Policing for Profit

Vermont 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 does not require conviction of the owner, only of “a person,” and it does not apply if the person has agreed to forfeiture to avoid criminal charges. Once the conviction provision is satisfied, property must be linked to the crime by clear and convincing evidence.

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: 45% of forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement.

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.


  • 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, Vermont law enforcement agencies generated more than $16 million in forfeiture revenue from federal equitable sharing. Vermont ranks 12th 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 $16 million in federal forfeiture revenue

Year Vermont Forfeiture Revenues Dept. of Justice Equitable Sharing Proceeds Treasury Equitable Sharing Proceeds
$0 ↦ $1,829,842
2000 Unknown $488,454 $68,000
2001 Unknown $824,938 $0
2002 Unknown $701,553 $0
2003 Unknown $956,841 $0
2004 Unknown $919,259 $90,000
2005 Unknown $1,023,538 $90,000
2006 Unknown $978,247 $34,000
2007 Unknown $842,834 $36,000
2008 Unknown $995,851 $123,000
2009 Unknown $607,576 $225,000
2010 Unknown $1,620,842 $209,000
2011 Unknown $520,559 $18,000
2012 Unknown $935,429 $33,000
2013 Unknown $1,060,974 $95,000
2014 Unknown $525,190 $148,000
2015 Unknown $652,237 $110,000
2016 Unknown $446,981 $8,000
2017 Unknown $273,269 $7,000
2018 Unknown $410,337 $0
2019 Unknown $381,706 $87,000
Totals $0 $15,166,615 $1,381,000
Department of Justice
All revenue figures include both civil and criminal forfeitures. Revenues are not adjusted for inflation.

Vermont Forfeiture Transparency and Accountability Report Card

B+ Tracking Seized Property
F Accounting for Forfeiture Fund Spending
F Statewide Forfeiture Reports
D Accessibility of Forfeiture Records
F Penalties for Failure to File a Report
F Financial Audits of Forfeiture Accounts

Forfeitures Under Vermont Law: Key Facts

Median Value

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

Property Types

Vermont does not report the types of property forfeited.

Civil vs. Criminal

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


Vermont does not report how forfeiture funds are spent.

Data Notes

Records obtained from the Vermont State Treasurer were sparse and unusable. Equitable sharing data are from DOJ’s and Treasury’s annual forfeiture reports.

Legal Sources

Standard of proof: Weak conviction provision does not require conviction of an owner, but only of “a person.” The provision does not apply if the person agrees with prosecutors to avoid criminal charges in exchange for forfeiture of the property. After the conviction provision is satisfied, property must be linked to the crime by clear and convincing evidence.

18 Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 18, §§ 4243(a), (c), 4244(e).

Innocent owner burden: Owner.

Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 18, § 4244(d).

Financial incentive: 45%.

Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 18, § 4247(b)(1).