A new report using state and federal data identifies Massachusetts and North Dakota as the two states with “the worst civil forfeiture laws in the country.” The legal bar the state must meet to seize property and assets is very low in Massachusetts, and does not require a criminal conviction. The findings come from the Virginia-based, libertarian legal nonprofit Institute for Justice’s new “Policing for Profit” report. Nearly all civil asset forfeiture proceeds in Massachusetts go to law enforcement, according to the Institute.
The report estimates that Massachusetts local and state officials seized the equivalent of $138,824,424 through the civil forfeiture process between the years 2000 and 2014. Officials reaped an additional $63 million in profit from civil forfeiture through partnerships with federal agencies, as part of the widely criticized “equitable sharing” program. In 2014 alone, Massachusetts law enforcement received nearly $8 million from the federal government through this partnership. The police department in the small coastal town of Swansea, population 15,000, received nearly a million dollars from equitable sharing in 2014. The Boston police, by contrast, took in a little more than $200,000 from the federal government that year, while the State Police got over $800,000 and the Attorney General’s office received nearly $300,000.
Read the report.