Overall Law Grades

Table 1 and Figure 21 show each state’s overall civil forfeiture law grades as of 2020. These marks combine sub-grades for financial incentive, innocent owner burden and standard of proof, as described in Appendix A. Thus, they represent how financially rewarding and how easy civil forfeiture is for law enforcement.

Even with widespread reform efforts, the nationwide picture remains bleak and little changed since the second edition of Policing for Profit. Most states—34—and the federal government earn Ds for extending property owners meager protections and giving law enforcement large financial stakes in forfeiture proceeds. Massachusetts does worse still, earning an F. Most improvements have come in the middle range of states that earn Cs, and this is driven by states raising the standard of proof. States without a financial incentive earn the highest marks—though, in at least two of these states, law enforcement agencies are known to retain proceeds. New Mexico earns the nation’s only A.

Table 1: Civil Forfeiture Law Grades Ranked

State Grade
New Mexico A
Wisconsin A-
North Carolina B+
D.C. B+
Maryland B+
Missouri B+
Maine B+
Connecticut C
California C
Florida C
Oregon C
Colorado C
Nebraska C
New York C
Mississippi C-
Vermont C-
Alaska D+
Louisiana D+
Texas D+
Minnesota D
New Hampshire D
Indiana D
Illinois D-
Rhode Island D-
South Carolina D-
Washington D-
Montana D-
Iowa D-
Pennsylvania D-
Utah D-
Michigan D-
Ohio D-
Kentucky D-
Arkansas D-
New Jersey D-
North Dakota D-
Virginia D-
Alabama D-
Arizona D-
Nevada D-
Tennessee D-
Wyoming D-
Delaware D-
Georgia D-
Hawaii D-
Idaho D-
Kansas D-
Oklahoma D-
South Dakota D-
West Virginia D-
Federal Government D-
Massachusetts F

Note: States are ranked by grade point average on a 4.0 scale. See Appendix A for details of how the grades were created.

Figure 21: Civil Forfeiture Law Grades

Continue Reading: Other Recent Reforms