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New York

New York

New York earns a C for its civil forfeiture laws:

Standard of Proof

Somewhat higher bar to forfeit: In drug cases, prosecutors must provide clear and convincing evidence that a crime occurred and then prove seized property’s connection to that crime by preponderance of the evidence. A very weak conviction provision applies in non-drug cases.

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: 60% of forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement.

Recent Reforms

  • (2018) FY 2020 State Budget: Strengthened transparency requirements.

Recommendations

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

State and Federal Forfeiture Revenues, 2000-2019

Between 2000 and 2018, New York law enforcement agencies forfeited more than $18.2 billion under state law. Between 2000 and 2019, they generated an additional $1.4 billion from federal equitable sharing, for a total of at least $19.7 billion in forfeiture revenue. New York ranks 50th 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 $19.7 billion in state and federal forfeiture revenue
2000–2019

Year New York Forfeiture Revenues Dept. of Justice Equitable Sharing Proceeds Treasury Equitable Sharing Proceeds Total
2000 $14,084,732 $31,690,678 $27,453,000 $73,228,410
2001 $5,269,566 $19,256,431 $22,266,000 $46,791,997
2002 $12,658,313 $26,982,890 $8427,000 $48,068,203
2003 $13,739,652 $19,423,843 $9,466,000 $42,629,495
2004 $14,543,954 $21,847,333 $9,854,000 $46,245,287
2005 $15,760,196 $27,704,134 $15,303,000 $58,767,330
2006 $20,033,935 $16,613,808 $9,605,000 $46,252,743
2007 $75,145,172 $34,612,069 $9,064,000 $118,821,241
2008 $17,901,070 $39,370,757 $8613,000 $65,884,827
2009 $21,950,339 $42,043,421 $11,959,000 $75,952,760
2010 $13,714,789 $26,442,564 $16,598,000 $56,755,353
2011 $49,983,521 $47,349,380 $12,863,000 $110,195,901
2012 $16,928,315 $31,996,429 $28,437,000 $77,361,744
2013 $46,817,727 $232,658,540 $11,192,000 $290,668,267
2014 $8,899,612,843 $76,140,067 $140,302,000 $9,116,054,910
2015 $8,873,908,220 $152,442,031 $47,833,000 $9,074,183,251
2016 $28,449,704 $28,115,110 $83,846,000 $140,410,814
2017 $43,410,169 $30,794,069 $17,101,000 $91,305,238
2018 $30,170,873 $34,877,257 $27,368,000 $92,416,130
2019 Unavailable $26,451,664 $16,275,000 $42,726,664
Totals $18,214,083,090 $966,812,475 $533,825,000 $19,714,720,565

All revenue figures include both civil and criminal forfeitures. Revenues are not adjusted for inflation. State reporting format changed in 2010. Outliers in 2014 and 2015 are attributed to forfeitures by the New York County District Attorney’s office.

New York's Forfeiture Transparency and Accountability Report Card

Tracking Seized Property

C

Accounting for Forfeiture Fund Spending

D

Statewide Forfeiture Reports

B

Accessibility of Forfeiture Records

B

Penalties for Failure to File a Report

F

Financial Audits of Forfeiture Accounts

C

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

Forfeitures Under New York Law: Key Facts

Median Value

UNKNOWN

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

Property Types

UNKNOWN

New York does not report the types of property forfeited.

Civil vs. Criminal

UNKNOWN

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

Expenditures

UNKNOWN

New York does not report how most forfeiture funds are spent.

Data Notes and Legal Sources

Data Notes

Calendar-year figures are from reports on the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services website. Generally, figures purport to represent the value of assets forfeited. Those for 2011 represent only money forfeited. Figures for 2012 through 2018 include the value of retained vehicles and other forfeited property. Spikes in 2014 and 2015 are attributed to New York County’s reported total forfeited assets. Case-level data obtained via public records request to CJS could not be used for further analysis. 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: In drug cases, prosecutors must provide clear and convincing evidence that a crime occurred and then link the property to that crime by a preponderance of the evidence. Very weak conviction provision applies in non-drug cases.

N.Y. C.P.L.R. §§ 1310(5)–(6), (9)–(10), 1311(3)(a)–(b); Hendley v. Clark, 543 N.Y.S.2d 554, 556 (N.Y. App. Div. 1989).

Innocent owner burden: Government.

N.Y. C.P.L.R. § 1311(3).

Financial incentive: 60%.

N.Y. C.P.L.R. § 1349(2)(g)–(h).

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