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Arkansas

Arkansas

Arkansas earns a D- for its civil forfeiture laws:

Standard of Proof

Higher bar to forfeit in limited cases: Weak conviction provision falls short of criminal forfeiture (see “The Problem with ‘Conviction Requirements’”). It does not require conviction of the owner, only of the “person from whom the property was seized,” and the court can waive the provision if the person does not contest the forfeiture or has agreed to help investigators in exchange for immunity. Once the conviction provision is satisfied, property must be linked to the crime by preponderance of the evidence.

Innocent Owner Burden

Poor protections for the innocent: Third-party owners must prove their own innocence to recover seized property.

Financial Incentive

Large profit incentive: 100% of forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement (up to a maximum of $250,000 from a single forfeiture, 80% to police and prosecutors and 20% to the state Crime Lab Equipment Fund; any amount above $250,000 goes to the Special State Assets Forfeiture Fund, a non- law enforcement fund).

Recent Reforms

  • (2019) SB 308: Created weak conviction provision.

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

Value of State Seizures and Federal Forfeiture Revenues, 2000–2019

Between 2000 and 2018, Arkansas law enforcement agencies seized more than $107 million under state law, although the final amount forfeited is unknown. Between 2000 and 2019, they also generated more than $47 million in forfeiture proceeds from federal equitable sharing. Arkansas ranks 22nd 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 $47 million in federal forfeiture revenue
2000–2019

Year Arkansas Seizures Dept. of Justice Equitable Sharing Proceeds Treasury Equitable Sharing Proceeds Total Equitable Sharing Proceeds
2000 $5,544,742 $540,568 $30,000 $570,568
2001 $3,494,483 $911,267 $4,000 $915,267
2002 $2,805,948 $773,525 $605,000 $1,378,525
2003 $3,816,823 $477,238 $116,000 $593,238
2004 $4,299,354 $2,377,787 $0 $2,377,787
2005 $7,003,838 $957,776 $0 $957,776
2006 $5,556,583 $4,406,266 $0 $4,406,266
2007 $4,301,003 $1,792,272 $182,000 $1,974,272
2008 $5,160,602 $2,581,575 $45,000 $2,626,575
2009 $5,363,060 $2,705,290 $61,000 $2,766,290
2010 $6,299,710 $1,465,470 $455,000 $1,920,470
2011 $8,386,096 $2,819,593 $484,000 $3,303,593
2012 $3,653,473 $2,980,660 $532,000 $3,512,660
2013 $8,701,307 $1,521,767 $640,000 $2,161,767
2014 $10,772,643 $3,977,058 $343,000 $4,320,058
2015 $6,923,146 $3,347,213 $150,000 $3,497,213
2016 $4,323,012 $3,147,826 $100,000 $3,247,826
2017 $5,721,448 $2,266,743 $336,000 $2,602,743
2018 $5,311,110 $2,813,297 $127,000 $2,940,297
2019 Unavailable $1,065,385 $567,000 $1,632,385
Totals $42,928,576 $4,777,000 $47,705,576

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

Arkansas's Forfeiture Transparency and Accountability Report Card

Tracking Seized Property

C-

Accounting for Forfeiture Fund Spending

F

Statewide Forfeiture Reports

B

Accessibility of Forfeiture Records

C

Penalties for Failure to File a Report

B*

Financial Audits of Forfeiture Accounts

A

* Agencies must file even when they have nothing to report.

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

Forfeitures Under Arkansas Law: Key Facts

Median Value

UNKNOWN

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

Property Types

UNKNOWN

Arkansas does not report the types of property forfeited.

Civil vs. Criminal

UNKNOWN

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

Expenditures

UNKNOWN

Arkansas does not report how forfeiture funds are spent.

Data Notes and Legal Sources

Data Notes

Calendar-year data representing seizures conducted under the Uniform Controlled Substances Act were obtained via public records requests to the Arkansas Drug Director. Equitable sharing data are from DOJ’s and Treasury’s annual forfeiture reports.

Legal Sources

Standard of proof: Weak conviction provision does not require conviction of an owner, but only of the “person from whom the property [was] seized, ” and a court can waive the provision if the person fails to contest forfeiture or if the person is granted immunity in exchange for helping investigators. After the conviction provision is satisfied, prosecutors must show that the property is subject to forfeiture by a preponderance of the evidence.

Ark. Code Ann. §§ 5-64-505(m)(1), (m)(2)(E), (g)(5)(B)(i).

Innocent owner burden: Owner.

Ark. Code Ann. §§ 5-64-505(a)(4)(B), (a)(6)(B), (a)(8)(A).

Financial incentive: 100% (80% to police and prosecutors, 20% to the state Crime Lab Equipment Fund) up to a maximum of $250,000 from a single forfeiture. Any amount above $250,000 goes to the Special State Assets Forfeiture Fund, a non-law enforcement fund.

Ark. Code Ann. § 5-64-505(h)–(i); see also Ark. Op. Att’y. Gen. No. 99-282 (Feb. 24, 2000).

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