Policing for Profit
Nebraska earns a C for its civil forfeiture laws
Highest bar to forfeit property
Poor protections for innocent third-party property owners
50% of forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement
State Forfeiture Laws
Nebraska’s civil forfeiture laws—earning a C—have both good and bad components. Nebraska has the best possible standard of proof, requiring the government to tie property to a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. If the seizure was related to gambling, however, that standard drops to preponderance of the evidence. Unfortunately, where owners are innocent of the criminal activity to which their property has been tied, they bear the burden of demonstrating their innocence in order to recover it. And Nebraska law enforcement agencies get to keep 50 percent of forfeiture proceeds—a lower percentage than in other states but still an opportunity to generate revenue.
Nebraska law enforcement agencies are not required to track or report their forfeitures.
State Law Sources
|Standard of proof||Beyond a reasonable doubt, unless the seizure is gambling-related, in which case the government’s burden is preponderance of the evidence.|
Neb. Rev. Stat. §§ 28-431(4), 28-1111; State v. Franco, 594 N.W.2d 633, 639–40 (Neb. 1999); State v. One 1985 Mercedes 190D Auto., 526 N.W.2d 657, 663 (Neb. 1995).
|Innocent owner burden||Owner.|
Neb. Rev. Stat. § 28-431(4).
|Profit incentive||50 percent.|
Neb. Const. art. VII, § 5(2); Neb. Rev. Stat. § 28-1439.02.
|Other sources||United States v. $63,530.00 in U.S. Currency, 781 F.3d 949 (8th Cir. 2015).|
Nebraska ranks 17th for federal forfeiture, with over $48 million in Department of Justice equitable sharing proceeds from 2000 to 2013.
State Forfeiture Data
No data available. Agencies are not required to track or report their forfeitures.
Federal Equitable Sharing
Ranking 17th on equitable sharing, Nebraska law enforcement agencies received $48 million in Department of Justice equitable sharing proceeds between calendar years 2000 and 2013. Unusually, the bulk of equitable sharing cases in the state were adoptions, accounting for 84 percent of proceeds received. These are the type of equitable sharing cases most impacted by recent DOJ policy changes aimed at reining in the program. Nebraska agencies’ use of equitable sharing may therefore dwindle—or shift to joint task forces and investigations, procedures largely untouched by the new rules. Nebraska agencies also brought in over $2.6 million in Treasury Department equitable sharing proceeds between fiscal years 2000 and 2013.
Belying its middling ranking, Nebraska has been the scene of some of the country’s worst equitable sharing cases. In 2011, Mark Brewer was pulled over while changing lanes without signaling on Interstate 80. Although the sheriff’s deputy found no evidence of criminality, he seized $63,500 that Brewer planned to use as a down payment on a house. The sheriff’s office asked the federal government to adopt the seizure and Brewer lost his savings despite never having been charged with a crime—indeed, he did not even get a ticket.
|Average Per Year||$3,455,993||$189,071|