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Oklahoma State Senator Anthony Sykes – Supporter of Highway Piracy

For more than a year I have been reading about civil asset forfeiture and the need for reform. Stories of law enforcement seizing assets, usually cash, from innocent people on the side of the road have become rampant as the media, many politicians, watchdog groups and the public make the case for reform. I have written about civil asset forfeiture before, here and here, and the time has come for me to write about it again.

As a quick refresher for those unfamiliar with civil asset forfeiture, here’s how it works. Civil asset forfeiture laws allow law enforcement to take your property without ever charging you with a crime by claiming the property seized is connected to criminal activity. The most typical application of the law is to seize cash from someone during a traffic stop. An officer who has pulled you over for a suspected traffic violation has the authority to make the decision all on his own that […] → Keep reading

Civil Asset Forfeiture – Policing for Profit

I find myself in the very unusual position of agreeing with the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma. If you’re a reader of my blog or know anything about my politics you’ll understand what a rare moment this is.

The issue is civil asset forfeiture. State Senator Kyle Loveless has introduced a package of bills to reform civil asset forfeiture laws and he has managed to rankle some law enforcement agencies with his proposals.

What exactly is civil asset forfeiture? If you haven’t read about it, it’s a legal process by which law enforcement officers can seize assets from people suspected of involvement with criminal activity without necessarily charging said person with a crime or even proving that a crime has occurred. Countless people have had large amounts of cash seized from them during traffic stops. Other items seized have included cars, mobile homes, jewelry, computers, and even homes. In one instance I read about, a town’s police department was […] → Keep reading

Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform – Taking the Piracy Out of Policing

Oklahoma State Senator Kyle Loveless has filed the “Personal Asset Protection Act,” which would drastically change Oklahoma’s civil asset forfeiture law. Currently, civil asset forfeiture law allows law enforcement to seize someone’s assets even though the owner has never been convicted of a crime and in many instances, is never even charged with a crime. The bill, SB838, was filed late in this year’s legislative session and will likely not be acted upon this year. Senator Loveless plans to hold an interim study into civil asset forfeiture law to gather facts and build a coalition of supporters before next year’s session.

The changes that Senator Loveless has proposed are on two main issues. The first is requiring that a conviction be obtained before assets can be seized. The second, and the most likely to be opposed by law enforcement, requires seized assets to be sent to Oklahoma’s general revenue fund instead of being retained by the law enforcement agency making […] → Keep reading