Oklahoma City, OK 73105
For Immediate Release: January 4, 2016
Sen. Kyle Loveless
Key funding piece in civil forfeiture suspended
indefinitely by federal government
A legislator working to improve Oklahoma’s forfeiture
laws said the U.S. Department of Justice’s recent decision
to suspend the Federal Equitable Sharing Program was a step in the
right direction, but reform of state statutes is still needed. The
federal program allowed state and local law enforcement agencies
to partner with federal law enforcement in prosecuting civil asset
forfeitures under federal law instead of using state law. The program
also allowed local agencies to receive up to 80 percent of the proceeds
from those forfeitures.
“I am working to reform Oklahoma’s state laws regarding
forfeiture to make them align with the tenets of our constitution
and proper due process,” said Sen. Kyle
Loveless, R-Oklahoma City. “The Federal Equitable Sharing
Program is one piece of a much larger issue with forfeiture overall.
I am pleased that this program has been suspended; however, we must
reform our state laws as we have seen the whims of Washington DC
According to data from Oklahoma Watch, more than 100 Oklahoma law
enforcement agencies received $47.5 million in equitable sharing
funds in the last decade, with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol receiving
the vast majority of the money. The Department of Justice has criticized
some of the Highway Patrol’s spending of those funds.
“Civil forfeiture is rife with abuse. The more attention that
is brought to the practice, the more stories that have come to light.
There are several parts to my reform package but the most critical
is removing the direct profit agencies receive from forfeitures,”
Last session, Loveless introduced Senate Bill 838, the Personal
Asset Protection Act.
“State legislators from Florida to Ohio to California should
take notice of law enforcement’s reaction to the DOJ’s
announcement. Many police, sheriffs and prosecutors want to circumvent
state laws because outsourcing forfeiture litigation to the federal
government is lucrative. State lawmakers should enact an anti-circumvention
provision that respects federalism and refocuses law enforcement’s
attention on stopping crime by allowing only seizures greater than
$50,000 to be forfeited under federal law,” said Lee McGrath,
Legislative Council for the Institute for Justice.
“As more and more Oklahomans hear about the experiences of
law-abiding citizens who’ve had their property seized, they
recognize current forfeiture practices as unconstitutional and un-American.
This is an unjust system that allows innocent people’s property
to be taken even though they were not charged or convicted of any
crime. I am looking forward to working with members of law enforcement
and my legislative colleagues to get a package of reforms to the
governor’s desk this coming legislative session,” said
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