2020 Civil Forfeiture Law Grades

Civil forfeiture laws are typically complex and vary widely. While many provisions affect forfeiture procedures and property owners’ rights, Policing for Profit grades state and federal laws only on three core elements: financial incentive, innocent owner protections and standard of proof. Not only do these elements reflect the central problems with civil forfeiture, but they also capture the incentives faced by law enforcement agencies engaged in forfeiture. In fact, research has linked these three elements with law enforcement behavior, finding forfeiture activity is influenced by both financial return and procedural ease. 1

Where states have multiple statutes covering different types of crimes, this report assigns grades based on forfeiture laws for controlled substances as these have been the most common forfeitures historically. Appendix A provides greater detail on grading methods, and Appendix B provides citations, including for many non-controlled substances statutes.