Sen. Kyle Loveless, R-Oklahoma City, filed Senate Bill 838, (Personal Asset Protection Act) which is aimed at reforming a practice known as civil asset forfeiture which the government uses to seize assets like cash and vehicles alleged to be part of a larger crime.
“With civil asset forfeiture, the concept of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ and the protections of the Bill of Rights go right out the window,” said Trent England, vice president of Strategic Initiatives, Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs. “If police and prosecutors believe someone committed a crime, they have an obligation to prove that in a criminal prosecution in a court of law before any punishment – including the confiscation of property – is inflicted on the accused.”
Currently, law enforcement must only suspect the property is involved in the commission of a crime. SB 838 will require clear and convincing evidence that the property was involved – ensuring the individual is innocent until proven guilty.
“Oklahoma must take action to curb civil assets forfeiture, which creates a dangerous precedent at the expense of constitutional due process protections,” said David Blatt, executive director of Oklahoma Policy Institute, a Tulsa-based think-tank.
“The FOP does not disagree that there is a need for civil asset forfeiture revision,” said Chuck Canterbury, national president, Fraternal Order of Police, during a recent congressional hearing.
SB 838 will be the subject of an interim study this fall.