Connecticut earns a C for its civil forfeiture laws
Higher bar to forfeit property, but no conviction required
Stronger protections for innocent third-party property owners
69.5% of forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement
State Forfeiture Laws
The Constitution State’s forfeiture laws earn a C because they provide some degree of property rights protection, though this protection should be stronger. In Connecticut, the standard of proof for forfeiture requires the government to offer clear and convincing evidence that the property is related to criminal activity and therefore forfeitable. The burden is on the government to disprove an innocent owner’s claim of innocence regarding an alleged illegal use of seized property. However, law enforcement agencies are permitted to keep 69.5 percent of the proceeds of civil forfeiture (59.5 percent for police, 10 percent for prosecutors), providing a substantial incentive to seize.
Although Connecticut has no statutory reporting requirement—it only requires that agencies maintain a seized property inventory—the Institute for Justice was able to obtain reports of forfeitures from the Connecticut Office of the Attorney General. Connecticut is one of only two states—Oregon being the other—to provide reports that distinguish between civil and criminal forfeitures. State forfeiture data show that civil forfeiture cases constituted an astounding 77 percent of all Connecticut forfeiture cases between 2009 and 2013, meaning that less than one-quarter of all forfeitures in the state were achieved using procedures that required the government to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the property owner had committed a crime.
State Law Sources
Standard of proof
Clear and convincing evidence.
Innocent owner burden
Government. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 54-36h(b)–(c); see, e.g., State v. One 2002 Chevrolet Coupe, No. CV2200243, 2003 Conn. Super. LEXIS 458, at *8–9, 2003 WL 824266 (Conn. Super. Ct. Jan. 23, 2003) (holding innocent owner could recover her property because state failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that she knew about her son’s illegal activities).
69.5 percent (59.5 percent to police, 10 percent to prosecutors), except in cases of sexual exploitation, prostitution and human trafficking, when 100 percent of proceeds go to a victims’ compensation fund. Conn. Gen. Stat. §§ 54-36i(c), -36p(f).
Seizing agencies must maintain an inventory of seized property. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 54-36a(b)(1).
Connecticut ranks 22nd for federal forfeiture, with over $24 million in Department of Justice equitable sharing proceeds from 2000 to 2013
State Forfeiture Data
Reported Forfeiture Data
Average per year
Reported Forfeiture Cases
Average per year
Source: Calendar-year reports of forfeitures carried out by state and local law enforcement. These data were obtained from the state Office of the Attorney General through a Connecticut Freedom of Information Act request made by the Institute for Justice. The state provided a value only for forfeitures of cash and property sold, not property retained for official law enforcement use.
Federal Equitable Sharing
Connecticut law enforcement’s use of the Department of Justice’s equitable sharing program results in a 22nd place national ranking. Between 2000 and 2013, Connecticut law enforcement received over $24 million in DOJ equitable sharing proceeds, or an average of $1.7 million per calendar year. A colossal 93 percent of proceeds resulted from joint task forces and investigations—the type of practice largely unaffected by the DOJ’s recent equitable sharing policy change. Connecticut law enforcement also received $1.8 million from the Treasury Forfeiture Fund during the fiscal years 2000 to 2013.