OKLAHOMA CITY Sen. Kyle Loveless, R-Oklahoma City, today reacted to the Oklahoma congressional delegations support of the Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration Act (FAIR Act) legislation aimed at reforming civil asset forfeiture laws at the federal level.
I am pleased that our congressional delegation is standing up and co-sponsoring this important measure, said Loveless. Legislators across the country have been working to reform civil asset forfeiture laws, but meaningful reform cant happen until the federal government fixes things on their end.
Under current law, local agencies can team up with federal law enforcement in a program known as equitable sharing where local authorities receive up to 80 percent of proceeds from seized property. This equitable sharing program can be used as a loophole to undermine state and local reform measures.
Loveless recently traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet with Oklahoma lawmakers to discuss this issue.
Federal reform is needed and Im thankful that our delegation is sending a clear message to the rest of the country that Oklahoma wont continue to support this unconstitutional practice, said Loveless.
Rep. Tim Walberg, R-MI-07, the author of the bill said: Seizing the property of Americans without charging them with a crime has no place in a country founded on the principles of due process and private property. I'm grateful to my colleagues from Oklahoma for joining our bipartisan effort to reform America's civil asset forfeiture laws and protect the constitutional rights of our citizens.
The FAIR Act, introduced at the beginning of this Congress has received bipartisan support and is awaiting committee action.
Rep. Tom Cole, R-OK-04 said: Our nations constitution clearly extends and ensures protections for Americans and their property. I am pleased to co-sponsor the FAIR Act because it upholds and strengthens these foundational American rights. No American should live in fear that the federal government could prematurely seize property without cause besides suspicion of a crime, rather than an actual conviction or charge.
Civil asset forfeiture became a common practice during the War on Drugs, but recently has become more prevalent during the economic downturn. Many law enforcement agencies abuse forfeiture funds to supplement dwindling budgets.
Rep. Frank Lucas, R-OK-03 said: Property ownership is a significant tenet of the American dream, one that should be aggressively protected under the law. The FAIR Act honors our nations longstanding tradition of due process by placing a greater burden of proof on the government to justify any seizure of property. Im proud to support this legislation to strengthen and clarify legal protections for those unfairly targeted by civil forfeiture.
Loveless earlier this year introduced SB 838 aimed at reforming Oklahomas forfeiture laws. This bill is similar to the FAIR Act and other legislation being introduced across the county.
Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-OK-01 said: The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is clear: No American shall be 'deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process.' Civil asset forfeiture programs often take property without due process. I strongly support HR 540, the Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration Act, and federal legislation to stop unconstitutional property taking. I applaud Oklahoma State Senator Kyle Loveless for offering similar legislation at the state level.
Oklahomas forfeiture laws were given a grade of D- in a recently released report published by Freedom Works. This follows a 2010 Institute for Justice report assigning Oklahoma a grade of D.
Rep. Steve Russell, R-OK-05 said: HR 540, the FAIR Act, is important because it harkens back to the 5th amendment of the Constitution to increase the burden of proof by the federal government as no citizen shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law. Anytime we can rein our laws back in closer to what our founders intended, it is a good thing for the people of Oklahoma and all of the citizens of the United States.