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Indiana

Indiana

Indiana 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

Limited protections for the innocent: Generally, third-party owners must prove their own innocence to recover seized property, but the government bears the burden in cases involving vehicles or recording equipment allegedly used in a sex crime.

Financial Incentive

Large profit incentive: Up to 93% of forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement.

Recent Reforms

  • (2018) SB 99: Made minor changes to prosecutors’ deadlines and forfeiture process; allowed innocent owners to petition for provisional release of a vehicle or real property during pending forfeiture actions; required prosecutors to report more details of forfeitures to the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council; but also codified the state’s practice of allowing law enforcement to keep nearly all forfeiture proceeds for expenses despite a state constitutional provision requiring that “all forfeitures” be paid into the Common School Fund. In 2019, the Indiana Supreme Court upheld the new law, effectively raising the state’s profit incentive from 0% to as much as 93%.

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 2016 and 2019, Indiana law enforcement agencies forfeited more than $14 million under state law. Between 2000 and 2019, they generated an additional $100 million from federal equitable sharing, for a total of at least $114 million in forfeiture revenue. Indiana ranks 33rd 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 $114 million in state and federal forfeiture revenue
2000–2019

Year Indiana Forfeiture Revenues Dept. of Justice Equitable Sharing Proceeds Treasury Equitable Sharing Proceeds Total
2000 Unknown $2,640,559 $237,000 $2,877,559
2001 Unknown $2,102,094 $210,000 $2,312,094
2002 Unknown $2,224,005 $235,000 $2,459,005
2003 Unknown $2,140,236 $265,000 $2,405,236
2004 Unknown $2,249,053 $283,000 $2,532,053
2005 Unknown $2,563,570 $870,000 $3,433,570
2006 Unknown $2,781,017 $373,000 $3,154,017
2007 Unknown $2,736,058 $291,000 $3,027,058
2008 Unknown $4,322,001 $579,000 $4,901,001
2009 Unknown $4,752,287 $1,240,000 $5,992,287
2010 Unknown $2,852,393 $705,000 $3,557,393
2011 Unknown $5,063,633 $334,000 $5,397,633
2012 Unknown $10,872,414 $1,327,000 $12,199,414
2013 Unknown $3,666,595 $135,000 $3,801,595
2014 Unknown $6,614,721 $2,536,000 $9,150,721
2015 Unknown $5,230,729 $971,000 $6,201,729
2016 $1,826,151 $6,129,044 $2,815,000 $10,770,195
2017 $3,276,702 $7,055,310 $847,000 $11,179,012
2018 $6,111,734 $3,488,936 $1,931,000 $11,531,670
2019 $3,314,596 $3,340,203 $942,000 $7,596,799
Totals $14,529,183 $82,824,858 $17,126,000 $114,480,041

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

Indiana's Forfeiture Transparency and Accountability Report Card

Tracking Seized Property

C

Accounting for Forfeiture Fund Spending

F

Statewide Forfeiture Reports

C

Accessibility of Forfeiture Records

B

Penalties for Failure to File a Report

F*

Financial Audits of Forfeiture Accounts

F

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

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

Forfeitures Under Indiana Law: Key Facts

Median Value

UNKNOWN

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

Property Types

UNKNOWN

Indiana does not report the types of property forfeited.

Civil vs. Criminal

UNKNOWN

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

Expenditures

UNKNOWN

Indiana does not report how forfeiture funds are spent.

Data Notes and Legal Sources

Data Notes

Property-level forfeiture proceeds data were obtained from the Indiana General Assembly website and via public records requests to the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council. Figures are in fiscal years and represent forfeited cash and proceeds from sales of forfeited property. 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.

Ind. Code § 34-24-1-4(a); see also Serrano v. State, 946 N.E.2d 1139, 1143–44 (Ind. 2011) (requiring state to prove a close “nexus” between vehicle and drugs); Lipscomb v. State, 857 N.E.2d 424, 428 (Ind. Ct. App. 2006) (requiring state to show connection between money and drugs).

Innocent owner burden: Depends on the property. Generally, the owner bears the burden of proof. But for vehicles or equipment allegedly involved in the recording of a sex crime, the government bears the burden.

Ind. Code §§ 34-24-1-1(a)(10), (b), (c), (e), 34-24-1-4(a).

Financial incentive: Up to 93%, notwithstanding a state constitutional provision that requires “all forfeitures” to be paid into the Common School Fund.

Ind. Code §§ 34-24-1-6, 34-24-1-4(c)–(d); compare Ind. Const. art. 8, § 2 with Horner v. Curry, 125 N.E.3d 584, 597–607 (Ind. 2019).

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