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Oregon

Oregon

Oregon earns a C 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 applies only if an owner contests 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 does not require conviction of the owner, only of “a person.” Once the conviction provision is satisfied, personal property must be linked to the crime by preponderance of the evidence; real property by clear and convincing evidence.

Innocent Owner Burden

Stronger protections for the innocent: Generally, the government must prove third-party owners knew about criminal activity connected to their property, but if cash, weapons or negotiable instruments were found near drugs, the owner bears the burden.

Financial Incentive

Large profit incentive: 52.5% of forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement when forfeiture is pursued by local agencies; 47% when forfeiture is pursued by the state.

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.

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

From 2000 to 2004 and 2010 to 2018, Oregon law enforcement agencies forfeited more than $18 million under state law. Between 2000 and 2019, they generated an additional $42 million from federal equitable sharing, for a total of at least $60 million in forfeiture revenue. Oregon ranks 20th 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 $60 million in state and federal forfeiture revenue
2000–2019

Year Oregon Forfeiture Revenues Dept. of Justice Equitable Sharing Proceeds Treasury Equitable Sharing Proceeds Total
2000 $1,642,449 $830,027 $607,000 $3,079,476
2001 $1,935,800 $655,252 $46,000 $2,637,052
2002 $191,083 $3,557 $826,000 $1,020,640
2003 $725,740 $644,153 $1,322,000 $2,691,893
2004 $1,021,077 $477,160 $449,000 $1,947,237
2005 Unknown $668,926 $920,000 $1,588,926
2006 Unknown $564,374 $528,000 $1,092,374
2007 Unknown $1,881,774 $727,000 $2,608,774
2008 Unknown $1,024,763 $896,000 $1,920,763
2009 Unknown $1,551,431 $1,486,000 $3,037,431
2010 $1,996,498 $1,724,575 $974,000 $4,695,073
2011 $2,128,528 $2,155,667 $656,000 $4,940,195
2012 $1,573,074 $1,621,348 $730,000 $3,924,422
2013 $1,937,907 $1,961,146 $436,000 $4,335,053
2014 $1,224,379 $1,699,945 $1,156,000 $4,080,324
2015 $1,442,571 $2,472,642 $1,462,000 $5,377,213
2016 $534,987 $1,627,632 $842,000 $3,004,619
2017 $854,965 $1,097,933 $697,000 $2,649,898
2018 $1,220,124 $1,762,479 $294,000 $3,276,603
2019 Unavailable $1,565,833 $1,046,000 $2,611,833
Totals $18,429,182 $25,990,617 $16,100,000 $60,519,799

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

Oregon's Forfeiture Transparency and Accountability Report Card

Tracking Seized Property

B

Accounting for Forfeiture Fund Spending

A

Statewide Forfeiture Reports

A

Accessibility of Forfeiture Records

B

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 Oregon Law: Key Facts

Median Value

$2,128

From 2015 to 2018, half of Oregon’s currency forfeitures were worth less than $2,128.

Property Types

From 2010 to 2018, nine out of every 10 forfeitures in Oregon were of currency.

Civil vs. Criminal

From 2010 to 2018, at least 74% of forfeited properties were processed under civil, not criminal, forfeiture laws.

Expenditures

From 2010 to 2018, Oregon law enforcement spent $7 million from forfeiture funds—36% on other expenses, mostly interagency transfers.

Data Notes and Legal Sources

Data Notes

Forfeiture reports and data are from the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission. Figures for 2000 through 2004 represent forfeitures of cash and proceeds from sales of forfeited property. Figures for 2010 through 2018 represent currency forfeited and value of other forfeited property. All figures are in calendar years. OCJC reportedly lacked funds to produce reports for 2005 through 2009. Expenditures are based on the calendar year property was forfeited. 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: Weak conviction provision does not require conviction of an owner, but only of “a person.” The provision applies only when forfeiture is contested. After the conviction provision is satisfied, personal property must be linked to the crime by a preponderance of the evidence, and real property by clear and convincing evidence.

Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 131A.255(1)–(3), -.315.

Innocent owner burden: Government. The government bears the burden of proof except in cases where cash, weapons or negotiable instruments were found in close proximity to drugs, in which cases the owner bears the burden of showing by a preponderance of the evidence that the items are not the proceeds or instrumentalities of a drug crime.

Or. Rev. Stat. § 131A.255(2), (5).

Financial incentive: 52.5% when forfeiture is pursued by local law enforcement; 47% when forfeiture is pursued by the state.

Or. Rev. Stat. §§ 131A.360(1), (4), (6), -.365(1), (3), (5).

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