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Montana

Montana

Montana earns a D- for its civil forfeiture laws:

Standard of Proof

Higher bar to forfeit: Strong conviction provision requires conviction of the owner in a criminal proceeding held in conjunction with the forfeiture action. Once there is a conviction, property must be linked to the crime by clear and convincing evidence.

Innocent Owner Burden

Stronger protections for the innocent: The government must prove third-party owners knew about criminal activity connected to their property.

Financial Incentive

Large profit incentive: Up to 100% of forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement (annual proceeds to state agencies above $125,000 are split 50–50 between the general fund and a state forfeiture fund).

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
  • Close the equitable sharing loophole
  • Adopt strong transparency and accountability requirements

State and Federal Forfeiture Revenues, 2000-2019

Between 2002 and 2019, Montana law enforcement agencies forfeited nearly $2 million under state law. Between 2000 and 2019, they generated an additional $9 million from federal equitable sharing, for a total of at least $11 million in forfeiture revenue. Montana ranks 9th 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 $11 million in state and federal forfeiture revenue
2000–2019

Year Montana Forfeiture Revenues Dept. of Justice Equitable Sharing Proceeds Treasury Equitable Sharing Proceeds Total
2000 Unknown $251,243 $274,000 $525,243
2001 Unknown $576,378 $37,000 $613,378
2002 $43,477 $205,696 $27,000 $276,173
2003 $47,013 $182,607 $88,000 $317,620
2004 $74,481 $201,458 $0 $275,939
2005 $60,931 $422,760 $80,000 $563,691
2006 $128,380 $487,171 $0 $615,551
2007 $134,634 $1,134,024 $10,000 $1,278,658
2008 $105,789 $387,501 $73,000 $566,290
2009 $75,778 $54,656 $67,000 $197,434
2010 $117,997 $131,734 $53,000 $302,731
2011 $125,202 $324,653 $28,000 $477,855
2012 $95,575 $666,494 $129,000 $891,069
2013 $105,932 $456,794 $41,000 $603,726
2014 $75,495 $304,941 $73,000 $453,436
2015 $202,205 $358,093 $42,000 $602,298
2016 $118,735 $241,944 $174,000 $534,679
2017 $236,617 $472,258 $43,000 $751,875
2018 $51,976 $369,823 $212,000 $633,799
2019 $83,376 $425,280 $18,000 $526,656
Totals $1,883,593 $7,655,508 $1,469,000 $11,008,101

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

Montana's Forfeiture Transparency and Accountability Report Card

Tracking Seized Property

F

Accounting for Forfeiture Fund Spending

F

Statewide Forfeiture Reports

F

Accessibility of Forfeiture Records

F

Penalties for Failure to File a Report

Incomplete

Financial Audits of Forfeiture Accounts

F

No reporting requirements to enforce.

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

Forfeitures Under Montana Law: Key Facts

Median Value

UNKNOWN

Montana does not report property-level data necessary to calculate median forfeiture value.

Property Types

UNKNOWN

Montana does not report the types of property forfeited.

Civil vs. Criminal

UNKNOWN

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

Expenditures

UNKNOWN

Montana does not report how forfeiture funds are spent.

Data Notes and Legal Sources

Data Notes

Records were obtained via public records requests to the Montana Department of Justice. Figures represent fiscal-year forfeited cash and proceeds from sales of property deposited into the state special revenue fund. 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: Strong conviction provision requires an owner’s conviction in a criminal proceeding “held in conjunction with” forfeiture. Once there is a conviction, property must be linked to the crime by clear and convincing evidence.

Mont. Code Ann. §§ 44-12-207(c), -210(1).

Innocent owner burden: Government. The government must disprove an innocent owner claim by clear and convincing evidence.

Mont. Code Ann. § 44-12-211; see also id. § 45-9-206(8).

Financial incentive: Up to 100%. However, when forfeiture money goes to the state, annual proceeds above $125,000 must be divided equally between the general fund and a state forfeiture fund.

Mont. Code Ann. § 44-12-213.

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