Asset Forfeiture Occurs Against a Person After Being Convicted of a Criminal Offense
Video Transcribed: How does asset forfeiture work in Oklahoma? I’m an asset forfeiture attorney in Tulsa, James Wirth. We’ve handled a number of asset forfeiture cases. We actually handle quite a bit compared to the typical firm.
What happens in those cases is generally we see it as it relates to a traffic stop. So somebody gets pulled over for an alleged traffic violation. There are particular areas where we see this a lot where we think that the traffic violation they set up is one that’s commonly done. For instance, in Vinita at the Turnpike, very commonplace there.
There’s a spot where you have to move over as part of going through the Turnpike. They’ll allege there’s a failure to signal, even though there was no other way they could go so most people don’t signal there.
So we think that a lot of people there are targeted based on maybe having out-of-state tags, based on maybe looking like they have a rental car, or based on the race of the person. We see a lot of targeting of Asians at this time.
So based on that, there could be a traffic violation or there could be an alleged traffic violation based on the circumstances there that give them grounds to stop the vehicle. Then at that point, they can request an opportunity to search. If that’s denied, they may request a drug dog.
In any case, sometimes they just ask, “Do you have large sums of money in the vehicle that could be disclosed?” If they find large sums of money in the vehicle, they’re going to assume, or most of the time they’re going to say that that is related to the drug trade, and they will confiscate that money.
We’ve had many clients whose drugs were found, they were not arrested for any offense, but yet the drugs were taken anyway. Then from that point, they’ll get a receipt usually indicating that they took this money.
Sometimes in multiple cases, we have had it to where they said, “Look, we’re going to arrest you for the crime of acquiring drug proceeds if you don’t sign this waiver to the funds.” Then they’ll sign a waiver to the funds, and then they’ll be free to go. Then they retain an attorney, and we fight that later.
From that point, the state has a limited amount of time … For a typical asset forfeiture case in Oklahoma, it’s one year … They have one year to file in court and the lawsuit is filed against the property, alleging the property is guilty and therefore subject to forfeiture under Oklahoma Statute because of its ties to some alleged drug transaction or violation of the CDS Act in Oklahoma.
So they file that, and then as a claimant, you’ve got a specific amount of time, I believe it’s 45 days, to file an answer. We’ll often file a counterclaim as well and many times, because we don’t like waiting around for the State to file their forfeiture, we will file suit first for the return of that property. Then they can counterclaim for the forfeiture and then that can be litigated.
So it’s a civil case from that point that the normal civil rules apply to. Discovery can be done. Motions for summary judgment can be done. Normally that’s the way that we like to proceed. One benefit that we’re seeing to claimants now is that there is the possibility of prevailing party attorneys’ fees that didn’t exist before. In 2016 the law was amended, and if we’re successful in getting our client’s funds back, we can make a request that the State pays their attorney’s fees, and we’ve had that granted for us before.
So hopefully that answers your question regarding the procedure and how an asset forfeiture case works. Ultimately it can go to trial. A lot of cases get resolved on summary judgment, though. If you’ve got questions about a specific circumstance, then you’re going to want to talk to an attorney privately about that. To get that scheduled with somebody at my office, you can go online to makelaweasy.com.