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Texas

Texas

Texas earns a D+ for its civil forfeiture laws:

Standard of Proof

Low bar to forfeit: Prosecutors must prove by preponderance of the evidence that property is connected to a crime.

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 70% of forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement in cases where property is forfeited by default; up to 100% where forfeiture is contested.

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
  • 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 2001 and 2018, Texas law enforcement agencies forfeited more than $781 million under state law. Between 2000 and 2019, they generated an additional $744 million from federal equitable sharing, for a total of at least $1.5 billion in forfeiture revenue. Texas ranks 47th 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 $1.5 billion in state and federal forfeiture revenue
2000–2019

Year Texas Forfeiture Revenues Dept. of Justice Equitable Sharing Proceeds Treasury Equitable Sharing Proceeds Total
2000 Unknown $22,576,969 $8944,000 $31,520,969
2001 $18,983,273 $19,668,285 $2,679,000 $41,330,558
2002 $7,294,323 $14,419,530 $2,284,000 $23,997,853
2003 $43,416,158 $13,659,504 $5524,000 $62,599,662
2004 $40,798,353 $19,386,146 $10,391,000 $70,575,499
2005 $29,491,437 $17,123,807 $11,114,000 $57,729,244
2006 $37,588,776 $28,859,716 $11,290,000 $77,738,492
2007 $49,414,291 $36,200,059 $14,434,000 $100,048,350
2008 $56,615,941 $29,552,435 $12,376,000 $98,544,376
2009 $56,100,475 $24,414,415 $12,903,000 $93,417,890
2010 $41,094,790 $40,515,365 $23,201,000 $104,811,155
2011 $50,748,640 $30,401,129 $14,518,000 $95,667,769
2012 $32,103,359 $31,520,522 $35,193,000 $98,816,881
2013 $62,926,509 $34,960,588 $5084,000 $102,971,097
2014 $50,353,075 $26,594,306 $10,199,000 $87,146,381
2015 $54,693,932 $28,681,997 $17,739,000 $101,114,929
2016 $50,693,121 $18,435,232 $8673,000 $77,801,353
2017 $49,564,600 $28,814,312 $5517,000 $83,895,912
2018 $49,717,176 $31,590,213 $9,142,000 $90,449,389
2019 Unavailable $18,573,207 $7,677,000 $26,250,207
Totals $781,598,229 $515,947,737 $228,882,000 $1,526,427,966

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

Texas's Forfeiture Transparency and Accountability Report Card

Tracking Seized Property

D

Accounting for Forfeiture Fund Spending

A

Statewide Forfeiture Reports

D

Accessibility of Forfeiture Records

A

Penalties for Failure to File a Report

C*

Financial Audits of Forfeiture Accounts

A

* Agencies must file even when they have nothing to report.

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

Forfeitures Under Texas Law: Key Facts

Median Value

UNKNOWN

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

Property Types

UNKNOWN

Texas does not report the types of property forfeited.

Civil vs. Criminal

UNKNOWN

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

Expenditures

From 2013 to 2018, Texas law enforcement spent $266 million from forfeiture funds—nearly half on equipment and capital expenditures and another quarter on personnel.

Data Notes and Legal Sources

Data Notes

Agency-level forfeiture data were obtained via public records requests to the Texas Attorney General. Figures represent cash and proceeds of sold property. All figures are in the reporting agencies’ respective fiscal years. Figures for 2008 through 2018 exclude interest. 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: Preponderance of the evidence.

Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. art. 59.05(b).

Innocent owner burden: Owner.

Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. art. 59.02(c), (h)(1).

Financial incentive: Up to 70% in cases where a default judgment is entered; up to 100% in contested cases.

Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. art. 59.06(c), (c-3); see also Tex. Att’y Gen. Op. GA-0122 (Nov. 18, 2003) (noting 70–30 split between district attorney and Department of Public Safety).

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