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In the state of Oklahoma, the police have the authority to seize your property prior to the conviction of a crime; civil asset forfeiture abuse is a serious threat to civil liberties including, private property rights and due process. The presumption that you are “innocent until proven guilty” is a fundamental element of the U.S. Constitution and should be protected at all costs. The practice of civil asset forfeiture is a tool used that too often negatively impacts innocent people who are merely suspected of illegal behavior.
Often time’s authorities rely on this practice to fund their departments. The narrative that civil asset forfeiture reform is anti-police is simply untrue. It is a conflict of interest that law enforcement use civil asset forfeiture profits as a means to fund their departments and pay public defenders. Police promise to “serve and protect,” and this should be their focus, not relying on property seizure profits to fund their departments. Elected policy makers are the ones who were voted into positions to represent their constituency and promote policy that protects individual liberty, not supporting civil asset forfeiture reform does neither.
On February 14, there was a bipartisan effort by FreedomWorks, Right on Crime, Institute for Justice and ACLU in support of civil asset forfeiture Reform. Along with these organizations, state Sens. Nathan Dahm (R-District 33) and Kyle Loveless (R-District 45) spoke out in support of reform.
Eh Wah who was a victim of civil asset forfeiture abuse in Oklahoma last year attended the event and spoke out against the unconstitutional process. Eh Wah is a member of a christian rock band that was doing a tour in the U.S. to raise money for Thai orphanages. 53,000 dollars was taken from Eh Wah after he was stopped. Unfortunately, his story is not uncommon. Luckily for Eh Wah, the Institute for Justice assisted him in his legal case and won getting his money back.
State Sen. Loveless introduced SB 537, on February 2nd, which would require a conviction before the state can permanently seize property. This bill would make the process of civil asset forfeiture more transparent by requiring law enforcement to document the property seized for an annual report available to the public.
State Sen. Dahm introduced bill SB 267, which includes higher safeguards to protect individual property rights. This bill states that the mere presence of money is not sufficient evidence to seize property without any other indicator that it was used in conjunction with criminal activity.
Ronda Vuillemont-Smith, a FreedomWorks activist represented by state Sen. Dahm had this to say, “Asset forfeiture reform is not about portraying law enforcement in a bad light, it is about the unconstitutional warrantless seizure of property, oftentimes without charge ever being filed. The unconstitutional warrantless seizure of property is a violation of our God-given rights and should be defended by those who have taken an oath to protect and defend our Constitution and the rights of Americans. Period.”
Both Senators are championed freedom fighters in the Oklahoma state legislature, along with incredible activists they are paving the way for reform in the state to guarantee constitutional protection of private property rights and due process.