Hawaii has some of the worst civil asset forfeiture laws in the U.S., according to a report released this week by the Institute for Justice.

The state was given a grade of D-minus.

Asset forfeiture is the increasingly controversial practice of police seizing personal property under the suspicion that it’s tied to a crime.

People don’t necessarily have to be convicted to have their home, car or business taken away from them.

Hawaii law enforcement officers seize and keep an average of $1.2 million worth of property a year.

Hawaii law enforcement officers seize and keep an average of $1.2 million worth of property a year.

Some states, including Hawaii, only need to show that there’s a preponderance of evidence of wrongdoing to seize someone’s property. It’s often up to owners to then prove their innocence or risk losing their property.

That’s why the Institute for Justice, a nonprofit, libertarian law firm, says civil asset forfeiture threatens the rights of Americans.

But the nonprofit also says the practice is ripe for abuse because law enforcement typically gets to keep the property and the proceeds from selling it.

That, of course, gives police an incentive to seize more stuff, the institute argues, and the value of property taken over the years seem to bear it out.

Check out this video to see just how much money we’re talking about. (It’s in the billions.)

The Institute for Justice report, Policing for Profit: The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture, goes into more detail about the practice and the laws governing it.

The nonprofit graded all the states based on three criteria: the financial incentive for law enforcement, the standard of proof needed for a taking and the protections for innocent property owners.

Hawaii received a D-minus, along with most other states and the U.S. government. On average, law enforcement agencies in the islands seize $1.2 million worth of property a year.

One of the reasons Hawaii scored so low is because law enforcement receives 100 percent of the proceeds from the property that is seized.

New Mexico is on the other end of the spectrum. The state received the highest grade of A-minus due to recent reforms that effectively abolished civil forfeiture.

For a bigger-picture view on the report and asset forfeiture in general, check out The Washington Post’s Wonk Blog.

The Post also published a lengthy investigation on the practice in 2014.

About the Author