Oklahoma Capitol Building by Daniel Jeffries

In Governor Kevin Stitt’s State of the State address to kick off the legislative session, he called for reforms to the state’s civil asset forfeiture laws.

“It’s crazy to me that somebody can be pulled over and have their cash and truck taken for an alleged crime, get acquitted of that crime, but they still never get their property back,” Stitt said. “That isn’t fair, and we need to make sure it isn’t happening anywhere in Oklahoma.”

Oklahoma is one of 18 states that have yet to make one of a number of key reforms to their forfeiture laws. The Institute for Justice gave Oklahoma a grade of D- in its latest survey, taking issue with the state’s low burden of proof to forfeit property, lack of protections for innocent owners and strong financial inventive for seizures.

Calls for reform have increasingly become a bipartisan priority, with the reintroduction of the Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration Act (FAIR Act) by U.S Representatives Tim Walberg (R-MI) and Jamie Raskin (D-MD). The FAIR Act calls for comprehensive reform to our nation’s civil asset forfeiture laws, raising the level of proof necessary for the federal government to seize property, reforming the IRS structuring statute to protect innocent small business owners and increasing transparency and Congressional oversight.

Since 2014, 37 states have taken measures to reform their civil asset forfeiture laws, and Maine, New Mexico and Nebraska have abolished civil asset forfeiture entirely. 16 states now require a conviction in a criminal court to forfeit property, 16 states require the government to bear the burden of proof, 27 states have instituted new reporting procedures and eight states have closed the equitable-sharing loophole.

Oklahoma will have plenty of proven reform options to work with as legislators engage on this critical issue. The Governor’s initiative should be a wake-up call to states that have not updated their laws to join the trend and protect the property rights of their citizens.