KGOU

civil asset foreiture

Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks at Rose State College in Midwest City on October 19, 2017.
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

U.S. Jeff Sessions spoke to a receptive audience Thursday when he addressed members of the Oklahoma Sheriffs Association at Rose State College in Midwest City.

Sessions said law enforcement nationwide is dealing with an increase in the violent crime rate, gangs, the opioid epidemic and threats of terrorism. Sessions says these issues are combined with cultural changes that concern him.

Oklahoma Highway Patrol
Clifton Adcock / Oklahoma Watch

A bipartisan group of legislators and advocacy groups are asking Governor Mary Fallin to order a stop to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol's use of mobile scanners capable of seizing money loaded onto prepaid debit cards by alleged criminals.

Republican Sen. Kyle Loveless of Oklahoma City and Democratic Rep. Cory Williams of Stillwater are among those who sent a letter to Fallin on Wednesday asking the governor to issue an executive order suspending use of the devices until the Legislature can address the issue.

Oklahoma Watch

The Oklahoma Department of Public Safety has purchased several devices capable of seizing funds loaded on to prepaid debit cards to aid troopers in roadside seizures of suspected drug-trafficking proceeds.

The portable card scanners are designed to be carried in law enforcement vehicles, allow troopers to freeze and seize money loaded onto a prepaid debit card, and to return money to an account whose funds were seized or frozen.

$100 bills, money, cash
401(K) 2012 / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Gov. Mary Fallin signed a bill Thursday that would allow Oklahomans whose assets are seized through the civil asset forfeiture process to recover their attorney fees.

State Sen. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, says his legislation will encourage people to fight back if their property is taken.

A multicounty grand jury indicted Wagoner County Sheriff Robert Steven Colbert and Deputy Jeffrey T. Gragg on felony charges Thursday. Attorney General Scott Pruitt announced the panel also asked for the “immediate suspension” of Colbert. 

Members of the Fifteenth Multicounty Grand Jury allege Colbert and Gragg committed three felonies: conspiring to receive a bribe or extort by using threats, receiving a bribe or extortion using threats, and extortion induced by threats.

Oklahoma Highway Patrol
Clifton Adcock / Oklahoma Watch

A controversial federal program that allowed the U.S. Department of Justice to share seized cash and property with local law enforcement agencies is being placed on hold indefinitely, federal officials have announced.

The suspension of the Equitable Sharing Program could mean a loss of more than $2 million in annual seized revenue for Oklahoma state and local law enforcement agencies. In fiscal year 2014, Oklahoma law enforcement garnered $2.3 million through the program.

Search, Seize And Settle: Anatomy Of A Forfeiture Case

Dec 26, 2015
Oklahoma Watch

On a March day in 2009, Moua Yang and his father, Chao Yang, were driving west from Oklahoma City in a rented Nissan sedan with more than $25,000 in cash in the back seat.

A Canadian County deputy stopped them.

Deputy Mike Stilley, working drug interdiction, clocked the car at 76 mph in a 70-mph zone on Interstate 40. He gave chase as he called in the vehicle’s out-of-state plate, pulled the car over and, after approaching on foot, began questioning the Yangs.

Most Police Seizures Of Cash In Oklahoma Come From Blacks, Hispanics

Oct 14, 2015

Nearly two-thirds of seizures of cash by Oklahoma law enforcement agencies come from blacks, Hispanics and other racial or ethnic minorities, an Oklahoma Watch analysis of high-dollar forfeiture cases in 10 counties shows.

Cato Institute attorney Adam Bates testifies at a special hearing on civil asset forfeiture at the state Capitol, Sept. 1, 2015. State Sen. Kyle Loveless is seated to the right.
Ben Fenwick / Oklahoma Watch

On Tuesday, separate hearings in Oklahoma City and Tulsa examined civil asset forfeiture, and a bill that would make the practice more difficult to carry out.

State Sen. Kyle Loveless has introduced legislation that would prevent the seizure of cash or property unless that person is convicted of a crime. Under current law, police, sheriffs, and state troopers only require evidence or suspicion the assets came from illegal activity.

police sirens
Highway Patrol Images / Flickr

In Oklahoma, some people in charge of enforcing the law seem to be skirting it. State audits have found people in district attorney offices have used seized money and property to live rent-free and pay off student loans.

When state Sen. Kyle Loveless first heard about the audits, he'd already been thinking about amending the civil asset forfeiture laws — mainly because the state doesn't always follow the law.

Law Enforcement Seizures Misspent, Missing

Jul 18, 2015
Oklahoma state senator Kyle Loveless.
Oklahoma Senate

Funds and property seized by Oklahoma law enforcement agencies have gone missing or have been used for personal or other improper purposes, state audit records reveal.

Among the violations were using seized money to pay on a prosecutor’s student loans and allowing a prosecutor to live rent-free in a confiscated house for years, records show.