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Washington

Washington

Washington 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: 90% of forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement.

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, Washington law enforcement agencies forfeited nearly $145 million under state law. Between 2000 and 2019, they generated an additional $87 million from federal equitable sharing, for a total of at least $232 million in forfeiture revenue. Washington ranks 42nd 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 $232 million in state and federal forfeiture revenue
2000–2019

Year Washington Forfeiture Revenues Dept. of Justice Equitable Sharing Proceeds Treasury Equitable Sharing Proceeds Total
2000 Unknown $867,260 $180,000 $1,047,260
2001 $7,050,840 $1,607,481 $804,000 $9,462,321
2002 $6,806,450 $1,106,521 $745,000 $8,657,971
2003 $9,864,000 $908,482 $310,000 $11,082,482
2004 $8,243,900 $2,984,942 $292,000 $11,520,842
2005 $13,299,350 $2,725,294 $575,000 $16,599,644
2006 $8,664,060 $1,888,965 $711,000 $11,264,025
2007 $1,043,408 $2,945,689 $4,249,000 $8,238,097
2008 $9,458,470 $2,499,827 $2,107,000 $14,065,297
2009 $8,872,587 $4,752,146 $8910,000 $22,534,733
2010 $8,179,924 $4,932,477 $1,526,000 $14,638,401
2011 $10,688,738 $2,299,774 $997,000 $13,985,512
2012 $9,862,644 $3,273,967 $1,340,000 $14,476,611
2013 $6,354,510 $6,531,452 $2,871,000 $15,756,962
2014 $7,669,660 $2,057,427 $367,000 $10,094,087
2015 $1,165,640 $3,765,576 $1,338,000 $6,269,216
2016 $9,428,740 $3,577,460 $1,910,000 $14,916,200
2017 $9,269,500 $2,279,115 $366,000 $11,914,615
2018 $8,957,360 $3,009,143 $445,000 $12,411,503
2019 Unavailable $3,078,978 $102,000 $3,180,978
Totals $144,879,781 $57,091,976 $30,145,000 $232,116,757

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

Washington's Forfeiture Transparency and Accountability Report Card

Tracking Seized Property

C-

Accounting for Forfeiture Fund Spending

F

Statewide Forfeiture Reports

F

Accessibility of Forfeiture Records

D

Penalties for Failure to File a Report

F*

Financial Audits of Forfeiture Accounts

F

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

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

Forfeitures Under Washington Law: Key Facts

Median Value

UNKNOWN

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

Property Types

UNKNOWN

Washington does not report the types of property forfeited.

Civil vs. Criminal

UNKNOWN

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

Expenditures

UNKNOWN

Washington does not report how forfeiture funds are spent.

Data Notes and Legal Sources

Data Notes

Agency-level forfeiture data were obtained via public records requests to the Washington State Treasurer. Figures presented are calculated estimates of statewide forfeiture proceeds based on calendar-year deposits to the state general fund, which receives, by law, 10% of all forfeiture proceeds. 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.

Wash Rev. Code § 69.50.505(5).

Innocent owner burden: Owner.

Wash. Rev. Code §§ 69.50.505(1)(d)(ii), (g), (h), (i), 69.50.506(a).

Financial incentive: 90%.

Wash. Rev. Code § 69.50.505(9).

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