Law & Principles
Trent England | November 3, 2015
Poll Shows Oklahomans Support Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform
A long-established principle of property law is that no person has a right to the proceeds of their criminal activity. Yet what if a government official merely suspects, rather than proves, the crime? Does government still get to seize personal property?
In Oklahoma today, the answer is yes. Civil asset forfeiture allows district attorneys to confiscate a citizen’s car, house, or cash without a criminal conviction. In fact, the district attorney may never even file criminal charges. Because the process is “civil,” a citizen can lose his property simply because he cannot prove he is not a criminal.
Public opinion research conducted in September shows most Oklahomans agree: This is not the way it is supposed to work in the United States of America. In fact, as the chart below shows, Oklahomans across the political spectrum recognize the need for better protections for citizens’ property rights. At the same time, most of the respondents also support local law enforcement.
While some district attorneys claim the move for civil asset forfeiture reform is an insult to law enforcement, the poll results show this is untrue. Oklahomans respect the public servants who work so hard to keep us safe. Just like supporting the Fourth and Fifth Amendments in the Bill of Rights does not make a person anti-police, the Oklahomans who want to limit government power to seize private property turn out to be strong supporters of law enforcement.
State Sen. Kyle Loveless introduced civil asset forfeiture reform legislation this year and plans to push the issue in the 2016 legislative session that begins in February.
David and Ann Brown Distinguished Fellow
Trent England is the David and Ann Brown Distinguished Fellow at the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, where he previously served as executive vice president. He is also the founder and executive director of Save Our States, which educates Americans about the importance of the Electoral College. England is a producer of the feature-length documentary “Safeguard: An Electoral College Story.” He has appeared three times on Fox & Friends and is a frequent guest on media programs from coast to coast. He is the author of Why We Must Defend the Electoral College and a contributor to The Heritage Guide to the Constitution and One Nation Under Arrest: How Crazy Laws, Rogue Prosecutors, and Activist Judges Threaten Your Liberty. His writing has also appeared in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Washington Times, Hillsdale College's Imprimis speech digest, and other publications. Trent formerly hosted morning drive-time radio in Oklahoma City and has filled for various radio hosts including Ben Shapiro. A former legal policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation, he holds a law degree from The George Mason University School of Law and a bachelor of arts in government from Claremont McKenna College.