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Missouri

The Institute for Justice in their 2010 report “Policing for Profit” graded Missouri’s forfeiture laws a C+, noting that:

Missouri law makes it very easy for law enforcement to forfeit property, but it strictly limits agencies’ ability to profit from forfeitures under state law.  The weakest part of Missouri’s law is requiring the government to show only reasonable cause to believe property is related to a crime to forfeit it.  That is the lowest legal standard, akin to the probable cause required for a search warrant, and much lower than beyond a reasonable doubt, the standard the government must meet for a criminal conviction.  Moreover, owners are presumed guilty:  When property is seized and an innocent owner has an interest in the property, the owner must intervene in the forfeiture proceedings and show he did not have actual knowledge of the criminal activity.  However, Missouri is one of only eight states where law enforcement receives none of the funds from forfeiture; all accrue to the local education system.  This is a significant protection for owners, but the data from Missouri suggests that law enforcement still engages in forfeiture, seizing more than $34 million from 2001 to 2008.

A key incentive to continued use of forfeiture in Missouri may be federal equitable sharing.  After an investigative report in the Kansas City Star, Missouri lawmakers were awakened to a major problem that plagues other states that limit the ability of law enforcement to profit from forfeiture: federal adoption of forfeiture proceedings and equitable sharing arrangements.  By 1999, more than 85 percent of forfeited property was funneled through this loophole.

Recent asset forfeiture actions in Missouri:

 

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