Poor protections for innocent third-party property owners
100% of forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement
State Forfeiture Laws
Arizona’s terrible civil forfeiture laws earn a D- grade as some of the worst in the country. The standard of proof for forfeiting property in Arizona is preponderance of the evidence, meaning that the government just has to show that it is more likely than not that seized property is tied to criminal activity. Worse, when an owner wishes to make an innocent owner claim in order to retrieve seized property, that person bears the burden of proving her own innocence. Arizona law also gives law enforcement a considerable incentive to seize property, allowing law enforcement agencies to keep 100 percent of the funds raised through civil forfeiture.
The Arizona Criminal Justice Commission publishes quarterly reports of forfeiture revenues and expenditures on its website. Although useful for examining overall trends, key details are lacking, such as the number of forfeitures, whether forfeitures accompanied criminal convictions and specifics about expenditures.
According to the reports, from 2000 to 2014, Arizona law enforcement collected a whopping $412 million in forfeiture revenue, which equates to more than $27 million each fiscal year. Making matters worse, Arizona agencies spend a considerable proportion of forfeiture funds on salaries and overtime for law enforcement officers: Data published by the ACJC indicate that between 2000 and 2014 law enforcement spent over $62 million in forfeiture money—28 percent of all expenditures from forfeiture funds—on “administrative expenses,” which include benefits, salaries and overtime.
State Law Sources
Standard of proof
Preponderance of the evidence. Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 13-4311(M).
Law enforcement agencies are required to file quarterly forfeiture reports with the Criminal Justice Commission, which must aggregate those reports and submit them to the Legislature. Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 13-2314.01(F)–(H). http://www.azcjc.gov/ACJC.Web/finance/ricomain.aspx.
Arizona ranks 32nd for federal forfeiture, with nearly $70 million in Department of Justice equitable sharing proceeds from 2000 to 2013.
State Forfeiture Data
Reported Forfeiture Proceeds
Average per year
Source: Quarterly reports of state and local forfeiture monies compiled by the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission and made publicly available on its website. These numbers are reported for fiscal years and represent the value of cash and property sold
Federal Equitable Sharing
Arizona law enforcement’s use of the Department of Justice’s equitable sharing program results in a ranking of 32nd nationally. In calendar years 2000 to 2013, Arizona law enforcement agencies received nearly $70 million in DOJ equitable sharing proceeds, averaging just under $5 million per year. Most of these proceeds—93 percent—came from joint task forces and investigations, the kind of equitable sharing forfeitures largely unaffected by the DOJ’s recent policy change. State and local agencies also netted $23 million in equitable sharing proceeds—around $1.7 million annually—from the Treasury Department over fiscal years 2000 to 2013.