A civil asset forfeiture bill that could spark major reforms is making its way through the Oklahoma House.
Civil asset forfeiture is a practice where police can seize someone’s property and keep it even if they don’t convict or charge that person with a crime. Then, the individual must go through the difficult, and often unsuccessful process to get their property–whether it’s a vehicle, cash or home–back from the police.
Sen. Kyle Loveless sponsored a wide-ranging reform bill that would require a conviction and keep forfeited money from going directly to cops, but Senate Judiciary Chairman Anthony Sykes killed it before it got a committee vote. But a new bill passed out of committee in the House Tuesday with just one reform measure. The bill says if someone sues and regains their property after a police seizure, the state will cover their legal expenses.
“I don’t like moral victories and incremental change,” Loveless told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “To me, it is insulting to the people of Oklahoma, but it is what is going to have to happen. I think most Oklahomans agree with me. It’s just a matter of when, not if it happens. Whether it be this year or next year, we’re going to get serious reform done.”
Loveless said he has raised awareness on the issue and hopes this will be the next step to full reform.
“I think this is a good first step in the sense that law enforcement agrees that there are times when they’ve done things wrong,” Loveless told TheDCNF. “I think we have raised the level of discussion on the issue.”
Loveless told TheDCNF that he plans to meet with Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater to discuss a possible compromise to get more of his reform measures passed. He also wants to work on recruiting law enforcement support.
“I don’t like saying ‘wait until next year,’ because we are talking about innocent people’s property being taken, but…I think I can see a path moving forward where law enforcement could be on board. I think the dialogue has changed where at least people are aware of the issue.”
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