Civil Asset Forfeiture


Civil asset forfeiture laws allow state agencies to seize property from individuals if they suspect it was used in the commission of a crime.

As opposed to criminal forfeiture, civil forfeiture allows for property to be forfeited whether or not the individual was actually convicted of a crime. In criminal cases, the burden of proof is on the state to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that someone committed a crime. Civil asset forfeiture allows for a person’s property to be taken based on suspicion, and the burden of proof is on the individual to prove their innocence. Forfeiture proceeds are often redirected to seizing agencies, creating an economic incentive for agencies to pursue forfeitures instead of solving crimes.

Civil asset forfeiture policies can distort policing priorities and undermine public trust in law enforcement. A better forfeiture regime would be based on criminal forfeiture, where a criminal conviction is required to forfeit an individual’s property. The six types of civil asset forfeiture reforms scored here are described on the pages below.

Civil Asset Forfeiture-03

Reforms Scored

Group_21 (3)

Conviction Requirement

Is a criminal conviction required to forfeit property?

25 points

Group_21 (4)

Financial Incentives

Does forfeited property directly benefit the seizing agency?

25 points

Group_21 (5)


Does the state exempt small dollar amounts from forfeiture?

20 points

Group_21 (6)

Due Process

Does the state require a prompt post-seizure hearing to determine
whether the property is subject to forfeiture? Do Administrative Forfeitures reduce due process protections? Does the state place limits or prohibitions on federal adoptions?

20 points

Group_21 (7)


Are forfeitures in the state publicly reported?

10 points