President and General Counsel
||State Law Evasion Grade|| Final
|Mississippi provides minimal protections for property owners from civil forfeiture abuse. The state only needs to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the property is related to a crime and thus forfeitable, a standard lower than the beyond a reasonable doubt required for a criminal conviction. Moreover, the burden is on the property owner to prove his innocence, effectively making him guilty until proven innocent. Law enforcement collects 80 percent of the proceeds from any seizures, thus ensuring a profit motive for law enforcement to pursue forfeitures. There is no legal requirement that law enforcement collect or report data on forfeiture use or proceeds.Some law enforcement agencies in Mississippi seem to have become reliant on such funds to operate. The Hattiesburg Police Department, for example, took in around $1.4 million over the past six years. Hattiesburg City Council President Kim Bradley admits that “forfeiture funds are a tremendous help, especially with the recent state budget cuts.” In the current recession, law enforcement could feel increased pressure to bring in forfeiture proceeds to make up for declining state revenue.
1 Butler, E. (2009, January 11). HPD gets $1.4M in forfeiture revenue.Hattiesburg American, npn.
Arlington, Va.—It’s called policing for profit and it’s happening all across America. And Mississippi has some of the worst laws in the nation for encouraging this abuse. Under a practice called “civil forfeiture,” police and prosecutors’ offices seize private property—often without ever charging the owners with a crime, much less convicting them of one—then keep…