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West Virginia

West Virginia

West Virginia 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: 100% 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

  • (2020) HB 4717: Strengthened transparency requirements.

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 2009 and 2018, the West Virginia State Police and Charleston Police Department forfeited more than $2 million under state law. Between 2000 and 2019, West Virginia law enforcement agencies generated an additional $70 million from federal equitable sharing, for a total of at least $72 million in forfeiture revenue. West Virginia ranks 16th for its participation in the Department of Justice’s equitable sharing program. The state does not prevent agencies from using equitable sharing to circumvent state law.

At least $72 million in state and federal forfeiture revenue
2000–2019

Year West Virginia Forfeiture Revenues Dept. of Justice Equitable Sharing Proceeds Treasury Equitable Sharing Proceeds Total
2000 Unknown $1,044,905 $21,000 $1,065,905
2001 Unknown $386,402 $210,000 $596,402
2002 Unknown $571,932 $7,000 $578,932
2003 Unknown $733,707 $66,000 $799,707
2004 Unknown $485,771 $0 $485,771
2005 Unknown $444,318 $373,000 $817,318
2006 Unknown $485,430 $58,000 $543,430
2007 Unknown $24,636,120 $24,000 $24,660,120
2008 Unknown $20,764,145 $67,000 $20,831,145
2009 $53,223 $995,179 $284,000 $1,332,402
2010 $188,466 $1,595,877 $0 $1,784,343
2011 $150,442 $1,527,381 $43,000 $1,720,823
2012 $265,156 $979,191 $0 $1,244,347
2013 $219,414 $1,238,092 $1,336,000 $2,793,506
2014 $240,703 $2,106,802 $673,000 $3,020,505
2015 $256,555 $552,215 $527,000 $1,335,770
2016 $179,368 $901,619 $184,000 $1,264,987
2017 $548,908 $2,754,108 $1,441,000 $4,744,016
2018 $210,195 $1,691,427 $372,000 $2,273,622
2019 Unavailable $682,273 $0 $682,273
Totals $2,312,430 $64,576,894 $5,686,000 $72,575,324

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

West Virginia's Forfeiture Transparency and Accountability Report Card

Tracking Seized Property

C

Accounting for Forfeiture Fund Spending

A

Statewide Forfeiture Reports

A

Accessibility of Forfeiture Records

A

Penalties for Failure to File a Report

F*

Financial Audits of Forfeiture Accounts

C

At the time of publication, accounting reports required by the 2020 reform were not yet available and were therefore not graded in the print report. The online grades are based on reporting statutes and are subject to change as new information becomes available. Accordingly, they may not match the print report.

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

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

Forfeitures Under West Virginia Law: Key Facts

Median Value

UNKNOWN

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

Property Types

UNKNOWN

West Virginia does not report the types of property forfeited.

Civil vs. Criminal

UNKNOWN

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

Expenditures

UNKNOWN

West Virginia does not report how forfeiture funds are spent.

Data Notes and Legal Sources

Data Notes

No statewide records available, but forfeiture records were obtained via public records requests to the WVSP and the city of Charleston. Presented figures represent only combined revenues of the WVSP and the CPD. West Virginia had no reporting requirements before the reporting law enacted in 2020. 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.

W. Va. Code § 60A-7-705(e).

Innocent owner burden: Owner.

W. Va. Code § 60A-7-703(a)(5)(ii), (7), (8).

Financial incentive: 100%.

W. Va. Code § 60A-7-706.

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