Policing for Profit
Maine earns a B+ for its civil forfeiture laws.
Low bar to forfeit: Prosecutors must prove by preponderance of the evidence that property is connected to a crime. Update: L.D. 1521 (2021) abolished civil forfeiture and replaced it with criminal forfeiture, the highest bar to forfeit.
Limited protections for the innocent: Third-party owners must prove their own innocence to recover seized property, unless a family’s primary residence is at stake.
No profit incentive, officially: All forfeiture proceeds are supposed to go to the general fund unless another transfer is specifically approved. However, reports indicate that almost no proceeds go to the general fund. (See, e.g., Neumann, D. (2018, Oct. 26). Maine law enforcement is keeping drug bust money meant for state general fund. Maine Beacon. (https://mainebeacon.com/maine-law-enforcementis-keeping-drug-bust-money-meant-for-state-general-fund/.)
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.
- L.D. 1521 (2021): In addition to changes noted above; imposed new limits on participation in federal equitable sharing; established prompt post-seizure hearings. Read more.
- Strengthen protections for innocent third-party owners
- Fully close the equitable sharing loophole
- Adopt and enforce strong transparency and accountability requirements
State and Federal Forfeiture Revenues, 2000-2019
Between 2009 and 2019, Maine law enforcement agencies forfeited more than $3 million under state law. Between 2000 and 2019, they generated an additional $14 million from federal equitable sharing, for a total of at least $17 million in forfeiture revenue. Maine ranks 6th 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 $17 million in state and federal forfeiture revenue
|Year||Maine Forfeiture Revenues||Dept. of Justice Equitable Sharing Proceeds||Treasury Equitable Sharing Proceeds||Total||
$0 ↦ $2,198,083
Department of Justice
Maine Forfeiture Transparency and Accountability Report Card
|D-||Tracking Seized Property|
|F †||Accounting for Forfeiture Fund Spending|
|F||Statewide Forfeiture Reports|
|A||Accessibility of Forfeiture Records|
|Incomplete||Penalties for Failure to File a Report|
|F †||Financial Audits of Forfeiture Accounts|
†† No reporting requirements to enforce.
For full transparency and accountability grades, visit www.ij.org/TransparencyReportCards.
Forfeitures Under Maine Law: Key Facts
From 2015 to 2019, half of the Maine Attorney General’s currency forfeitures were worth less than $1,670.
Maine does not report the types of property forfeited.
Civil vs. CriminalUNKNOWN
Maine does not report whether forfeitures are processed under civil or criminal forfeiture law.
Maine does not report how forfeiture funds are spent.
No statewide records available. Figures for 2009 through partial 2014 represent forfeitures conducted by the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency and were obtained via public records request to the Maine Department of Public Safety. Figures for partial 2014 through 2019 represent forfeiture cases prosecuted by the Maine AG and were obtained via public records request to the AG. All figures are in calendar years and represent only forfeited currency. 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.
Standard of proof: Preponderance of the evidence.
15 Me. Stat. tit. § 5822(3).
Innocent owner burden: Depends on the property. Generally, the owner bears the burden of proof. But in cases involving a family’s primary residence, the government must show that any spouse or minor children co-owner knew about or consented to the owner’s illegal conduct.
15 Me. Stat. tit. §§ 5821(7)(A), 5822(3).
Financial incentive: No financial incentive. All forfeiture proceeds go to the general fund unless another transfer is specifically approved by the court and by the governor or attorney general (in the case of a state forfeiture), or by the court and the relevant governmental entity (in the case of county-level or municipal-level forfeitures) with the written consent of the attorney general. However, reports indicate that almost no proceeds are, in fact, being deposited in the general fund (see articles below).
15 Me. Stat. tit. §§ 5822(4), 5824. See Neumann, D. (2018a, Oct. 18). Maine law enforcement fails to report money seized in drug busts. Maine Beacon. http://mainebeacon.com/maine-law-enforcement-fails-to-report-money-seizedin-drug-busts/ and Neumann, D. (2018b, Oct. 26). Maine law enforcement is keeping drug bust money meant for state general fund. Maine Beacon. http://mainebeacon.com/maine-law-enforcement-is-keeping-drug-bust-money-meantfor-state-general-fund/.