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New Hampshire

New Hampshire

New Hampshire earns a D for its civil forfeiture laws:

Standard of Proof

Higher bar to forfeit in limited cases: Weak conviction provision falls short of criminal forfeiture (see “The Problem with ‘Conviction Requirements’”). It purports to require conviction of the owner but also makes it the owner’s burden to prove their own innocence. The standard by which property must be linked to a crime following a conviction is unclear.

Innocent Owner Burden

Poor protections for the innocent: Third-party owners must prove their own innocence to recover seized property.

Financial Incentive

Large profit incentive: 90% of forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement (45% to local law enforcement up to $225,000 from a single forfeiture and 45% to the state drug forfeiture fund; any amount above $1 million in the state drug forfeiture fund goes to the state general 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

  • (2018) SB 498: Strengthened transparency requirements.
  • (2016) SB 522: Purported to raise standard of proof; created weak conviction provision; strengthened transparency requirements; abolished administrative forfeiture.

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 2000 and 2019, New Hampshire law enforcement agencies forfeited nearly $3 million under state law and generated an additional $24 million from federal equitable sharing, for a total of at least $27 million in forfeiture revenue. New Hampshire ranks 11th 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 $27 million in state and federal forfeiture revenue
2000–2019

Year New Hampshire Forfeiture Revenues Dept. of Justice Equitable Sharing Proceeds Treasury Equitable Sharing Proceeds Total
2000 $63,237 $346,243 $0 $409,480
2001 $455,552 $0 $455,552
2002 $250,507 $728,182 $854,000 $1,832,689
2003 $882,749 $0 $882,749
2004 $281,636 $806,361 $0 $1,087,997
2005 $1,271,291 $0 $1,271,291
2006 $142,000 $1,301,766 $55,000 $1,498,766
2007 $1,334,732 $14,000 $1,348,732
2008 $97,000 $1,072,645 $119,000 $1,288,645
2009 $573,046 $282,000 $855,046
2010 $131,800 $1,071,941 $481,000 $1,684,741
2011 $1,476,115 $159,000 $1,635,115
2012 $184,853 $2,006,141 $64,000 $2,254,994
2013 $1,482,392 $1,000 $1,483,392
2014 $103,978 $1,935,116 $11,000 $2,050,094
2015 $109,446 $792,359 $7,000 $908,805
2016 $277,280 $1,703,693 $30,000 $2,010,973
2017 $232,186 $1,016,285 $1,000 $1,249,471
2018 $570,127 $1,083,222 $24,000 $1,677,349
2019 $469,043 $642,011 $22,000 $1,133,054
Totals $2,913,093 $21,981,842 $2,124,000 $27,018,935

All revenue figures include both civil and criminal forfeitures. Revenues are not adjusted for inflation. Different state revenue sources for 2001–2013 and 2014–2019.

New Hampshire's Forfeiture Transparency and Accountability Report Card

Tracking Seized Property

D

Accounting for Forfeiture Fund Spending

F

Statewide Forfeiture Reports

A

Accessibility of Forfeiture Records

A

Penalties for Failure to File a Report

F

Financial Audits of Forfeiture Accounts

F

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

Forfeitures Under New Hampshire Law: Key Facts

Median Value

UNKNOWN

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

Property Types

UNKNOWN

New Hampshire does not report the types of property forfeited.

Civil vs. Criminal

UNKNOWN

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

Expenditures

UNKNOWN

New Hampshire does not report how forfeiture funds are spent.

Data Notes and Legal Sources

Data Notes

Biennial reports of fiscal years 2001 through 2013 were obtained from the New Hampshire Attorney General’s website and via public records request to the AG. Figures represent forfeited money and proceeds from sales of forfeited property. Figures for fiscal years 2014 through 2019 are from reports on the New Hampshire General Court website. Figures represent revenue deposited to the state’s Drug Forfeiture Fund. They include maintenance costs and may include restitution. 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: Weak conviction provision that purports to require an owner’s conviction but also makes it the owner’s burden to prove innocence. The provision was enacted in 2016 and has not been definitively interpreted by the New Hampshire courts. It is unclear whether the standard of proof to link property to the crime, after the conviction provision is satisfied, is preponderance of the evidence or clear and convincing evidence.

N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 318-B:17-b(IV)(b), (d), 617:1-a(I). Compare id. § 318-B:17-b(IV)(b) (preponderance for drug forfeitures) with id. § 617:1-a(III) (clear and convincing for all forfeitures).

Innocent owner burden: Owner.

N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 617:4-a, 318-B:17-b(IV)(b).

Financial incentive: 90% (45% to local law enforcement, 45% to the state drug forfeiture fund), with caps. Local law enforcement can keep no more than $225,000 from a single forfeiture, and amounts in the state drug forfeiture fund above $1,000,000 must be turned over to the state general fund.

N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 318-B:17-b(V).

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