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How Does Civil Asset Forfeiture Work in Oklahoma

By November 20, 2018April 2nd, 2024No Comments

Oklahoma’s civil asset forfeiture policies empower law enforcement to seize cash as well as property.  As long as law enforcement believes the money or property in question might be tied to criminal activity, these officials can confiscate it with ease.  The state insists civil asset seizure is the best way to stop drug trafficking and prevent drug dealers from using illegally-obtained funds amidst a pending court case.  


Why There is a Growing Backlash Against Civil Asset Forfeiture

Unfortunately, law enforcement sometimes abuses civil asset forfeiture by seizing assets that were obtained in a perfectly legal manner.  In fact, law enforcement has seized money and property before individuals are convicted of a crime or even charged with a crime. The bottom line is civil asset forfeiture is a way for law enforcement to take significant amounts of property and cash from everyday people.  In some cases, law enforcement ends up selling seized assets and keeping a portion of the profits. Such transactions are referred to as policing for profit.


Oklahoma’s Civil Asset Forfeiture Laws

Oklahoma law enforcement is required to present proof in the form of preponderance of evidence that the individual in question has obtained money or property in connection with a crime.  Oklahoma law enforcement agencies are permitted to retain 100 percent of the proceeds from the sale of seized assets.

It is particularly interesting to note Attorney General Jeff Sessions re-initiated the federal program referred to as the Equitable Sharing Program.  This program empowers local and state law enforcement agencies to work with federal agencies to take assets from people and transfer the seized property or cash to the federal government.  This process allows local agencies to sidestep state level regulations meant to discourage excessive forfeitures. The Equitable Sharing Program empowers the federal government to take all of the seized funds, send 80% to the state agency and make a tidy profit.

The Sooner State’s Civil Asset Forfeiture Laws are Heavily Criticized

Oklahoma’s civil asset forfeiture laws are viewed quite negatively compared to those of other states simply because the Sooner state has such a low bar for forfeiture.  There is no need to obtain a conviction before seizing assets. Those who are innocent can have their property and cashed seized as there are few legal protections in place to protect third-party property owners.  The majority of people agree Oklahoma’s state-friendly civil forfeiture laws should be reformed.


Oklahoma Civil Asset Forfeiture by the Numbers

All in all, law enforcement agencies throughout Oklahoma seized $99 million between 2000 and 2014, the vast majority of which was cash as opposed to property.  The Sooner state ranks in the top 20 of all states for federal forfeiture. The state received nearly $60 million between 2000 and 2013 from the Department of Justice’s equitable sharing proceeds.  It is quite shocking to learn the average value of such adopted assets was about $134,000. This figure is six times that of the average value of assets seized. It appears as though Oklahoma law enforcement agencies have requested such adoptions for especially valuable cases that would have proven challenging to process at the local or state levels.


Civil Asset Forfeiture Requires the Assistance of an Attorney

It is up to the accused individual to prove he or she has nothing to do with the alleged crime and the property in question is not related to any sort of criminal activity.  This challenge is not easy. If your money or property is seized, you need the assistance of a civil asset forfeiture attorney to clear your name and obtain the property or money you worked so had to obtain.  

Do not assume you will eventually receive your property back following its seizure.  The state of Oklahoma provides minimal, if any, transparency during the civil asset forfeiture process.  If your property or cash has been seized, there is a good chance you will never receive it back unless you hire a civil asset forfeiture attorney.  Contact us today to learn how we can help you reacquire your property and restore your good name.