An Oklahoma forfeiture story

Oklahoma is known as one of the more abusive states in the practice of civil asset forfeiture. In this astounding case, Muskogee County cops stopped a car for a broken tail light and questioned Burmese refugee Eh Wah, who was carrying $53,000 in cash following a charitable fundraising tour of 19 concerts given by the Christian rock band whose finances he managed. The county declared that it was seizing the money on suspicion that he must have been mixed up in the drug trade to have so much loose cash, even though no drugs were found, because a dog had alerted. After Dan Alban and others at the libertarian civil liberties law firm Institute For Justice raised a ruckus, with help from the Washington Post’s Christopher Ingraham, the local D.A. dropped the charges and returned the money to Mr. Wah. [Corie Stephens, Rare; Tulsa World (auto-plays)]


  • “Let it go Jake….It’s Oklahoma”

  • Reforming the statutes is all well and good, but short of eliminating civil forfeiture, I don’t see how it will help. Why should we expect raising the standard of proof of criminality to help if so many cases, such as this one, plainly do meet even the current low standard of preponderance of evidence? How will it help if courts are willing to accept the ridiculous inference from “dog alerts to car” to “cash was used by bearer in drug transaction”?

    Indeed, what bothers me most about these cases is that they seem to reflect a widespread culture of corruption among the police, prosecutors, and courts. Prosecutors and judges, at least, have a certain level of education and are selected in part on the basis of intelligence. Is it really plausible that so many of these people sincerely believe the absurd claims they swear to in civil forfeiture proceedings?