Kentucky civil forfeiture law affords inadequate protection to property owners. The state must only show that the property is related to criminal activity and can be forfeited by a preponderance of the evidence, a standard significantly lower than that required for criminal guilt. And property owners have the burden of proof in an innocent owner claim unless it is real property, such as a home or land. Moreover, law enforcement agencies receive 100 percent of the value of any forfeited assets, creating an incentive for law enforcement to focus on forfeiture rather than crime prevention.The perverse incentives of profit-oriented civil forfeiture law are exemplified in the 1996 scandal in Paducah, Ky., where $66,000 was discovered at the headquarters of the Western Area Narcotics Task Force (WANT). Investigators found that “the task force had seized large amounts of money and then dispensed it freely, unconstrained by audits, reporting requirements, or the task force’s mission.” With such a large profit motive, “WANT made asset seizures a priority, mandating expected forfeiture growth rates. But WANT met its quotas with much more zeal than care. The police chief estimated that 60 percent of the money found in WANT headquarters will be returned to the owners because it was not properly seized.” As this report found, law enforcement officials are now required to collect forfeiture data in Kentucky, but the information provided was unreliable.
1 Blumenson, E., & Nilsen, E. (1998). Policing for profit: The drug war’s hidden economic agenda. University of Chicago Law Review, 65(1), 35-114.
Forfeitures as Reported to LEMAS (Drug-related only)
Assets Forfeited per
Law Enforcement Agency
Equitable Sharing Proceeds from the Assets Forfeiture Fund (AFF)
Proceeds Returned to State
Average per Year
Freedom of Information Data
No Data Available; Required to Collect, But Data Provided Were Unclear and Unreliable