Arizona Adopts Landmark Civil Forfeiture Reform Legislation

On May 6, Arizona Governor Greg Ducey signed into law House Bill 2810, which reforms the state’s civil forfeiture law and strengthens due process and property rights protections. Support for the legislation in both houses was bipartisan and near-unanimous. It passed the House on February 24 on a 57-2-1 vote and the Senate by 29-1 on April 28.

Previously, Arizona civil forfeiture laws were among the worst in the nation. Police were able to seize property from a person suspected of a crime without obtaining a criminal conviction. Furthermore, the standard of proof for forfeiture—preponderance of the evidence—only required the government to demonstrate that it was more likely than not that property was connected to criminal activity.

Among its provisions, House Bill 2810:

  • Requires a criminal conviction for most forfeitures;
  • Increases the government’s burden of proof when arguing that seized property is related to a crime; and
  • Requires law enforcement to return seized property in a timely manner if criminal charges are not pursued or a “not guilty” verdict is rendered.

Arizona now becomes the 16th state to require a criminal conviction before property is forfeited. Indeed, more than half of all states have adopted civil forfeiture reforms in response to civil liberty concerns.