Newly Proposed Civil Asset Forfeiture Bill Raises Questions

Wednesday, February 10th 2016, 6:00 pm
By: Aaron Brilbeck

State Senator Kyle Loveless is proposing a bill to reform civil asset forfeiture.

Under the current law, police can seize your property even if you’re not convicted of a crime. They simply have to suspect that the items that they are seizing are tied to a crime.

Brad Cates was the director of the Federal Asset Forfeiture program in the 1980's. Wednesday, he spoke at a forum in Oklahoma City against it. 

“To me it circumvents the constitution and all things we treasure about this country,” said Cates. “Crime gets bad; we don’t have to be like the people we’re trying to fight.”

Those in favor of civil asset forfeiture say it keeps taxes low by funding local police departments, and helps cripple drug deals by taking away money.

Opponents say it also takes away a person's due process. 

In Oklahoma alone, more than $47 million has been seized by law enforcement in the past ten years. That money goes to the agency that seized it. 

Senator Loveless said that gives police an incentive to seize people's property. So, he's proposing a bill that would require a conviction before assets could be seized. 

As for the money collected, “It goes toward drug treatment centers; it goes towards drug courts and drug aversion courts to keep people out of jail that need treatment instead,” said Loveless said. “And then finally drug interdiction.” 

Through that drug interdiction, Loveless said, police departments could apply for grants that would be distributed by a state committee.

“That sounds more like socialism to us,” said Undersheriff Chris West of the Canadian County Sheriff’s. “We believe in local solutions to local issues. Leave the money here. We balance our budgets in Canadian County every year. We don’t have a billion and a half deficit.”