CapitolBeatOK Staff Report
OKLAHOMA CITY – Sen. Kyle Loveless, R-Oklahoma City, has filed the “Personal Asset Protection Act,” Senate Bill 838, aimed at restricting the legal practice known as civil asset forfeiture. The process allows the government to seize cash, vehicles and other property used or gained from the commission of a crime without any charges being filed.
“The issue with the current law is that the owner is presumed guilty until they can prove their innocence,” Loveless said.
“In America, we are proud of our tradition of 'innocent until proven guilty.' Unfortunately, that's not the case with civil asset forfeiture. Under current law, the state simply needs to establish a mere suspicion that the property is involved in illegal activtity and the owner doesn't have to be charged with a crime.”
The legislation would revise the current process – including grounds for conviction – to require “clear and convincing” evidence that the property was used for or related to criminal activity.
“What we are doing is requiring the government to prove that there was a crime committed and that the property was used or gained from that crime,” Loveless explained.
Loveless filed the bill last week, with the session ending by May 22.
“I wanted to file the fill as soon as possible to get a jump start on this important issue,” said Loveless.
“Many Oklahomans are losing their property without due process and they don't have the resources or will to fight a system stacked against them.”
In a press release sent to CapitolBeatOK, Loveless said he is holding an interim study to take an in-depth look at how civil asset forfeiture works in Oklahoma and how abuse happens.
He says he will seek input from citizens who have been affected by civil asset forfeiture abuses.
“I'm asking for some help from Oklahomans and members of the media who believe they have been a victim of this simply un-American process,” Loveless said.
“This is something that is happening in states across the country, so it would be naive to believe that it could not happen in Oklahoma. I look forward to hearing from those who have been affected so we can come together to create a solution to this growing problem.”