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Georgia

Georgia

Georgia earns a D- for its civil forfeiture laws:

Standard of Proof

Low bar to forfeit: Prosecutors must prove by preponderance of the evidence that property is connected to a crime.

Innocent Owner Burden

Poor protections for the innocent: Third-party owners must prove their own innocence to recover seized property. And innocent owner claims are barred in cases involving a jointly owned vehicle.

Financial Incentive

Large profit incentive: Up to 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.

Recent Reforms

  • None.

Recommendations

  • End civil forfeiture
  • Direct all forfeiture proceeds to a non-law enforcement fund
  • Strengthen protections for innocent third-party owners
  • Close the equitable sharing loophole
  • Strengthen transparency and accountability requirements

State and Federal Forfeiture Revenues, 2000-2019

Between 2015 and 2018, Georgia law enforcement agencies forfeited more than $51 million under state law. Between 2000 and 2019, they generated an additional $388 million from federal equitable sharing, for a total of at least $439 million in forfeiture revenue. Georgia ranks 43rd 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 $439 million in state and federal forfeiture revenue
2000–2019

Year Georgia Forfeiture Revenues Dept. of Justice Equitable Sharing Proceeds Treasury Equitable Sharing Proceeds Total
2000 Unknown $13,997,177 $523,000 $14,520,177
2001 Unknown $11,476,049 $417,000 $11,893,049
2002 Unknown $10,578,412 $3,364,000 $13,942,412
2003 Unknown $10,113,910 $637,000 $10,750,910
2004 Unknown $10,544,040 $141,000 $10,685,040
2005 Unknown $13,852,774 $1,070,000 $14,922,774
2006 Unknown $20,266,682 $1,963,000 $22,229,682
2007 Unknown $23,866,060 $662,000 $24,528,060
2008 Unknown $15,878,429 $2,798,000 $18,676,429
2009 Unknown $25,133,072 $3,984,000 $29,117,072
2010 Unknown $28,660,009 $17,740,000 $46,400,009
2011 Unknown $29,865,958 $2,683,000 $32,548,958
2012 Unknown $18,779,461 $5279,000 $24,058,461
2013 Unknown $11,825,329 $2,754,000 $14,579,329
2014 Unknown $22,736,427 $4,140,000 $26,876,427
2015 $7,453,819 $16,504,155 $2,923,000 $26,880,974
2016 $15,574,036 $9,516,257 $1,600,000 $26,690,293
2017 $15,494,962 $7,816,731 $4,590,000 $27,901,693
2018 $12,511,887 $14,561,053 $2,657,000 $29,729,940
2019 Unavailable $11,703,818 $1,085,000 $12,788,818
Totals $51,034,704 $327,675,803 $61,010,000 $439,720,507

All revenue figures include both civil and criminal forfeitures. Revenues are not adjusted for inflation.

Georgia's Forfeiture Transparency and Accountability Report Card

Tracking Seized Property

C

Accounting for Forfeiture Fund Spending

A

Statewide Forfeiture Reports

F

Accessibility of Forfeiture Records

A

Penalties for Failure to File a Report

A

Financial Audits of Forfeiture Accounts

C

For full transparency and accountability grades, visit www.ij.org/TransparencyReportCards.

Forfeitures Under Georgia Law: Key Facts

Median Value

$540

From 2015 to 2018, half of Georgia’s currency forfeitures were worth less than $540.

Property Types

From 2015 to 2018, 58% of Georgia’s forfeitures were of currency

Civil vs. Criminal

UNKNOWN

Georgia does not report whether forfeitures are processed under civil or criminal forfeiture law.

Expenditures

From 2015 to 2018, Georgia law enforcement spent $37 million from forfeiture funds—two-thirds on equipment and capital expenditures.

Data Notes and Legal Sources

Data Notes

Property-level data were obtained via public records requests to the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia. Figures represent total value of forfeited property and are in calendar years. Equitable sharing data are from DOJ’s and Treasury’s annual forfeiture reports. Due to differences in reporting and accounting practices, state figures may not match aggregate numbers produced by the state or cover the same 12-month period as the federal data.

Legal Sources

Standard of proof: Preponderance of the evidence.

Ga. Code Ann. § 9-16-17(a)(1).

Innocent owner burden: Owner. But in cases involving a jointly owned vehicle, no innocent owner claim is allowed.

Ga. Code Ann. § 9-16-17(a)(2).

Financial incentive: Up to 100%.

Ga. Code Ann. § 9-16-19(f).

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