What is Equitable Sharing?

Federal law authorizes the Attorney General to share federally forfeited property with participating state and local law enforcement agencies. Through equitable sharing, any state or local law enforcement agency that directly participates in a law enforcement effort that results in a federal forfeiture may either request to put tangible forfeited property into official use or an equitable share of the net proceeds of the forfeiture. The exercise of this authority is discretionary. The Attorney General is not required to share property in any case. Where the Attorney General chooses to share forfeited property, federal law, as set forth in the Controlled Substances Act, at 21 U.S.C. § 881(e)(3), for example, provides that:


The Attorney General shall assure that any property transferred to a state or local law enforcement agency…


(A) has a value that bears a reasonable relationship to the degree of direct participation of the state or local agency in the law enforcement effort resulting in the forfeiture, taking into account the total value of all property forfeited and the total law enforcement effort with respect to the violation of law on which the forfeiture is based; and


(B) will serve to encourage further cooperation between the recipient state or local agency and Federal law enforcement agencies.

Source: Asset Forfeiture Policy Manual (2016).

Last Reviewed April 2, 2018