Low bar to forfeit: Prosecutors must prove by “reasonable satisfaction,” a standard akin to preponderance of the evidence, that property is connected to a crime.
Limited protections for the innocent: Third-party owners must prove their own innocence to recover seized property, unless real property is at stake.
Large profit incentive: 100% of forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement.
The letter grade reflects the state’s forfeiture laws as of December 2020. When we become aware of relevant reforms, we are updating the standard of proof, innocent owner burden and financial incentive language above, but we are not updating the letter grade.
Between 2000 and 2019, Alabama law enforcement agencies generated more than $104 million in forfeiture revenue from federal equitable sharing. Alabama ranks 36th for its participation in the Department of Justice’s equitable sharing program. The state does not prevent state and local agencies from using equitable sharing to circumvent state forfeiture law.
At least $104 million in federal forfeiture revenue
|Year||Alabama Forfeiture Revenues||Dept. of Justice Equitable Sharing Proceeds||Treasury Equitable Sharing Proceeds||Total Equitable Sharing Proceeds|
All revenue figures include both civil and criminal forfeitures. Revenues are not adjusted for inflation.
Alabama does not report property-level data necessary to calculate median forfeiture value.
Alabama does not report the types of property forfeited.
Alabama does not report whether forfeitures are processed under civil or criminal forfeiture law.
Alabama does not report how forfeiture funds are spent.
No statewide records available. Alabama had no reporting requirements before the reporting law enacted in 2019. Forfeiture data from the reporting system operated by the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency are expected in 2021 from the Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center Commission. Equitable sharing data are from DOJ’s and Treasury’s annual forfeiture reports.
Standard of proof: Reasonable satisfaction, a standard akin to preponderance of the evidence.
Ex parte McConathy, 911 So. 2d 677, 681, 687–88 (Ala. 2005) (overturning forfeiture on grounds that mere suspicion that property was involved in a crime does not meet the “reasonable satisfaction” standard) (citations omitted); see also Alabama Evidence § 3:29 (3rd ed., 2019 update) (explaining that “reasonable satisfaction” is equivalent to the preponderance standard).
Innocent owner burden: Depends on the property. Generally, the owner bears the burden of proof. But for real property, the government bears the burden.
Ala. Code § 20-2-93(h).
Financial incentive: 100%.
Ala. Code § 20-2-93(e).