Policing for Profit
North Carolina earns a B+ for its forfeiture laws.
Highest bar to forfeit in most cases: In general, North Carolina has only criminal forfeiture. However, prosecutors can pursue civil forfeiture in racketeering cases, where they must prove by preponderance of the evidence that property is connected to a crime.
Poor protections for the innocent: In racketeering cases, third-party owners must prove their own innocence to recover seized property.
No profit incentive: All forfeiture proceeds go to fund schools.
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.
- End civil forfeiture
- Strengthen protections for innocent third-party owners
- Close the equitable sharing loophole
- Adopt strong transparency and accountability requirements
State and Federal Forfeiture Revenues, 2000-2019
Between 2000 and 2019, North Carolina law enforcement agencies generated more than $293 million in forfeiture revenue from federal equitable sharing. North Carolina reports that it does not conduct forfeitures under state law. However, it does not prevent state and local agencies from using equitable sharing to circumvent state forfeiture law. North Carolina ranks 45th for its participation in the Department of Justice’s equitable sharing program.
At least $293 million in federal forfeiture revenue
|Year||North Carolina Forfeiture Revenues||Dept. of Justice Equitable Sharing Proceeds||Treasury Equitable Sharing Proceeds||Total Equitable Sharing Proceeds||
$0 ↦ $24,852,512
Department of Justice
North Carolina Forfeiture Transparency and Accountability Report Card
|F||Tracking Seized Property|
|N/A †||Accounting for Forfeiture Fund Spending|
|F||Statewide Forfeiture Reports|
|F||Accessibility of Forfeiture Records|
|Incomplete||Penalties for Failure to File a Report|
|N/A †||Financial Audits of Forfeiture Accounts|
† These grades are not applicable as North Carolina does not permit law enforcement to spend state forfeiture revenue.
†† No reporting requirements to enforce.
For full transparency and accountability grades, visit www.ij.org/TransparencyReportCards.
Forfeitures Under North Carolina Law: Key Facts
North Carolina does not report property-level data necessary to calculate median forfeiture value.
North Carolina does not report the types of property forfeited.
Civil vs. CriminalUNKNOWN
North Carolina does not report whether forfeitures are processed under civil or criminal forfeiture law.
North Carolina does not permit law enforcement agencies to spend state forfeiture revenue.
A public records request for forfeiture records to the North Carolina Department of Revenue returned no responsive records. According to DOR, the state does not forfeit cash or property. Records provided for and included in the second edition of Policing for Profit reflected tax seizures for duties not paid on contraband, not state forfeitures. Equitable sharing data are from DOJ’s and Treasury’s annual forfeiture reports.
Standard of proof: In general, forfeiture requires a criminal conviction. However, civil forfeiture is available in racketeering cases, which are governed by a preponderance of the evidence standard.
N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 75D-5, 90-112; State ex. rel. Thornburg v. $52,029, 378 S.E.2d 1, 3–5 (N.C. 1989); State v. Johnson, 478 S.E.2d 16, 25 (N.C. Ct. App. 1996).
Innocent owner burden: Owner. In racketeering cases, the only context in which civil forfeiture is available, the owner bears the burden of proof.
N.C. Gen. Stat. § 75D-5(i); State ex. rel. Thornburg v. 1907 N. Main St., 384 S.E.2d 585, 586–87 (N.C. Ct. App. 1989).
Financial incentive: No financial incentive. All forfeiture proceeds go to public schools.
N.C. Const. art. IX, § 7; State ex. rel. Thornburg v. 532 B St., 432 S.E.2d 684, 686–87 (N.C. 1993).