How Much Does Your Local Government Raise from Fines and Forfeitures?

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One of the ways local governments raise revenue to fund public services is through fines and forfeitures. That includes everything from speeding tickets or fines for fishing without a license to property seized in a criminal investigation. The latter practice, also known as civil asset forfeiture, has come under fire from both conservative and liberal researchers for several reasons. Police often need minimal evidence to seize property, raising concerns about due process, and it is more difficult for low-income people to challenge an unjust seizure.

On the whole, local governments in Massachusetts raised just over $99 million through all fines and forfeitures in 2016. The Institute for Justice, a public-interest law firm, estimated that in 2014, Massachusetts local governments raised almost $10 million thanks to civil asset forfeiture. Furthermore, the Institute for Justice gave Massachusetts its worst grade for civil asset forfeiture laws, citing that the Commonwealth only requires probable cause—a low evidentiary standard—to seize property, and places the burden of proof on owners to demonstrate that they deserve their property back.

Through Pioneer Institute’s MassAnalysis transparency tool, users can access financial data for all 351 Massachusetts cities and towns, and compare municipalities similar to their own. Using the MassAnalysis tool, one can find data on how much towns raise per capita through fines and forfeitures. The following municipalities are the ten cities and towns in Massachusetts with the highest amount of revenue per resident from fines and forfeitures.

Municipality Revenue from Fines and Forfeitures per Capita (2017 data)
Boston $93
Somerville $84
Chelsea $77
Brookline $66
Provincetown $42
Northampton $36
Everett $35
Nantucket $28
Revere $27
Bernardston $27

Find out how much in fines and forfeitures your municipal government took in per capita here. And visit the MassAnalysis site to see where your town ranks on a variety of fiscal metrics.