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Property Seizure Law Change Debated In Tulsa

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Photo of law enforcement representatives and others meeting to about a proposed change to Oklahoma's civil asset forfeiture law. Photo of law enforcement representatives and others meeting to about a proposed change to Oklahoma's civil asset forfeiture law.
TULSA, Oklahoma -

Should law enforcement be allowed to take your property, even if you're never convicted of a crime? That's the question raised by one state senator, who wants to change what agencies can confiscate.

Under the state's current law it is legal for agencies to take your money, car, or anything else if it's suspected of being tied to drugs, even if you're never found guilty of a crime.

One lawmaker wants to change that but it won't happen without a fight.

Law enforcement officers and prosecutors from across the state met at the Tulsa Police Academy on Tuesday to defend the current law. Police told state lawmakers that without this law they could not fight the war on drugs and Oklahoma would be overrun with dealers.

"We feel very adamant this is not a question of whether or not we have a great law, and we need it," said Darrell Weaver, Oklahoma Narcotics Bureau Director.

But State Senator Kyle Loveless disagrees. "It just seems to me way over the line when government can do that without having to prove it," he said.

He's proposing a bill that completely revamps the law so that agencies can take or use your property only if you're found guilty of the crime. Loveless claims there are too many examples of police taking things from innocent people with seemingly no rhyme or reason.

"It is actually the government, in my belief, going too far and taking property that come to find out there are no charges brought and a lot of times, innocent people involved. To me, that is a miscarriage of justice," Loveless said.

But police and prosecutors say that's simply not true, saying there are strict rules regarding when officers can seize property and rarely do they target innocent people.

"Quite frankly, I'm just concerned that the integrity of Oklahoma law enforcement and prosecutors is being questioned," Weaver said.

According to an Oklahoma Watch investigation Oklahoma law enforcement agencies have seized $47.5 million dollars in property over the last decade.

OHP seized the most, $33 million. Tulsa Police were second at nearly $2 million.

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