Policing for Profit

Arkansas earns a D- for its civil forfeiture laws

Low bar to forfeit and no conviction required

Poor protections for innocent third-party property owners

100% of forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement

State Forfeiture Laws

Arkansas has awful civil forfeiture laws. Earning a D- grade, Arkansas law only requires the government to show that it is more likely than not that seized property is related to criminal activity—a standard of proof known as preponderance of the evidence. Innocent owners wishing to recover seized property bear the burden of proving their own innocence. Worst of all, Arkansas law enforcement agencies receive 100 percent of the funds generated through civil forfeiture—in most cases, 80 percent of proceeds go to police and prosecutors and 20 percent go to the state Crime Lab Equipment Fund. If a forfeiture exceeds $250,000, any proceeds in excess of that figure are deposited into the Special State Assets Forfeiture Fund.

Forfeiture practice in Arkansas also suffers from a lack of public transparency. The Arkansas Drug Director has a database of all forfeitures—the Asset Seizure Tracking System. However, the only aggregate reports of this information are annual reports from the Legislative Joint Auditing Committee, which provide only the value of currency and the number of other assets that were seized; it is impossible to determine from this information the total amount of assets that went on to be forfeited. The data that are available indicate that Arkansas law enforcement seized almost $81 million in currency and more than 9,500 cars between 2000 and 2014.

State Law Sources

Standard of proofPreponderance of the evidence. Ark. Code Ann. § 5-64-505(g)(5)(B)(i), (h)(1).
Innocent owner burdenOwner. Ark. Code Ann. § 5-64-505(a)(4)(B), (a)(6)(B), (a)(8)(A).
Profit incentive80 percent of the first $250,000 of each forfeiture goes to police and prosecutors and the remaining 20 percent goes to the state Crime Lab Equipment Fund. For forfeitures of more than $250,000, the balance in excess of that figure goes to the Special State Assets Forfeiture Fund. Ark. Code Ann. § 5-64-505(h)–(i); see also Ark. Op. Att’y. Gen. No. 99-282.
Reporting requirementsLaw enforcement agencies and prosecuting attorneys must submit reports of seizures and final disposition to the Arkansas Drug Director, which maintains the Asset Seizure Tracking System database. Ark. Code Ann. § 5-64-505(f)(2–4), (i)(2)(B). These reports are subject to audit by the Legislative Joint Auditing Committee, which produces an annual report of seizures. Ark. Code Ann. § 10-4-417.

State Forfeiture Data

Year Reported Value of Seized Currency Incidents Involving Vehicle Seizures Incidents Involving Weapons Seizures Incidents Involving “Other” Property Seizures
2000 $5,544,742 534 249 201
2001 $3,494,483 514 241 165
2002 $2,805,948 522 232 141
2003 $3,816,823 683 282 208
2004 $4,299,354 779 245 180
2005 $7,003,838 771 223 172
2006 $5,556,583 655 162 141
2007 $4,301,003 688 187 132
2008 $5,160,593 585 147 130
2009 $970,416 693 171 170
2010 $6,300,505 803 357 148
2011 $8,371,795 674 444 124
2012 $3,677,546 516 364 125
2013 $8,688,150 584 732 137
2014 $10,774,104 536 359 122
Total $80,765,883 9,537 4,395 2,296
Average per year $5,384,392 636 293 153

Source: Proceeds from drug-related civil forfeitures conducted by the South Dakota Office of the Attorney General. These data are presented in fiscal-year format and were obtained via a South Dakota Open Records Law request.

Arkansas is the 9th best state for federal forfeiture, with over $27 million in Department of Justice equitable sharing proceeds from 2000 to 2013.

Federal Equitable Sharing

Arkansas law enforcement’s participation in the Department of Justice’s equitable sharing program is ranked 9th nationally. Arkansas law enforcement received $27 million in DOJ equitable sharing proceeds between 2000 and 2013, which equates to roughly $1.9 million each calendar year. And these proceeds have been increasing steadily over the years, from a few hundred thousand dollars a year in the early 2000s to over $3 million in 2013. Joint task forces and investigations accounted for less than half of these proceeds, though they made up the lion’s share—87 percent—of assets seized. These types of forfeitures were largely unaffected by former Attorney General Holder’s policy change aimed at restricting equitable sharing. State and local agencies also received about $3.2 million in Treasury Department equitable sharing funds across fiscal years 2000 through 2013.

(calendar years)
(fiscal years)
Average Per Year$74,645$3,714