Oregon’s Criminal Justice Commission has released its asset forfeiture report for 2011. This is the first year to be fully accounted for through Oregon’s new online accounting system. The system requires law enforcement to report forfeiture activity and income distributions through an online portal, along with information on the type of property seized, the type of search that gave rise to the seizure, defendant information and case numbers, and, in the case of drug-related seizures, what the related drugs were. It’s a potent accounting system for a practice that often goes on with little oversight.
The CJC report offers a number of eye opening facts about asset forfeiture in Oregon. Civil forfeitures outnumbered criminal forfeitures 2-to-1. The vast bulk of defendants in civil forfeiture cases did not have attorneys. Vehicle consent and probable cause made up 37% of the searches. Over $1.1 million in cash was liquidated at judgment in civil cases, compared to just over $70,000 in property sold. Unsurprisingly, marijuana was the most common drug associated with both civil and criminal forfeiture and currency was the most common item seized.
Despite the wealth of information provided, the CJC doesn’t take make the most of its data source. They give no breakdown of forfeiture revenue with regard to drug, arrest or search type. Certain categories have more incidents recorded than forfeitures recorded, suggesting, for example, that multiple search types were entered for some forfeitures, yet there is no explanation of the data or interpretation beyond the gross number of recorded searches. Other information is left opaque, such as agencies reporting money spent on “items for law enforcement use according to equitable sharing guidelines”, despite the highly specific nature of much of the information.