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Oklahoma earns a D- for its civil forfeiture laws:

  • Low bar to forfeit and no conviction required
  • Poor protections for innocent third-party property owners
  • As much as 100% of forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement

State Forfeiture Laws

Oklahoma’s civil forfeiture laws are in dire need of reform. Earning a D-, Oklahoma state law only requires the government to prove a property’s connection to a crime by a preponderance of the evidence in order to forfeit it. Individuals wishing to bring an innocent owner claim bear the burden of proving that they had nothing to do with the illegal use of their property. Oklahoma law enforcement agencies also get to keep up to 100 percent of the spoils of forfeiture.

Law enforcement agencies in the Sooner State are only required to maintain an inventory of seized and forfeited property, providing little to no transparency. However, the Institute for Justice submitted an Oklahoma Open Records Act request to the Oklahoma District Attorneys Council and obtained the judicial district fund accounting of cash forfeitures and proceeds from the sale of forfeited property for fiscal years 2000 to 2014. These data indicate that Oklahoma law enforcement agencies forfeited nearly $99 million during this period, the vast majority of which—72 percent—derived from cash forfeitures.

Show State Law Sources
Standard of proof

Preponderance of the evidence.

Okla. Stat. tit. 63, § 2-503(B)–(C).

Innocent owner burden

Owner.

Okla. Stat. tit. 63, § 2-503(A)(4)(b), (A)(7); State ex rel. Campbell v. $18,235, 184 P.3d 1078, 1081 (Okla. 2008).

Profit incentive

Up to 100 percent.

Okla. Stat. tit. 63, §§ 2-503(F)(2), 2-506(L), 2-508.

Reporting requirements

Agencies must maintain an inventory of seized and forfeited property.

Okla. Stat. tit. 63, § 2-503(G).

State Forfeiture Data

Reported Forfeiture Proceeds

Year Currency Non-Currency Total
2000 $3,428,322 $932,007 $4,360,329
2001 $3,807,605 $1,287,544 $5,095,149
2002 $3,924,541 $1,109,558 $5,034,099
2003 $6,520,748 $1,836,377 $8,357,125
2004 $5,887,904 $3,151,573 $9,039,477
2005 $5,236,443 $2,628,347 $7,864,790
2006 $5,378,123 $2,508,176 $7,886,299
2007 $5,648,549 $2,406,032 $8,054,581
2008 $6,131,372 $1,775,205 $7,906,577
2009 $4,229,714 $1,345,651 $5,575,365
2010 $5,746,450 $1,217,681 $6,964,130
2011 $4,337,087 $1,910,194 $6,247,282
2012 $3,028,379 $1,281,709 $4,310,089
2013 $4,330,733 $2,249,982 $6,580,715
2014 $4,114,801 $1,595,682 $5,710,483
Total $71,750,771 $27,235,719 $98,986,490
Average per year $4,783,385 $1,815,715 $6,599,099

Source: Proceeds from cash forfeitures and forfeited property sold at auction, displayed in fiscal-year format. The Institute for Justice obtained these data from the Oklahoma District Attorneys Council through an Oklahoma Open Records Act request.

Oklahoma ranks 18th for federal forfeiture, with over $59 million in Department of Justice equitable sharing proceeds from 2000 to 2013.

Federal Equitable Sharing

Oklahoma law enforcement agencies’ participation in the Department of Justice’s equitable sharing program earns the state 18th place in the national rankings. Between the 2000 and 2013 calendar years, agencies received more than $59 million in DOJ equitable sharing proceeds. While just 28 percent of assets seized through the program resulted from adoptions—the type of equitable sharing severely limited by former Attorney General Holder—these accounted for almost three-quarters of Oklahoma agencies’ equitable sharing proceeds received. Data indicate that the average value of an adopted asset was approximately $134,000—more than six times the average value of an asset seized through a joint task force or investigation. It is possible that Oklahoma agencies requested federal adoptions primarily for high-dollar cases that would have been more complicated to process at the state or local level. Law enforcement agencies also received over $2.7 million in Treasury Department equitable sharing proceeds between fiscal years 2000 and 2013.

View Local Law Enforcement Data
YearDOJ
(calendar years)
Treasury
(fiscal years)
2000 $1,149,992 $45,000
2001 $893,449 $0
2002 $6,551,075 $8,000
2003 $7,515,027 $6,000
2004 $4,256,057 $179,000
2005 $7,414,118 $142,000
2006 $6,875,791 $21,000
2007 $5,175,668 $5,000
2008 $2,667,450 $63,000
2009 $5,265,364 $249,000
2010 $3,821,659 $114,000
2011 $3,281,106 $739,000
2012 $2,302,774 $1,000,000
2013 $2,006,956 $155,000
Total $59,176,486 $2,726,000
Average Per Year $4,226,892 $194,714

DOJ Equitable Sharing,
Adoptive vs. Joint, 2000-2013

Adoptions
Joint Task Forces and Investigations
Seizures
Proceeds

DOJ Equitable Sharing Proceeds, 2000-2013

Sources: Institute for Justice analysis of DOJ forfeiture data obtained by FOIA; Treasury Forfeiture Fund Accountability Reports. Data include civil and criminal forfeitures. Because DOJ figures represent calendar years and Treasury figures cover fiscal years, they cannot be added.

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