|Source: The Cato Institute|
CIVIL ASSET FORFEITURE
IS IT LEGAL OR NOT?
Editors note: The Supreme Court recently struck down a Colorado law that refused to refund seized property and court fines for people who had their convictions overturned, demanding that the now innocent victim of the judicial system "prove beyond reasonable doubt" that they were innocent of a crime. That is something that is near impossible in most cases. The state of Colorado decided that the people were innocent enough to overturn the cases but not innocent enough to return their seized assets. The Supreme Court's Justice Thomas recently stated that the historical backing for asset forfeiture might not stand a constitutional challenge the way modern police are using the practice.
We are well aware that Civil Asset Forfeiture is an extremely sore spot between the law enforcement community and the civilian population. Over the last two legislative sessions we have watched events unfold at the State Capitol were Senator Kyle Loveless has made repeated attempts to change the law to make it friendlier to the citizens and visitors of Oklahoma. Both years he has been unsuccessful. This has been primarily due to the strong lobbying efforts of the various Law Enforcement Agencies. What our investigation has discovered is sure to upset both sides of this argument.
Now disgraced former Senator Lovelace submitted a bill for the 2016 session that never saw the light of day. The committee Chairman refused to here in committee. It died. The bill he submitted for 2017 met with some success. You can see the bill here Bill Information. He explained his reasoning behind the desired changes in this article Oklahoma State Senate - News. Regardless of his legal troubles and forced resignation, the bill he submitted made since. Unfortunately it failed in the conference committee. We don't see any future legislators with the gonads to take on the Law Enforcement community either.
The next article of information we found was this Concerns come from out of state on Oklahoma's civil asset forfeiture laws | State | tulsaworld.com. The Department of Public safety and a few other Law Enforcement Agencies now have equipment that can read your debit cards put a freeze on them or even confiscate the funds on those cards. The citizens of Oklahoma raised enough of a ruckus that the Governor had to direct that they no longer be used. We can't help but wonder if she quietly gave the order to start using them again.
We included this next article ERAD – New Age Technology for Civil Asset Forfeiture - Redoubt News for one simple reason. It goes into much more detail of way amounts to legal theft of your funds by using the ERAD card readers and freezing your assets. This is the height of legal thievery that Law Enforcement calls Civil Asset Forfeiture. This is the equipment that the governor had to direct the Department of Public Safety to stop using.
The next article of interest we found was this https://www.ok.gov/dac/documents/CAF Opposition Letter 1-5-16.pdf. We included this letter as an example of how unified all levels of law enforcement are to amending or even eliminating the Civil Asset Forfeiture Laws. It obviously wasn't.
The next article of interest we found was this Oklahoma governor signs civil asset forfeiture law | News OK. This article is dated April 29, 2016. This modification of the law gave citizens the right to recover attorney's fees for wrongfully seized assets. Until that time many wouldn't make the attempt to recover the assets because the attorney's fees were so costly.
The next article we found was this Debate Over Civil Asset Forfeiture Heats Up Again | Oklahoma Watch. This article was dated October 26, 2016. This is where it is indicated that some in the legislature feel that civil assets should not be seized without a criminal charge to go along with it. As it turns out they are correct. We'll get into more detail on this later on.
The next article of interest we found was this Tenth Amendment Center Blog | Oklahoma Bill Takes on Asset Forfeiture, Closes Federal Loophole. The Tenth Amendment Center is perhaps the premier States Rights organization in the nation. It goes into a little more detail about what the bill would actually do.
Now a lot of this could have been avoided. In early 2016 the Attorney General Loretta Lynch put an end to the policy of Civil Asset Forfeiture. Then we found this Obama just gave cops the OK to simply take your stuff | New York Post. Less than four months later President Obama reinstated the program. That's basically a violation of the Oklahoma Constitution.
The next article of interest we found was this Policing for profit in Oklahoma. This is an article that was published August 26, 2013. Naturally we could find no reference to it in the lame stream media would let the citizens know about it. What the law enforcement community looked at was this was a fast way to add revenue to their budgets.
One would think an article like the one above would raise some eyebrows at the State Capitol, but apparently it didn't. Then we found this article Oklahoma Earns "D" In "Policing for Profit" Report - Institute for Justice. This is even an older article indicating the same thing. This gives the appearance of law enforcement not really caring if they follow the law, just so long as they have enough money to buy extra's for their office.
Then we found this report Policing for Profit - Institute for Justice This showed a further decline in the law enforcement community about the rights of individuals. The difference this time was someone notice and made a legislative proposal to amend the law. In fact they've made it two years in a row, yet nothing has changed.
Now here is the part where both sides of the argument are going to get mad at us. According to this link
?63-2-503.1., Civil Asset Forfeiture is legal in the state of Oklahoma. We would encourage you to open the link and read it for yourself. Where the problem is, law enforcement has not been in compliance with the state statute §63-2-506. Seizure of property - Notice of seizure and intended forfeiture proceeding - Verified answer and claim to property.
What these two statutes are saying is if someone is in your home or vehicle and you are not aware that they have drugs or large amounts of cash on them you cannot seize that property without probable cause. In order to keep said seized property you must charge, arrest and convict the individual before that property may become the property of the agency making the arrest. Until said time, it must be placed into an interest bearing account and if the individual is found not guilty, they are also awarded the interest that has accumulated in the account. This also would include the ERAD machines that agencies want to use are unconstitutional unless the individual is arrested and charged and found guilty of a crime.
In closing the citizens aren't asking for much. All we are asking for is fair and honest treatment in respect to our property and property. You are out there to enforce the law, do so honestly and fairly. Do so correctly. Civil Asset Forfeiture should never be considered a source to fund your offices or departments. The way it is being done now is legalized theft.