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.
Poor protections for the innocent: Third-party owners must prove their own innocence to recover seized property.
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.
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||Total Equitable Sharing Proceeds|
All revenue figures include both civil and criminal forfeitures. Revenues are not adjusted for inflation.
Vermont does not report property-level data necessary to calculate median forfeiture value.
Vermont does not report the types of property forfeited.
Vermont does not report whether forfeitures are processed under civil or criminal forfeiture law.
Vermont does not report how forfeiture funds are spent.
Records obtained from the Vermont State Treasurer were sparse and unusable. Equitable sharing data are from DOJ’s and Treasury’s annual forfeiture reports.
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).