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Chicken-Fried News: Expensive jokes

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Do not hide $50,000 in your friend’s car as a prank.

Sure, it’s a classic joke. Everybody has a couple hundred grand lying around, just waiting for a great hidden money gag to present itself, but Oklahoma’s law enforcement community might not be in on the fun.

It turns out our state’s forfeiture laws — the ones that say state and local law enforcement officers can seize money or property if they even think it’s involved in a crime, even if they never file a charge — are ripe for misuse.

Recent investigations by Oklahoma Watch and NPR found seized money has been used to pay off college loans for an assistant district attorney, a seized home was used as a rent-free residence by another assistant DA and there were more than another dozen cases in which guns, money and property taken in forfeiture was lost or went unreported.

District attorneys and law enforcement agencies are appalled at the insinuation that they might be tempted to just go after people’s money and possessions just because they’re allowed, with almost no regulation, to take people’s money and possessions. If there’s one thing we know about power is that it absolutely does not corrupt anybody at all ever.

State Sen. Kyle Loveless, R-Oklahoma City, wants to amend the law to require criminal charges after any asset forfeiture (which the U.S. Department of Justice did already this year), but he’s getting a lot of pushback from people who don’t want to make it any harder for them to take money.

Here’s a hypothetical list of things state and local cops can take from you if they think (or say they think) it’s involved in a crime:

• Money

• A calendar with cute kittens on it

• Your prized “Who farted?” T-shirt

• George Washington’s femur

• A 1997 Hyundai Elantra

So until this gets sorted out, Gazette staff recommends you go back to other classic pranks, like short-sheeting the bed or pretending to love someone.

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