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Maryland

Maryland

Maryland earns a B+ for its civil forfeiture laws:

Standard of Proof

Somewhat higher bar to forfeit: In general, prosecutors must provide clear and convincing evidence that property is connected to a crime. A very weak conviction provision requires conviction of the owner, or owners when they are a married couple, when a family’s primary residence is at stake.

Innocent Owner Burden

Limited protections for the innocent: Third-party owners must prove their own innocence to recover seized property, except in cases involving vehicles, real property or property related to drug transactions.

Financial Incentive

No profit incentive: All forfeiture proceeds go to the general fund of the state or local governing body.

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

  • (2016) HB 336 and SB 161: Raised standard of proof; shifted burden of proof from innocent owners to government; imposed new limits on participation in federal equitable sharing; adopted new transparency requirements; required receipts for seized property; instituted new deadlines for government to file for forfeiture or return seized property; banned forfeitures for minor drug possession; earmarked 20% of forfeiture proceeds for drug treatment and education programs.

Recommendations

  • End civil forfeiture
  • Strengthen protections for innocent third-party owners
  • Fully close the equitable sharing loophole
  • Strengthen transparency and accountability requirements

State and Federal Forfeiture Revenues, 2000-2019

Between 2007 and 2018, Maryland law enforcement agencies forfeited more than $4 million under state law. Between 2000 and 2019, they generated an additional $154 million from federal equitable sharing, for a total of at least $158 million in forfeiture revenue. Maryland ranks 32nd for its participation in the Department of Justice’s equitable sharing program. However, in 2016, the state prohibited federal forfeiture of locally seized property worth less than $50,000 for equitable sharing.

At least $158 million in state and federal forfeiture revenue
2000–2019

Year Maryland Forfeiture Revenues Dept. of Justice Equitable Sharing Proceeds Treasury Equitable Sharing Proceeds Total
2000 Unknown $3,955,415 $1,747,000 $5,702,415
2001 Unknown $3,063,429 $191,000 $3,254,429
2002 Unknown $4,626,498 $8000 $4,634,498
2003 Unknown $7,424,604 $2,099,000 $9,523,604
2004 Unknown $6,159,725 $513,000 $6,672,725
2005 Unknown $5,635,733 $1,886,000 $7,521,733
2006 Unknown $6,384,843 $1,777,000 $8,161,843
2007 $226,557 $8,216,398 $1,570,000 $10,012,955
2008 $611,094 $8,052,287 $5942,000 $14,605,381
2009 $142,863 $5,078,907 $1,406,000 $6,627,770
2010 $164,047 $6,580,628 $1,846,000 $8,590,675
2011 $181,364 $6,249,728 $2,658,000 $9,089,092
2012 $96,349 $5,940,747 $2,876,000 $8,913,096
2013 $136,033 $2,809,159 $3,206,000 $6,151,192
2014 $118,567 $6,599,304 $3,793,000 $10,510,871
2015 $274,642 $8,560,570 $2,587,000 $11,422,212
2016 $96,661 $4,626,100 $642,000 $5,364,761
2017 $81,319 $3,281,040 $1,320,000 $4,682,359
2018 $2,174,343 $7,697,023 $1,816,000 $11,687,366
2019 Unavailable $4,030,354 $1,341,000 $5,371,354
Totals $4,303,839 $114,972,492 $39,224,000 $158,500,331

All revenue figures include both civil and criminal forfeitures. Revenues are not adjusted for inflation. Different state revenue sources for 2007–2017 and 2018.

Maryland's Forfeiture Transparency and Accountability Report Card

Tracking Seized Property

C

Accounting for Forfeiture Fund Spending

N/A

Statewide Forfeiture Reports

B

Accessibility of Forfeiture Records

A

Penalties for Failure to File a Report

D*

Financial Audits of Forfeiture Accounts

N/A

These grades are not applicable as Maryland does not permit law enforcement agencies to spend forfeiture revenue.

* Agencies must file even when they have nothing to report.

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

Forfeitures Under Maryland Law: Key Facts

Median Value

$911

In 2018, half of Maryland’s currency forfeitures were worth less than $911.

Property Types

In 2018, 62% of Maryland’s forfeitures were of currency.

Civil vs. Criminal

UNKNOWN

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

Expenditures

N/A

Maryland does not permit law enforcement agencies to spend forfeiture revenue.

Data Notes and Legal Sources

Data Notes

Figures for 2007 through 2017 represent cash and proceeds from sales of property forfeited by the Maryland State Police and were obtained via public records request to MSP. Statewide property-level forfeiture data from 2018 are from the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention website. Figures represent values of forfeited property. All figures 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: In general, clear and convincing evidence. Weak conviction provision requires conviction of an owner, but only for forfeitures of a principal family residence. When the owners of the residence are married, both spouses must be convicted. The provision can be waived if the owner fails to appear in court.

Md. Code Ann., Crim. Proc. §§ 12-103(d)(1), (d)(2), (e), 12-312(a–b).

Innocent owner burden: Depends on the property. Generally, the owner bears the burden of proof. But for vehicles, real property, and property intended for or traceable to drug transactions, the government must show that the property was used in violation of the law “with the owner’s actual knowledge.”

Md. Code Ann., Crim. Proc. §§ 12-102(a)(4), (11–12), 12-103, -312(b).

Financial incentive: No financial incentive.

Md. Code Ann., Crim. Proc. § 12-403(c)–(e).

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