Low bar to forfeit: Prosecutors must prove by preponderance of the evidence that property is connected to a crime.
Limited protections for the innocent: Generally, third-party owners must prove their own innocence to recover seized property, but the government bears the burden in cases involving vehicles or recording equipment allegedly used in a sex crime.
Large profit incentive: Up to 93% 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 2016 and 2019, Indiana law enforcement agencies forfeited more than $14 million under state law. Between 2000 and 2019, they generated an additional $100 million from federal equitable sharing, for a total of at least $114 million in forfeiture revenue. Indiana ranks 33rd 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 $114 million in state and federal forfeiture revenue
|Year||Indiana Forfeiture Revenues||Dept. of Justice Equitable Sharing Proceeds||Treasury Equitable Sharing Proceeds||Total|
All revenue figures include both civil and criminal forfeitures. Revenues are not adjusted for inflation.
Indiana does not report property-level data necessary to calculate median forfeiture value.
Indiana does not report the types of property forfeited.
Indiana does not report whether forfeitures are processed under civil or criminal forfeiture law.
Indiana does not report how forfeiture funds are spent.
Property-level forfeiture proceeds data were obtained from the Indiana General Assembly website and via public records requests to the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council. Figures are in fiscal years and represent forfeited cash and proceeds from sales of forfeited property. 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.
Standard of proof: Preponderance of the evidence.
Ind. Code § 34-24-1-4(a); see also Serrano v. State, 946 N.E.2d 1139, 1143–44 (Ind. 2011) (requiring state to prove a close “nexus” between vehicle and drugs); Lipscomb v. State, 857 N.E.2d 424, 428 (Ind. Ct. App. 2006) (requiring state to show connection between money and drugs).
Innocent owner burden: Depends on the property. Generally, the owner bears the burden of proof. But for vehicles or equipment allegedly involved in the recording of a sex crime, the government bears the burden.
Ind. Code §§ 34-24-1-1(a)(10), (b), (c), (e), 34-24-1-4(a).
Financial incentive: Up to 93%, notwithstanding a state constitutional provision that requires “all forfeitures” to be paid into the Common School Fund.
Ind. Code §§ 34-24-1-6, 34-24-1-4(c)–(d); compare Ind. Const. art. 8, § 2 with Horner v. Curry, 125 N.E.3d 584, 597–607 (Ind. 2019).