); see also id. § 17.30.122.
Alaska is the 10th best state for federal forfeiture, with over $9 million in Department of Justice equitable sharing proceeds from 2000 to 2013.
Federal Equitable Sharing
Alaska law enforcement’s participation in the Department of Justice’s equitable sharing program is relatively restrained, ranking 10th. Between calendar years 2000 and 2013, Alaska law enforcement agencies received more than $9 million in equitable sharing proceeds from the DOJ. However, more than three-quarters of the assets seized were confiscated through joint task forces and investigations, equitable sharing practices that will continue after the policy change announced by former Attorney General Holder. In fiscal years 2000 to 2013, Alaska law enforcement also received $3.5 million in Treasury Department equitable sharing proceeds.