When I first learned of Civil Asset Forfeiture, I was shocked that there was even such a thing. I mean, I am not naive about government corruption, but government representatives writing laws allowing government agents to steal property from citizens who have not been convicted of, or even charged with, a crime seemed a bit over the top even for government. Here’s what got me started on this issue: Taken by Sarah Stillman from the August 2013 issue of The New Yorker. To date, it’s the most thorough article I have ever read on the subject. Since Oklahoma was mentioned in this article as one of the states in which Civil Asset Forfeiture is common practice, this issue become high on my radar.
It is important for all Oklahomans to understand what Civil Asset Fortfeiture is and how it is used as it has the potential to affect each and every one of us. By and large, the victims of the current law are not big time drug dealers, but regular, law-abiding citizens. Under our current law, the police can seize – on the spot – your car, cash, boat, house, or any other property they claim to believe has been used in a crime. This is the complete opposite of our supposed constitutional protections that law makers and law enforcers swear an oath to uphold. Property is considered guilty until the owner proves its innocence with the burden of proof on the property owner to demonstrate that the property was not involved in criminal activity. This process is burdensome, time-consuming, expensive, and nonsensical. Often, people do not attempt to recoup their stolen property due to the hassle and expense.
Civil Asset Forfeiture legislation needs to be reformed in order to protect innocent people from having their property subject to legal theft by the state without due process. Liberty on Tap is hoping to help Tulsans learn about this issue and what they can do to help reform the current law. The senate author of the bill to reform Civil Asset Forfeiture law in OK (SB-838), Senator Kyle Loveless, will be our speaker this Thursday night. Our hope is that public support for reform will be strong enough to ensure that this bill is heard in the upcoming legislative session and ultimately passed and signed into law. Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform is an issue everyone can get behind regardless of political leaning. If you want to get a better understanding of this law and its effects, please join us on November 5th at Chimi’s in the private room.
Find Liberty on Tap’s November Gathering here.