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North Dakota

North Dakota

North Dakota earns a D- for its civil forfeiture laws:

Standard of Proof

Higher bar to forfeit in limited cases: Weak conviction provision falls short of criminal forfeiture (see “The Problem with ‘Conviction Requirements’”). It requires the owner’s conviction but does not apply if the owner fails to contest forfeiture, putting the burden on owners to engage in a costly legal battle and making it easy for the government to forfeit without a conviction. It also does not apply if the owner has agreed to help investigators in exchange for immunity or a reduced sentence. Once the conviction provision is satisfied, property must be linked to the crime by clear and convincing evidence. No conviction necessary if property can be connected to a crime beyond a reasonable doubt.

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: Up to 100% of forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement (any amount above $200,000 in the government’s forfeiture account over any two-year budget period goes to the general fund).

Recent Reforms

  • (2019) HB 1286: Raised standard of proof; created weak conviction provision; adopted new transparency requirements; banned forfeiture of homesteaded real property and vehicles worth less than $2,000 unless modified to conceal contraband or cash; established proportionality hearing.

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 2000 and 2019, North Dakota law enforcement agencies generated more than $1 million in forfeiture revenue from federal equitable sharing. North Dakota ranks 2nd 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 $1 million in federal forfeiture revenue
2000–2019

Year North Dakota Forfeiture Revenues Dept. of Justice Equitable Sharing Proceeds Treasury Equitable Sharing Proceeds Total Equitable Sharing Proceeds
2000 Unknown $26,767 $2,000 $28,767
2001 Unknown $47,097 $2,000 $49,097
2002 Unknown $33,974 $0 $33,974
2003 Unknown $10,796 $0 $10,796
2004 Unknown $14,890 $0 $14,890
2005 Unknown $41,168 $0 $41,168
2006 Unknown $35,959 $0 $35,959
2007 Unknown $69,903 $0 $69,903
2008 Unknown $81,172 $349,000 $430,172
2009 Unknown $69,921 $0 $69,921
2010 Unknown $31,068 $0 $31,068
2011 Unknown $24,378 $0 $24,378
2012 Unknown $97,165 $2,000 $99,165
2013 Unknown $16,496 $0 $16,496
2014 Unknown $4,657 $0 $4,657
2015 Unknown $50,097 $8000 $58,097
2016 Unknown $28,236 $0 $28,236
2017 Unknown $24,355 $0 $24,355
2018 Unknown Unavailable $113,000 $113,000
2019 Unknown $53,014 $20,000 $73,014
Totals $0 $761,113 $496,000 $1,257,113

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

North Dakota's Forfeiture Transparency and Accountability Report Card

Tracking Seized Property

B-

Accounting for Forfeiture Fund Spending

F

Statewide Forfeiture Reports

B

Accessibility of Forfeiture Records

A

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 North Dakota Law: Key Facts

Median Value

UNKNOWN

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

Property Types

UNKNOWN

North Dakota does not report the types of property forfeited.

Civil vs. Criminal

UNKNOWN

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

Expenditures

UNKNOWN

North Dakota does not report how forfeiture funds are spent.

Data Notes and Legal Sources

Data Notes

No statewide records available. North Dakota had no reporting requirements before the reporting law enacted in 2019. The first forfeiture reports, for fiscal year 2020, are expected in late 2020 on the North Dakota Attorney General’s website. Equitable sharing data are from DOJ’s and Treasury’s annual forfeiture reports.

Legal Sources

Standard of proof: Weak conviction provision requires an owner’s conviction but does not apply if forfeiture is uncontested or if the owner enters an agreement with the prosecution for immunity or a reduced sentence in exchange for assisting law enforcement. After the conviction provision is satisfied, property must be linked to the crime by clear and convincing evidence. No conviction is necessary if it can be shown beyond a reasonable doubt that the property was used in a crime or constitutes proceeds of criminal activity.

N.D. Cent. Code Ann. §§ 19-03.1-36.2(1–2), -36.5.

Innocent owner burden: Owner.

N.D. Cent. Code §§ 19-03.1-36(1)(e), -36.6(1), -36.7(1), -37(1).

Financial incentive: Up to 100%. However, if the government’s forfeiture fund exceeds $200,000 (exclusive of legislative appropriations and multijurisdictional drug task forces) over any two-year budget period, the excess must be deposited in the general fund.

N.D. Cent. Code §§ 54-12-14, 19-03.1-36(5).

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