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Alabama

Alabama

Alabama earns a D- for its civil forfeiture laws:

Standard of Proof

Low bar to forfeit: Prosecutors must prove by “reasonable satisfaction,” a standard akin to preponderance of the evidence, that property is connected to a crime.

Innocent Owner Burden

Limited protections for the innocent: Third-party owners must prove their own innocence to recover seized property, unless real property is at stake.

Financial Incentive

Large profit incentive: 100% of forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement.

Recent Reforms

  • (2019) SB 191: Adopted new transparency requirements.

Recommendations

  • End civil forfeiture
  • Direct all forfeiture proceeds to a non-law enforcement fund
  • Strengthen protections for innocent third-party owners
  • Close the equitable sharing loophole
  • Strengthen transparency and accountability requirements

State and Federal Forfeiture Revenues, 2000–2019

Between 2000 and 2019, Alabama law enforcement agencies generated more than $104 million in forfeiture revenue from federal equitable sharing. Alabama ranks 36th for its participation in the Department of Justice’s equitable sharing program. The state does not prevent state and local agencies from using equitable sharing to circumvent state forfeiture law.

At least $104 million in federal forfeiture revenue
2000–2019

Year Alabama Forfeiture Revenues Dept. of Justice Equitable Sharing Proceeds Treasury Equitable Sharing Proceeds Total Equitable Sharing Proceeds
2000 Unknown $1,898,205 $250,000 $2,148,205
2001 Unknown $2,602,074 $123,000 $2,725,074
2002 Unknown $1,968,319 $269,000 $2,237,319
2003 Unknown $4,216,595 $764,000 $4,980,595
2004 Unknown $6,628,648 $91,000 $6,719,648
2005 Unknown $4,866,686 $373,000 $5,239,686
2006 Unknown $5,314,799 $4,000 $5,318,799
2007 Unknown $8,563,174 $185,000 $8,748,174
2008 Unknown $6,500,693 $19,000 $6,519,693
2009 Unknown $8,321,217 $295,000 $8,616,217
2010 Unknown $8,236,687 $1,816,000 $10,052,687
2011 Unknown $4,608,034 $950,000 $5,558,034
2012 Unknown $8,429,272 $216,000 $8,645,272
2013 Unknown $1,880,420 $252,000 $2,132,420
2014 Unknown $5,095,019 $993,000 $6,088,019
2015 Unknown $3,091,009 $1,876,000 $4,967,009
2016 Unknown $2,338,392 $724,000 $3,062,392
2017 Unknown $1,980,089 $490,000 $2,470,089
2018 Unknown $4,951,811 $253,000 $5,204,811
2019 Unknown $2,034,629 $753,000 $2,787,629
Totals $0 $93,525,772 $10,696,000 $104,221,772

All revenue figures include both civil and criminal forfeitures. Revenues are not adjusted for inflation.

Alabama's Forfeiture Transparency and Accountability Report Card

Tracking Seized Property

B

Accounting for Forfeiture Fund Spending

F

Statewide Forfeiture Reports

B

Accessibility of Forfeiture Records

A

Penalties for Failure to File a Report

F

Financial Audits of Forfeiture Accounts

F

At the time of publication, statewide reports required by the 2019 reform were not yet available and were therefore not graded in the print report. The online grades are based on reporting statutes and are subject to change as new information becomes available. Accordingly, they may not match the print report.

For full transparency and accountability grades, visit www.ij.org/TransparencyReportCards.

Forfeitures Under Alabama Law: Key Facts

Median Value

UNKNOWN

Alabama does not report property-level data necessary to calculate median forfeiture value.

Property Types

UNKNOWN

Alabama does not report the types of property forfeited.

Civil vs. Criminal

UNKNOWN

Alabama does not report whether forfeitures are processed under civil or criminal forfeiture law.

Expenditures

UNKNOWN

Alabama does not report how forfeiture funds are spent.

Data Notes and Legal Sources

Data Notes

No statewide records available. Alabama had no reporting requirements before the reporting law enacted in 2019. Forfeiture data from the reporting system operated by the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency are expected in 2021 from the Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center Commission. Equitable sharing data are from DOJ’s and Treasury’s annual forfeiture reports.

Legal Sources

Standard of proof: Reasonable satisfaction, a standard akin to preponderance of the evidence.

Ex parte McConathy, 911 So. 2d 677, 681, 687–88 (Ala. 2005) (overturning forfeiture on grounds that mere suspicion that property was involved in a crime does not meet the “reasonable satisfaction” standard) (citations omitted); see also Alabama Evidence § 3:29 (3rd ed., 2019 update) (explaining that “reasonable satisfaction” is equivalent to the preponderance standard).

Innocent owner burden: Depends on the property. Generally, the owner bears the burden of proof. But for real property, the government bears the burden.

Ala. Code § 20-2-93(h).

Financial incentive: 100%.

Ala. Code § 20-2-93(e).

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