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Ohio

Ohio

Ohio earns a D- for its civil forfeiture laws:

Standard of Proof

Somewhat higher bar to forfeit: Prosecutors must provide clear and convincing evidence that property is connected to a crime.

Innocent Owner Burden

Limited protections for the innocent: Generally, third-party owners must prove their own innocence to recover seized property, but the government bears the burden in cases involving legally titled or registered property and property valued above $15,000.

Financial Incentive

Large profit incentive: In general, up to 100% of forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement; 90% in juvenile cases.

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

  • (2017) HB 347: Raised standard of proof; shifted burden of proof from innocent owners to government; imposed new limits on participation in federal equitable sharing.

Recommendations

  • End civil forfeiture
  • Direct all forfeiture proceeds to a non-law enforcement fund
  • Strengthen protections for innocent third-party owners
  • Fully close the equitable sharing loophole
  • Adopt strong transparency and accountability requirements

State and Federal Forfeiture Revenues, 2000-2019

Between 2010 and 2012, Ohio law enforcement agencies forfeited more than $25 million under state law. Between 2000 and 2019, they generated an additional $208 million from federal equitable sharing, for a total of at least $233 million in forfeiture revenue. Ohio ranks 41st for its participation in the Department of Justice’s equitable sharing program. However, in 2017, the state prohibited federal forfeiture of locally seized property worth less than $100,000 for equitable sharing.

At least $233 million in state and federal forfeiture revenue
2000–2019

Year Ohio Forfeiture Revenues Dept. of Justice Equitable Sharing Proceeds Treasury Equitable Sharing Proceeds Total
2000 Unknown $4,075,942 $716,000 $4,791,942
2001 Unknown $6,064,363 $1,009,000 $7,073,363
2002 Unknown $9,015,890 $254,000 $9,269,890
2003 Unknown $9,579,065 $78,000 $9,657,065
2004 Unknown $8,475,627 $1,308,000 $9,783,627
2005 Unknown $6,782,028 $574,000 $7,356,028
2006 Unknown $12,798,625 $117,000 $12,915,625
2007 Unknown $13,907,440 $2,533,000 $16,440,440
2008 Unknown $12,405,013 $2,021,000 $14,426,013
2009 Unknown $9,236,636 $430,000 $9,666,636
2010 $6,308,015 $13,505,952 $970,000 $20,783,967
2011 $10,327,817 $9,821,612 $3,068,000 $23,217,429
2012 $9,091,965 $10,685,592 $1,673,000 $21,450,557
2013 Unknown $13,341,265 $768,000 $14,109,265
2014 Unknown $8,402,535 $589,000 $8,991,535
2015 Unknown $7,622,661 $4,210,000 $11,832,661
2016 Unknown $6,273,307 $709,000 $6,982,307
2017 Unknown $6,565,299 $834,000 $7,399,299
2018 Unknown $7,098,678 $3,039,000 $10,137,678
2019 Unknown $6,124,853 $1,452,000 $7,576,853
Totals $25,727,797 $181,782,383 $26,352,000 $233,862,180

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

Ohio's Forfeiture Transparency and Accountability Report Card

Tracking Seized Property

D

Accounting for Forfeiture Fund Spending

C

Statewide Forfeiture Reports

F

Accessibility of Forfeiture Records

C

Penalties for Failure to File a Report

Incomplete

Financial Audits of Forfeiture Accounts

F

No reporting requirements to enforce.

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

Forfeitures Under Ohio Law: Key Facts

Median Value

UNKNOWN

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

Property Types

UNKNOWN

Ohio does not report the types of property forfeited.

Civil vs. Criminal

UNKNOWN

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

Expenditures

UNKNOWN

Ohio does not report how forfeiture funds are spent.

Data Notes and Legal Sources

Data Notes

Agency-level reports of calendar-year forfeitures were obtained via public records request to the Ohio Attorney General. In 2012, the requirement for agencies to report to the AG was eliminated. 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: Clear and convincing evidence. Charging provision requires charges to be filed, and stays civil forfeiture while criminal charges are pending, but does not require conviction. The charging provision does not apply to forfeitures of cash over $15,000 or in cases where an owner dies, is unavailable or fails to contest forfeiture.

Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 2981.05(A), (C–D), (H).

Innocent owner burden: Depends on the property. Generally, the owner bears the burden of proof. But for legally titled or registered property and in cases involving property valued over $15,000 (adjusted annually for inflation), the government bears the burden.

Ohio Rev. Code Ann. §§ 2981.03(A)(4–5), -.05(D)(3), (D)(7); see also id. § 2981.04(E)–(F) (placing burden on third-party claimants).

Financial incentive: Up to 100% in general; up to 90% in juvenile cases.

Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 2981.13(B)(4).

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