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New Report Analyzes Civil Asset Forfeiture Data in Kansas

May 31, 2022 by AFP

Today, Americans for Prosperity Foundation (AFPF), a national nonprofit that educates Americans about the benefits of a free and open society, released a report on civil asset forfeiture activities in Kansas.

Kansas’ civil asset forfeiture laws allow law enforcement to seize and keep people’s money and property if law enforcement suspects it is connected to criminal activity—even if the property owner is never charged with or convicted of a crime. Even worse, these laws make it overwhelmingly difficult for people to recover their property.

To do so, owners must prove their property’s innocence in court. Unlike criminal trials, where prosecutors must prove a defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, civil forfeiture proceedings require that the state show the property is connected to criminal activity only by a preponderance of the evidence.

In 2018, Kansas lawmakers passed legislation requiring law enforcement agencies to report asset seizure and forfeiture information to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI), which makes the data publicly available online. State legislators felt law enforcement was overusing civil asset forfeiture and sought to bring transparency to forfeiture activities in the Sunflower State.

Americans for Prosperity Foundation examined the data, which includes incident reports on all “completed” forfeiture actions from July 1, 2019, to December 31, 2021.

AFPF’s analysis finds:

  • Kansas law enforcement reported seizing $21.3 million from people in in the state.
  • On average, law enforcement reports taking over $13,000 per day in money and property from people in Kansas.
  • KBI annual reports omit up to one-third of the total value of assets forfeited.
  • Most seizures do not involve amounts that would disrupt organized crime operations.
  • Owners of seized property in the KASFR have recouped just 8% of the value of their seized assets.
  • For those few fortunate people who were able to recover their seized property, it took them an average of 419 days to do so.
  • For most people whose property has been seized by Kansas law enforcement, the cost of recovering their property is greater than the value of the property seized.

Transparency is necessary for accountability. The KBI data provides the public with a general picture of forfeiture activities in Kansas, but dark spots remain.

AFPF-Kansas State Director Elizabeth Patton:

“Civil asset forfeiture laws imperil people’s rights to property and due process. This is especially true in states such as Kansas, where law enforcement receives all the proceeds from forfeited property. The arrangement creates a compelling profit motive for law enforcement to seize people’s assets. Our analysis of the KBI data calls into question the motivation for most forfeiture activities in Kansas: to protect public safety or generate revenue?”

Download the full report.