Policing for Profit

Nevada earns a D- for its civil forfeiture laws

Higher bar to forfeit property and conviction required

Poor protections for innocent third-party property owners

As much as 100% of forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement

State Forfeiture Laws

Nevada adopted positive reforms to its civil forfeiture laws in 2015, but its law grade is pulled down to a D- by weak protections for innocent owners and a strong financial incentive to seize. Nevada took a step in the right direction by amending state law to require a criminal conviction as a prerequisite to forfeit property seized in connection to a crime. After securing a conviction, prosecutors must tie property to that crime with clear and convincing evidence. However, innocent owners continue to bear the burden of proving that they had no involvement in or knowledge of the crime associated with their property. The Silver State’s grade is further tarnished by a large incentive to seize: Law enforcement agencies retain up to 100 percent of forfeiture proceeds. However, if a given forfeiture account exceeds $100,000 at the end of the fiscal year, 70 percent of the excess funds must be given to the school district in the judicial district where the property was seized. This stipulation creates a “use it or lose it” situation, whereby law enforcement is encouraged to spend forfeiture proceeds as quickly as possible.

In 2015, Nevada adopted a new reporting regime that will require law enforcement agencies to file annual forfeiture reports with the attorney general. Starting April 1, 2016, the Nevada Office of the Attorney General must post each agency’s report, as well as an aggregate report of forfeitures statewide, online. Unfortunately, at the time this report went to print, law enforcement agencies were only required to file quarterly forfeiture reports with their budgetary authorities. These quarterly reports were not aggregated or made available online.

State Law Sources

Standard of proofClear and convincing evidence and a criminal conviction are required for civil forfeiture of property seized in connection with a crime.
Nev. Rev. Stat. § 179.1173.
Innocent owner burdenOwner.
Nev. Rev. Stat. § 179.1164(2).
Profit incentiveUp to 100 percent. However, if the government’s forfeiture account contains more than $100,000 at the end of each fiscal year, 70 percent of the money in excess of $100,000 must be given to the school district in the judicial district where the property was seized.
Nev. Rev. Stat. § 179.1187.
Reporting requirementsAgencies must submit annual forfeiture reports to the Office of the Attorney General, and the attorney general must then aggregate those reports and, beginning on April 1, 2016, must publish reports on its website.
2015 Nev. Laws ch. 436 (S.B. 138), Sec. 30.

Nevada ranks 23rd for federal forfeiture, with over $37 million in Department of Justice equitable sharing proceeds from 2000 to 2013.

State Forfeiture Data

No data available. The Office of the Attorney General is required to begin publishing forfeiture reports online on April 1, 2016, but no aggregate reports were available at the time this report went to print.

Federal Equitable Sharing

Nevada law enforcement’s use of the Department of Justice’s equitable sharing program earns the state a ranking of 23rd place. Between 2000 and 2013, agencies received more than $37 million in equitable sharing proceeds, for a calendar-year average of roughly $2.7 million. Nearly two-thirds of those proceeds came from joint task forces and investigations, the kind of procedure generally exempt from 2015 DOJ reforms. Finally, law enforcement agencies also brought in almost $13 million in proceeds from the Treasury Department’s equitable sharing fund between fiscal years 2000 and 2013.

(calendar years)
(fiscal years)
Average Per Year$2,665,848$910,500