Rally Held To End Civil Asset Forfeiture In Oklahoma

Tuesday, February 14th 2017, 5:46 pm

A rally was held at the State Capitol Tuesday, aimed at putting an end to civil asset forfeiture. Backers say civil asset forfeiture puts a dent in the drug trade. But opponents say it also violates the rights of the innocent. 

Through civil asset forfeiture, police can seize money and property from people without a warrant and without making an arrest, as long as they suspect the money or property is somehow tied to the drug trade.

That's what happened to Eh Wah. The Christian Music Band he promotes raised $53,000 last year through a series of concerts to build a Christian school in Burma and an orphanage in Thailand, but the money was seized by Muskogee Police, who pulled Wah over for a broken taillight. 

After Wah was interrogated for hours, police let him go. No drugs were found and he was not charged, but police kept the cash. Wah says he was crushed.

"Because I did not know what would happen. Because I lost all the band’s money, I lost everybody's money. And what am I going to do now? Yeah, it was scary," said Wah.

After media reports, Muskogee Police released the money. Lawmakers say this is one of many examples of police seizing money improperly. Sen. Kyle Loveless is pushing several bills to end the practice.

"The momentum is there to actually change it. People are demanding it. That's what this rally is about. If it can happen to an innocent missionary, it can happen to you," said Loveless, R-Oklahoma City.

"I do not apologize for what law enforcement does out there on the street because they're involved in legitimate criminal interdiction. Taking criminals off the street. And taking a lot of poison off the street as well," said Oklahoma County District Attorney, David Prater.

Last year, Loveless couldn't get his bills heard in committee. If that happens again, Loveless says he's going to try to bring his bills to a vote of the people in the next general election.