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Hawaii

Hawaii

Hawaii earns a D- for its civil forfeiture laws:

Standard of Proof

Low bar to forfeit: Prosecutors must prove by preponderance of the evidence that property is connected to a crime.

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 $3 million per year, 25% to police, 25% to prosecutors and 50% to the attorney general for law enforcement projects).

The letter grade reflects the state’s forfeiture laws as of December 2020. When we become aware of relevant reforms, we are updating the standard of proof, innocent owner burden and financial incentive language above, but we are not updating the letter grade.

Recent Reforms

  • None.

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 2001 and 2018, Hawaii law enforcement agencies forfeited more than $20 million under state law. Between 2000 and 2019, they generated an additional $29 million from federal equitable sharing, for a total of at least $49 million in forfeiture revenue. Hawaii ranks 26th 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 $49 million in state and federal forfeiture revenue
2000–2019

Year Hawaii Forfeiture Revenues Dept. of Justice Equitable Sharing Proceeds Treasury Equitable Sharing Proceeds Total
2000 Unknown $1,207,271 $0 $1,207,271
2001 $1,194,028 $607,098 $40,000 $1,841,126
2002 $1,615,045 $2,052,050 $75,000 $3,742,095
2003 $949,877 $2,038,594 $5000 $2,993,471
2004 $1,657,156 $1,802,294 $4,000 $3,463,450
2005 $1,062,252 $1,657,680 $188,000 $2,907,932
2006 $1,493,599 $3,345,770 $496,000 $5,335,369
2007 $1,405,284 $2,808,610 $184,000 $4,397,894
2008 $1,473,667 $1,626,211 $67,000 $3,166,878
2009 $1,405,284 $1,032,842 $22,000 $2,460,126
2010 $1,797,875 $635,942 $798,000 $3,231,817
2011 $661,619 $515,903 $237,000 $1,414,522
2012 $535,811 $590,432 $12,000 $1,138,243
2013 $868,376 $870,766 $92,000 $1,831,142
2014 $807,366 $1,086,796 $37,000 $1,931,162
2015 $1,420,388 $1,714,754 $24,000 $3,159,142
2016 $700,863 $505,825 $174,000 $1,380,688
2017 $470,561 $1,957,524 $130,000 $2,558,085
2018 $639,641 $203,629 $30,000 $873,270
2019 Unavailable $60,507 $58,000 $118,507
Totals $20,158,692 $26,320,498 $2,673,000 $49,152,190

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

Hawaii'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

B

Penalties for Failure to File a Report

F

Financial Audits of Forfeiture Accounts

F

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

Forfeitures Under Hawaii Law: Key Facts

Median Value

UNKNOWN

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

Property Types

UNKNOWN

Hawaii property type data were not used for this report.

Civil vs. Criminal

UNKNOWN

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

Expenditures

From 2001 to 2018, the Hawaii Attorney General spent $6 million from forfeiture funds—56% on personnel, including salaries and overtime.

Data Notes and Legal Sources

Data Notes

Figures are from annual reports obtained from the Hawaii AG’s website and represent fiscal-year forfeiture proceeds. Expenditures represent only the AG’s Criminal Forfeiture Fund, which receives half of all proceeds. Equitable sharing data are from DOJ’s and Treasury’s annual forfeiture reports. Due to differences in reporting and accounting practices, state figures may not match aggregate numbers produced by the state or cover the same 12-month period as the federal data.

Legal Sources

Standard of proof: Preponderance of the evidence.

Haw. Rev. Stat. § 712A-12(8).

Innocent owner burden: Owner.

Haw. Rev. Stat. § 712A-12(8).

Financial incentive: 100% (25% to police, 25% to prosecuting attorney, 50% to attorney general for various law enforcement projects) up to a maximum of $3 million per year.

Haw. Rev. Stat. § 712A-16(2)–(4).

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