Policing for Profit

Montana earns a D- for its civil forfeiture laws.

Standard of Proof

Higher bar to forfeit: Strong conviction provision requires conviction of the owner in a criminal proceeding held in conjunction with the forfeiture action. Once there is a conviction, property must be linked to the crime by clear and convincing evidence.

Innocent Owner Burden

Stronger protections for the innocent: The government must prove third-party owners knew about criminal activity connected to their property.

Financial Incentive

Large profit incentive: Up to 100% of forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement (annual proceeds to state agencies above $125,000 are split 50–50 between the general fund and a state forfeiture 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.

Recent Reforms

  • None.


  • End civil forfeiture
  • Direct all forfeiture proceeds to a non-law enforcement fund
  • Close the equitable sharing loophole
  • Adopt strong transparency and accountability requirements

State and Federal Forfeiture Revenues, 2000-2019

Between 2002 and 2019, Montana law enforcement agencies forfeited nearly $2 million under state law. Between 2000 and 2019, they generated an additional $9 million from federal equitable sharing, for a total of at least $11 million in forfeiture revenue. Montana ranks 9th 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 $11 million in state and federal forfeiture revenue

Year Montana Forfeiture Revenues Dept. of Justice Equitable Sharing Proceeds Treasury Equitable Sharing Proceeds
$0 ↦ $1,278,658
2000 Unknown $251,243 $274,000
2001 Unknown $576,378 $37,000
2002 $43,477 $205,696 $27,000
2003 $47,013 $182,607 $88,000
2004 $74,481 $201,458 $0
2005 $60,931 $422,760 $80,000
2006 $128,380 $487,171 $0
2007 $134,634 $1,134,024 $10,000
2008 $105,789 $387,501 $73,000
2009 $75,778 $54,656 $67,000
2010 $117,997 $131,734 $53,000
2011 $125,202 $324,653 $28,000
2012 $95,575 $666,494 $129,000
2013 $105,932 $456,794 $41,000
2014 $75,495 $304,941 $73,000
2015 $202,205 $358,093 $42,000
2016 $118,735 $241,944 $174,000
2017 $236,617 $472,258 $43,000
2018 $51,976 $369,823 $212,000
2019 $83,376 $425,280 $18,000
Totals $1,883,593 $7,655,508 $1,469,000
Department of Justice
All revenue figures include both civil and criminal forfeitures. Revenues are not adjusted for inflation.
Download Revenue Data

Montana Forfeiture Transparency and Accountability Report Card

F Tracking Seized Property
F Accounting for Forfeiture Fund Spending
F Statewide Forfeiture Reports
F 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

Forfeitures Under Montana Law: Key Facts

Median Value

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

Property Types

Montana does not report the types of property forfeited.

Civil vs. Criminal

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


Montana does not report how forfeiture funds are spent.

Data Notes

Records were obtained via public records requests to the Montana Department of Justice. Figures represent fiscal-year forfeited cash and proceeds from sales of property deposited into the state special revenue fund. 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: Strong conviction provision requires an owner’s conviction in a criminal proceeding “held in conjunction with” forfeiture. Once there is a conviction, property must be linked to the crime by clear and convincing evidence.

Mont. Code Ann. §§ 44-12-207(c), -210(1).

Innocent owner burden: Government. The government must disprove an innocent owner claim by clear and convincing evidence.

Mont. Code Ann. § 44-12-211; see also id. § 45-9-206(8).

Financial incentive: Up to 100%. However, when forfeiture money goes to the state, annual proceeds above $125,000 must be divided equally between the general fund and a state forfeiture fund.

Mont. Code Ann. § 44-12-213.