Controversial civil asset forfeiture bill killed before judiciary committee could vote on it

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OKLAHOMA CITY – A controversial bill that would have changed civil asset forfeiture laws in Oklahoma was killed before the judiciary committee could vote on it.

Senate Bill 1189 would take property that was seized from drug arrests and place it into a new state fund, following a conviction.

At that point, a citizen oversight board would decide how to disperse the money.

Also under the bill, agencies would have 30 days to charge someone after a seizure and be required to submit a report that’s open to the public.

However, many law enforcement agencies opposed the bill, saying money recovered during drug busts is used for public safety programs and to fight crime.

“We use this money to buy computers and cars and dogs,” Canadian County Undersheriff Chris West told NewsChannel 4 in January.

The bill, which was authored by Sen. Kyle Loveless, failed to even get a vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee this week.

“It is unfortunate the Personal Asset Protection Act was not given a fair hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Oklahomans of all walks of life and political ideologies support civil asset forfeiture reform. However, Chairman Sykes did not think their voice should count in the political process. I am disappointed but not discouraged.  I am resolute and will work to make sure real reforms are put in to place to protect the private property of Oklahomans.

“Our nation was founded to protect life, liberty and property equally and no chairman’s gavel can change that. Oklahoma’s current civil asset forfeiture laws are an affront to this principle. I ran for the state Senate to reduce government overreach and to stand up for everyday Oklahomans—I will continue this fight.

“Instead of hearing the Personal Asset Protection Act, the judiciary committee Tuesday took a modest step toward reform. SB 1113, which allows a citizen to receive attorney’s fees if they successfully contest a forfeiture, passed out of committee unanimously with no questions and no debate.

“However, this bill doesn’t go nearly far enough in correcting the major issues with Oklahoma’s civil asset forfeiture laws. The bill will still allow for private property to be forfeited without a criminal conviction, has no reporting or transparency requirements and will continue to allow law enforcement agencies to keep the proceeds from each forfeiture they perform.

“Oklahomans understand law enforcement has a tough job, but also understand our liberties are at stake. I will continue to fight for those liberties and look forward to working with the bill’s author to create a system that protects Oklahomans’ rights and private property,” Loveless said in a statement.

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