Louisiana earns a D+ for its civil forfeiture laws
Low bar to forfeit and no conviction required
Poor protections for innocent third-party property owners
80% of forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement
State Forfeiture Laws
Earning a D+, Louisiana civil forfeiture law fails to protect property owners. The law requires only that the government show by a preponderance of the evidence that property is associated with criminal activity in order to forfeit it. Further, to make an innocent owner claim successfully, individuals must find a way to prove that they did not know about or consent to the criminal activity in which their property was implicated. Law enforcement retains 80 percent of forfeiture revenue—a large incentive to seize. The remaining 20 percent goes to the criminal court fund. This system creates a serious conflict of interest in allowing the court that orders the forfeiture of property to receive a portion of the proceeds.
Louisiana’s forfeiture reporting requirements also leave much to be desired. Every district attorney must file an annual report with the Legislature detailing the amount and value of property seized and distributed after forfeiture, though reports lack key details, such as whether any criminal charges accompanied the forfeiture or how forfeiture funds were spent. These reports also are not compiled into an aggregate report or made available online, forcing interested parties to file a Louisiana Public Records Law request to access the information. Reports indicate that Louisiana district attorneys forfeited more than $99 million between 2000 and 2014, over 88 percent of which resulted from cash forfeitures.
State Law Sources
Standard of proof
Preponderance of the evidence. La. Stat. Ann. § 40:2612(G).
Innocent owner burden
Owner. La. Stat. Ann. § 40:2605.
80 percent, while the remaining 20 percent goes to the criminal court fund. La. Stat. Ann. § 40:2616(B)(3).
District attorneys are required to file annual seizure reports with the state Legislature. La. Stat. Ann. § 40:2616(D).
Louisiana ranks 24th for federal forfeiture, with over $36 million in Department of Justice equitable sharing proceeds from 2000 to 2013.
State Forfeiture Data
Average per year
Source: Judicial district reports obtained by the Institute for Justice through a Louisiana Public Records Law request to the state Office of the Attorney General. Data are presented in calendar years and only represent cash and property sold, not property retained for official use.
Federal Equitable Sharing
Louisiana law enforcement’s regular participation in the Department of Justice’s equitable sharing program puts the state in 24th place on equitable sharing nationwide. Between 2000 and 2013, Louisiana law enforcement brought in $2.6 million per calendar year, or more than $36 million total, in DOJ equitable sharing proceeds. Almost all—95 percent—of these proceeds came from joint task forces and investigations, equitable sharing practices left largely intact under a DOJ policy change intended to rein in the program. Finally, Louisiana law enforcement also received $11 million in Treasury Department equitable sharing proceeds between 2000 and 2013—an average of just under $800,000 per fiscal year.