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North Carolina

North Carolina

North Carolina earns a B+ for its forfeiture laws:

Standard of Proof

Highest bar to forfeit in most cases: In general, North Carolina has only criminal forfeiture. However, prosecutors can pursue civil forfeiture in racketeering cases, where they must prove by preponderance of the evidence that property is connected to a crime.

Innocent Owner Burden

Poor protections for the innocent: In racketeering cases, third-party owners must prove their own innocence to recover seized property.

Financial Incentive

No profit incentive: All forfeiture proceeds go to fund schools.

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
  • Strengthen protections for innocent third-party owners
  • Close the equitable sharing loophole
  • Adopt strong transparency and accountability requirements

State and Federal Forfeiture Revenues, 2000-2019

Between 2000 and 2019, North Carolina law enforcement agencies generated more than $293 million in forfeiture revenue from federal equitable sharing. North Carolina reports that it does not conduct forfeitures under state law. However, it does not prevent state and local agencies from using equitable sharing to circumvent state forfeiture law. North Carolina ranks 45th for its participation in the Department of Justice’s equitable sharing program.

At least $293 million in federal forfeiture revenue
2000–2019

Year North Carolina Forfeiture Revenues Dept. of Justice Equitable Sharing Proceeds Treasury Equitable Sharing Proceeds Total Equitable Sharing Proceeds
2000 None Reported $7,125,291 $1,018,000 $8,143,291
2001 None Reported $6,808,539 $754,000 $7,562,539
2002 None Reported $4,581,800 $1,632,000 $6,213,800
2003 None Reported $9,480,431 $899,000 $10,379,431
2004 None Reported $8,536,628 $720,000 $9,256,628
2005 None Reported $10,121,517 $3,802,000 $13,923,517
2006 None Reported $10,817,405 $2,675,000 $13,492,405
2007 None Reported $20,920,094 $2,734,000 $23,654,094
2008 None Reported $17,964,512 $6,888,000 $24,852,512
2009 None Reported $15,445,754 $7,081,000 $22,526,754
2010 None Reported $10,600,785 $3,276,000 $13,876,785
2011 None Reported $10,603,162 $2,761,000 $13,364,162
2012 None Reported $15,563,496 $4,108,000 $19,671,496
2013 None Reported $12,763,130 $5002,000 $17,765,130
2014 None Reported $10,805,901 $5736,000 $16,541,901
2015 None Reported $11,883,462 $3,651,000 $15,534,462
2016 None Reported $8,709,152 $5480,000 $14,189,152
2017 None Reported $9,256,927 $1,915,000 $11,171,927
2018 None Reported $17,116,834 $2,237,000 $19,353,834
2019 None Reported $11,277,342 $1,019,000 $12,296,342
Totals $0 $230,382,162 $63,388,000 $293,770,162

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

North Carolina's Forfeiture Transparency and Accountability Report Card

Tracking Seized Property

F

Accounting for Forfeiture Fund Spending

N/A

Statewide Forfeiture Reports

F

Accessibility of Forfeiture Records

F

Penalties for Failure to File a Report

Incomplete††

Financial Audits of Forfeiture Accounts

N/A

While North Carolina claims it does not engage in forfeiture, state law does permit the practice and therefore robust reporting requirements should be in place.

These grades are not applicable as North Carolina does not permit law enforcement to spend state forfeiture revenue.

†† No reporting requirements to enforce.

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

Forfeitures Under North Carolina Law: Key Facts

Median Value

UNKNOWN

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

Property Types

UNKNOWN

North Carolina does not report the types of property forfeited.

Civil vs. Criminal

UNKNOWN

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

Expenditures

N/A

North Carolina does not permit law enforcement agencies to spend state forfeiture revenue.

Data Notes and Legal Sources

Data Notes

A public records request for forfeiture records to the North Carolina Department of Revenue returned no responsive records. According to DOR, the state does not forfeit cash or property. Records provided for and included in the second edition of Policing for Profit reflected tax seizures for duties not paid on contraband, not state forfeitures. Equitable sharing data are from DOJ’s and Treasury’s annual forfeiture reports.

Legal Sources

Standard of proof: In general, forfeiture requires a criminal conviction. However, civil forfeiture is available in racketeering cases, which are governed by a preponderance of the evidence standard.

N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 75D-5, 90-112; State ex. rel. Thornburg v. $52,029, 378 S.E.2d 1, 3–5 (N.C. 1989); State v. Johnson, 478 S.E.2d 16, 25 (N.C. Ct. App. 1996).

Innocent owner burden: Owner. In racketeering cases, the only context in which civil forfeiture is available, the owner bears the burden of proof.

N.C. Gen. Stat. § 75D-5(i); State ex. rel. Thornburg v. 1907 N. Main St., 384 S.E.2d 585, 586–87 (N.C. Ct. App. 1989).

Financial incentive: No financial incentive. All forfeiture proceeds go to public schools.

N.C. Const. art. IX, § 7; State ex. rel. Thornburg v. 532 B St., 432 S.E.2d 684, 686–87 (N.C. 1993).

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