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.
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).
Up to 100 percent. Okla. Stat. tit. 63, §§ 2-503(F)(2), 2-506(L), 2-508.
Agencies must maintain an inventory of seized and forfeited property. Okla. Stat. tit. 63, § 2-503(G).
Oklahoma ranks 18th for federal forfeiture, with over $59 million in Department of Justice equitable sharing proceeds from 2000 to 2013.
State Forfeiture Data: Reported Forfeiture Proceeds
Average per year
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.
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.