An Oklahoma state lawmaker has filed a bill that would reform Oklahoma’s civil asset forfeiture law, an effort he says is supported by small businesses in the state.
In May 2015, Sen. Kyle D. Loveless (R-Oklahoma City) filed Senate Bill 838, the Personal Asset Protection Act, which he says has been the subject of intense debate during the interim.
“I have heard a lot of concern from district attorneys and from some in the law enforcement community about my fight to protect private property rights and due process. This new language is an attempt to address some of those concerns while not compromising my goals for reform,” said Loveless.
The bill package includes three stand-alone bills and one omnibus reform bill.
“The new language still requires a criminal conviction before the government can forfeit property, but it provides for five exemptions to this requirement including the death of the owner or the owner was given immunity as part of a plea agreement,” Loveless said in a legislative media release. “The government currently has the ability to forfeit personal property without proving a crime was committed in a court of law. My legislation corrects that but leaves the authorities with some flexibility.”
Another major difference in the legislation involves where the forfeited proceeds are deposited. The original version sent the funds to the state’s General Revenue Fund.
“My intention is to remove the direct profit incentive of forfeiture. An agency shouldn’t be able to grow its budget based on how much property it takes. At the same time, the state’s General Revenue Fund shouldn’t rely on that either,” Loveless said . “I want to create a new fund that would be run by a citizen oversight board with funds being used to address our state’s continued drug crisis.”
The 15-person board would issue grants from the fund to drug treatment facilities, drug courts and law enforcement agencies.
Loveless says his reform package is supported by Oklahoma members of the National Federation of Independent Business. In the group’s report on its annual legislative priorities. civil asset forfeiture reform garnered the most support of all the topics, Loveless says.
“Civil asset forfeiture is not just a private property or liberty issue — it’s a business issue,” he said. “I am pleased 93 percent of small-business owners polled support legislation to reform civil asset forfeiture.”
He said the reform efforts have also gained support from organizations such as the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs and the Oklahoma Policy Institute
The legislative session began February 1.
Source: Oklahoma Legislature