Illegal seizure of property targeted

Sen. Kyle Loveless, R-Oklahoma City, reacted to the Oklahoma congressional delegation’s support of the Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration Act (FAIR Act) — legislation aimed at reforming civil asset forfeiture laws at the federal level.

Under current law, local agencies can team up with federal law enforcement in a program known as equitable sharing where local authorities receive up to 80 percent of proceeds from seized property. This equitable sharing program can be used as a loophole to undermine state and local reform measures.

Loveless recently traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with Oklahoma lawmakers to discuss this issue.

Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Minnesota, the author of the bill said, “Seizing the property of Americans without charging them with a crime has no place in a country founded on the principles of due process and private property. I’m grateful to my colleagues from Oklahoma for joining our bipartisan effort to reform America’s civil asset forfeiture laws and protect the constitutional rights of our citizens.”

The FAIR Act, introduced at the beginning of this Congress has received bipartisan support and is awaiting committee action.

Civil asset forfeiture became a common practice during the War on Drugs, but recently has become more prevalent during the economic downturn. Many law enforcement agencies abuse forfeiture funds to supplement dwindling budgets, Loveless said.

Loveless earlier this year introduced SB 838 aimed at reforming Oklahoma’s forfeiture laws. This bill is similar to the FAIR Act and other legislation being introduced across the county.

Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Oklahoma, said: “The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is clear: No American shall be ‘deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process.’  Civil asset forfeiture programs often take property without due process.  I strongly support HR 540, the Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration Act, and federal legislation to stop unconstitutional property taking.  I applaud Oklahoma State Senator Kyle Loveless for offering similar legislation at the state level.”

Oklahoma’s forfeiture laws were given a grade of D- in a recently released report published by Freedom Works.  This follows a 2010 Institute for Justice report assigning Oklahoma a grade of D.