Current civil asset forfeiture laws in Oklahoma allow law enforcement officers to seize property and cash if they believe it to be involved in any type of criminal activity. These laws provide law enforcement with a significant amount of leeway to do so, mainly because the assets can be legally seized merely under suspicion of illegal activities—not actual proof.
This unfair system has resulted in countless citizens having their assets seized when they had absolutely zero involvement in criminal activity. Even worse: once seized, the property can be extremely difficult to get back.
How Civil Asset Forfeiture Works
Many cases of civil asset forfeiture in Oklahoma begin with a simple traffic stop. An officer may pull you over for even the most minor infraction, such as an illegal lane change, speeding, having a taillight out, etc. The officer may then use the opportunity to search the car. If you have a large amount of cash, valuables, or really just about anything else the officer subjectively deems as suspicious, they can seize the items under the suspicion of being proceeds from illegal activities (such as a drug deal). The officer may even seize the vehicle itself after alleging that it’s involved in illegal activity. Again, law enforcement does not have to prove any illegal activity to seize your assets.
And unfortunately, once they have taken your items, they can be extremely difficult to repossess—even if you were traveling to Oklahoma with a large amount of cash with the intention of completing a deal to purchase land from a local farmer.
Civil Asset Forfeiture Laws in Oklahoma
In Oklahoma, law enforcement is required to present proof in the form of preponderance of evidence that a person has obtained money or assets in connection with an alleged crime. Law enforcement agencies can then retain the full amount of the proceeds from the sale of the seized assets.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Oklahoma has a well-earned reputation for having some of the worst civil asset forfeiture laws in the country, mainly due to having such a low threshold to meet for having assets seized in the first place. A conviction is not required for law enforcement agencies to seize assets—officers can essentially seize any assets they want at will as long as they claim suspicion of illegal activity. That’s just the truth. Catch an officer on a bad day or say something to anger them, and you may be on the wrong end of a forfeiture situation. Innocent citizens are routinely affected by such lax laws. In fact, the Institute for Justice, a non-profit, public interest law that both monitors and fights against abuses of government power, currently has Oklahoma graded at a D- for its civil asset forfeiture laws.
And, as if things weren’t bad enough, in 2017, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions re-initiated the Equitable Sharing Program, which enables local and state law enforcement agencies to collaborate with federal agencies to seize cash and other assets and transfer them to the federal government, allowing local agencies to bypass state-level regulations that are meant to minimize excessive forfeitures. Under this program, the federal government sends 80% of the proceeds from the seized assets to the state agency. As you can imagine, this has only made the situation even worse.
Fighting Civil Asset Forfeiture in Oklahoma Requires an Experienced Attorney
Oklahoma is the exact opposite of transparent when it comes to civil asset forfeiture cases, so you should never assume that you will simply get the property handed back over to you once things have settled down.
If your assets have been seized, it is legally up to you to prove that your property has nothing to do with any alleged crime or criminal activity. This is certainly not an easy task, especially if you go it alone. In fact, it’s virtually impossible. In order to fight and get your property returned, you will need the assistance of an attorney who specializes in such cases.
If you or a loved one has had their assets unlawfully seized, you need experienced attorneys on your side who can fight to clear your name and get your property back. Overman Legal Group is always ready to step in on your behalf. Our team will exhaust every resource on your case in the pursuit of proving your innocence and returning what is rightfully yours.
Trust your case to a team of attorneys who will aggressively pursue justice to ensure your property and assets are returned to your possession.