Law Grade
State Law Evasion Grade  Final


Forfeiture Law
Washington’s civil forfeiture laws do not adequately protect property owners.  Once the government seizes property, it must give notice to the owner of the seizure.  If the owner fails to respond, the property, unless it is real property, is automatically forfeited based only on the government’s allegation of probable cause to seize the property for forfeiture.  If the owner does respond and contests the forfeiture, the government then must establish that the property is related to a crime and thus subject to forfeiture by a mere showing of preponderance of the evidence, a standard lower than the beyond a reasonable doubt standard required for a criminal conviction.  And property owners in forfeiture proceedings are effectively guilty until proven innocent, bearing the burden of proof for innocent owner claims.  Ultimately, all of the money collected through civil forfeiture flows to law enforcement:  Ninety percent is retained by the seizing agency to improve drug enforcement activity while the remainder goes to a “violence reduction and drug enforcement account.”Disturbingly, a 2001 article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported that “one out of five people whose assets were seized [in one county in the state] were never charged with a crime.”  Major reform efforts in Washington have had mixed success.  The legislature did adopt one measure to shift the burden of proof to the government in innocent owner proceedings.  But in 2002, an initiative that would have placed stronger limits on forfeiture failed to garner the necessary signatures to earn consideration by the state legislature.  It would have eliminated forfeiture without a criminal conviction, as well as law enforcement’s financial incentives to engage in the practice.  Naturally, the initiative “drew heated opposition from law enforcement,” who insisted it would “choke off millions of dollars raised annually.”

1 Skolnik, S. (2001, December 13). Critics target drug raid seizures.Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p. A1.

2 Skolnik, S. (2002, January 3). Initiative to limit police seizure power falls short. Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p. B2.

3 Ibid.

4 Ibid.

5 Ibid.

Forfeitures as Reported to LEMAS (Drug-related only)


Total Assets

Assets Forfeited per
Law Enforcement Agency














Equitable Sharing Proceeds from the Assets Forfeiture Fund (AFF)


Proceeds Returned to State

FY 2000


FY 2001


FY 2002


FY 2003


FY 2004


FY 2005


FY 2006


FY 2007


FY 2008




Average per Year



Freedom of Information Data
Reports of forfeitures from law enforcement agencies and task forces

Law Enforcement

Task Forces






























per Year





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