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Wyoming

Wyoming

Wyoming earns a D- for its civil forfeiture laws:

Standard of Proof

Somewhat higher bar to forfeit: Prosecutors must provide clear and convincing evidence that property is connected to a crime.

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: Up to 100% 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.

Recent Reforms

  • (2018) HB 61: Banned use of roadside waivers to pressure motorists into abandoning seized property.
  • (2016) SF 46: Raised standard of proof; imposed new notice requirements; established probable cause hearing following seizure.

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 2018, Wyoming law enforcement agencies forfeited nearly $9 million under state law. Between 2000 and 2019, they generated an additional $2 million from federal equitable sharing, for a total of at least $11 million in forfeiture revenue. Wyoming ranks 3rd 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 Wyoming Forfeiture Revenues Dept. of Justice Equitable Sharing Proceeds Treasury Equitable Sharing Proceeds Total
2000 $122,385 $0 $0 $122,385
2001 $163,313 $38,604 $8000 $209,917
2002 $681,761 $715 $228,000 $910,476
2003 $892,274 $10,881 $6,000 $909,155
2004 $705,927 $18,250 $43,000 $767,177
2005 $391,406 $119,916 $0 $511,322
2006 $500,956 $260,660 $0 $761,616
2007 $333,790 $66,348 $0 $400,138
2008 $383,596 $113,176 $0 $496,772
2009 $460,814 $211,416 $17,000 $689,230
2010 $242,631 $211,769 $270,000 $724,400
2011 $429,004 $250,286 $68,000 $747,290
2012 $296,879 $47,619 $0 $344,498
2013 $393,048 $38,653 $12,000 $443,701
2014 $301,392 $28,429 $10,000 $339,821
2015 $360,852 $46,657 $0 $407,509
2016 $902,866 $150,044 $48,000 $1,100,910
2017 $1,157,090 $68,302 $0 $1,225,392
2018 $147,522 $36,097 $194,000 $377,619
2019 Unavailable $55,612 $153,000 $208,612
Totals $8,867,506 $1,773,434 $1,057,000 $11,697,940

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

Wyoming's Forfeiture Transparency and Accountability Report Card

Tracking Seized Property

C

Accounting for Forfeiture Fund Spending

A

Statewide Forfeiture Reports

B

Accessibility of Forfeiture Records

D

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 Wyoming Law: Key Facts

Median Value

$2,527

From 2015 to 2018, half of Wyoming’s currency forfeitures were worth less than $2,527.

Property Types

From 2014 to 2018, three-quarters of Wyoming’s forfeitures were of currency.

Civil vs. Criminal

UNKNOWN

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

Expenditures

UNKNOWN

Wyoming expenditure data were not used for this report.

Data Notes and Legal Sources

Data Notes

Property-level seizure data were obtained via public records requests to the Wyoming Attorney General. Figures represent forfeited cash and proceeds from sales of forfeited property and are based on the calendar year in which the forfeiture case was initiated. 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: Clear and convincing evidence.

Wyo. Stat. Ann § 35-7-1049(k).

Innocent owner burden: Owner.

Wyo. Stat. Ann. §§ 35-7-1049(m), -1050.

Financial incentive: Up to 100%.

Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 35-7-1049(r)(i)–(vi).

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