Limited protections for innocent third-party property owners
By law, no forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement
State Forfeiture Laws
On paper, Indiana has some of the country’s better civil forfeiture laws, earning a B+, primarily because of a strong prohibition on the use of forfeiture funds by law enforcement; instead, the Indiana Constitution directs forfeiture proceeds to the state school fund. However, it appears that this prohibition is often undermined in practice. By statute, law enforcement agencies can deduct the “law enforcement costs” of a forfeiture case before depositing the remaining proceeds in the school fund. Exploiting this provision, several large agencies have reportedly begun classifying most—or even all—forfeiture proceeds as deductible law enforcement costs. Other features of Indiana’s civil forfeiture laws fail to protect property owners and need reform: Law enforcement need only connect property to a crime by a preponderance of the evidence in order to forfeit it, and, to win an innocent owner claim, owners bear the burden of proving their innocence for nearly all types of property. The only exceptions are vehicles and recording equipment allegedly used in the commission of a sex crime; in these cases, the government bears the burden. Although Indiana receives a high grade for its laws, property owners are likely at risk due to poor procedural protections and a strong incentive to seize, as law enforcement agencies are often able to stretch state law and violate the state Constitution with impunity.
In 2015, the Hoosier State adopted a new law that requires judicial districts to report their forfeiture activity to the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council, which is required to produce an aggregate report. The IPAC’s aggregate reports should provide more information about forfeiture activity, although they may require an Indiana Access to Public Records Act request to obtain and the level of detail that will be included is not yet known.
State Law Sources
Standard of proof
Preponderance of the evidence. Ind. Code § 34-24-1-4(a); see alsoSerrano v. State, 946 N.E.2d 1139, 1143–44 (Ind. 2011) (requiring state to prove a close “nexus” between vehicle and drugs); Lipscomb v. State, 857 N.E.2d 424, 428 (Ind. Ct. App. 2006) (requiring state to show connection between money and drugs).
Innocent owner burden
Depends on the property. The state bears the burden when an owner makes a claim to equipment allegedly involved in the recording of a sex crime or makes a claim to a vehicle, but the owner bears the burden with respect to other property. Ind. Code §§ 34-24-1-1(a)(10), (b), (c), (e), 34-24-1-4(a).
The Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council is required to aggregate forfeiture reports submitted by judicial districts and, beginning on July 15, 2016, must submit a compiled report to the Legislature. Ind. Code §§ 33-39-8-5(7), 34-24-1-4.5.
Indiana ranks 39th for federal forfeiture, with over $55 million in Department of Justice equitable sharing proceeds from 2000 to 2013.
State Forfeiture Data
No data available. Law enforcement agencies were not required to track or report their forfeitures prior to 2015. The Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council will be required to provide aggregate reports starting July 15, 2016.
Federal Equitable Sharing
Indiana is ranked 39th in the country on equitable sharing. During the 2000 to 2013 calendar years, Indiana law enforcement received more than $55 million in Department of Justice equitable sharing proceeds. Most of these proceeds—79 percent—were the result of joint task forces and investigations, procedures largely unaffected by the DOJ’s new policy intended to curb equitable sharing. Further, Indiana agencies collected close to $6.9 million in equitable sharing proceeds from the Treasury Department between the 2000 and 2013 fiscal years..