Audit Finds Misuse of Funds from Asset Seizures in Oklahoma

LBN’s Emily Collins reports that some Oklahoma law enforcement agencies are in trouble over their handling of assets seized in civil forfeitures. A state audit report disclosed that funds and property seized by some Oklahoma law enforcement agencies have gone missing or have been misused.

Among the report’s findings were that one prosecutor had used seized funds to pay a student loan. In some instances, money that had been seized was spent prior to a court forfeiture proceeding. A number of problems with civil forfeitures came to light in a hearing on legislation proposed by Oklahoma state senator Kyle Loveless. The legislation would curb some of the abuses that have come to light.

There was opposition to the legislation from law enforcement authorities, who defend civil forfeitures as necessary to fight drug trafficking. Opponents of the bill say that abuses are rare. Senator Loveless said that he was “outraged . . . that we’ve allowed this process to get to where it’s at.”

Civil forfeitures have been very common since the 1980s and were the subject of a recent LBN report. Once assets have gone through the civil forfeiture process and a judge has given approval, the assets are divided up by a prosecuting attorney. Oklahoma law requires that the proceeds of these forfeitures must be spent on enforcement of drug laws and drug-abuse prevention and education. But audits conducted from 2009 to 2014 found that many district attorneys had no procedure in place to deal with such forfeitures.

Civil forfeiture issues have caught the attention of liberals and conservatives alike.

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