A state senator locked in battle against pro-law enforcement forces over reforming property seizure laws faces arrest over unpaid speeding tickets, a district attorney said Thursday.
However, State Senator Kyle Loveless says release of the records is political in nature and intended to undermine his efforts at reforming the state’s civil forfeiture laws, which allow police to seize property and money on the suspicion it was used in a crime, usually drug-related, without a trial.
Loveless, a Republican whose district covers parts of Oklahoma City, has served in the Senate since 2012.
“There was a warrant because of a missed speeding ticket,” Loveless told The Frontier. “I checked into it. They sent it to the wrong house, my old house. If you don’t get anything in the mail, you’re not going to pay it. It’s been taken care of. Everything is taken care of.”
Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater said the outstanding warrant surfaced after Loveless failed a routine background check before a ride-along with a city-county drug interdiction unit. Loveless requested to ride along with the unit during negotiations over the law.
“It came about quite innocently as we were trying to get him access to ride along with our interdiction unit to explain to him what’s really going on with these teams,” Prater said. “I can’t help the fact that he has no regard for the law and doesn’t pay his tickets and gets his license suspended. If he’s caught driving, he will go to jail. He also has an active municipal warrant from Oklahoma City.”
Prater said were Loveless to actually ride along with the interdiction officers, they would be required to arrest him.
“If he comes into contact with an Oklahoma City officer he will go to jail,” Prater said.
Loveless said the accusations by Prater come on the heels of a recently released poll by showing that 73.7 percent of those polled want state civil asset forfeiture laws reformed.
“It’s all B.S. He (Prater) is trying to throw me under the bus, and that’s fine,” Loveless said. “It still comes back to the issue of, should the government be able to take your stuff without proving it (is related to a crime)? The answer is ‘No,’ and three out of four Oklahomans agree with me.”
The online court records show Loveless has a $140 unpaid traffic fine dating to 2011 and that Loveless’ driver’s license was suspended in 2013 due to an unpaid speeding ticket. The senator received that ticket in Murray County for speeding 91 miles per hour in a 70-miles-per-hour zone. According to the records, his driver’s license was suspended after Dec. 23, 2013.
Loveless also had a previous conviction for driving under suspension from 2011, after an unpaid fine from 2010.
The municipal records from Oklahoma City show another unpaid traffic fine and bench warrant issued in 2011 resulting from a speeding citation issued on the Broadway Extension.
In an email released to The Frontier, Prater chided Loveless over the unpaid bills and arrest warrant.
“Due to the security issues surrounding criminal interdiction units, it is not uncommon to complete a security/ background check on anyone who will be present in our facility or riding with our officers,” Prater said. “This routine check resulted in the discovery of issues that make you ineligible to tour the COMIT facility or ride with our officers.”
The email lists the suspension, the outstanding warrant, as well as a wage garnishment judgment against Loveless over bills left unpaid by his campaign.
The email goes on to discuss negotiations between Prater, Loveless and Attorney General Scott Pruitt regarding the senator’s campaign to change forfeiture laws. Prater said he refuses to support Loveless’ proposed changes that would require a conviction before money could be forfeited by a suspect.
“The Oklahoma District Attorney’s Association has developed proposed statutory changes to the civil asset forfeiture provisions in our laws that address concerns voiced by those advocating ‘reform’ to the process,” the email states.
“Purposefully omitted from those proposals is any reference to a required criminal conviction. Unless you are willing to remove that mandate from your proposed legislation, the really is no need to discuss further.”
Loveless said the timing of the information is curious, as Prater was the person who invited him to conduct a ride-along with the narcotics unit in the first place — a fact confirmed by Prater.
“He is the one who invited me to come view his stuff, then uninvited me, because of an unpaid speeding ticket,” Loveless said.
Civil asset forfeiture is a legal process that allows law enforcement to seize property, including cars, houses, boats, firearms, and other possessions, as well as cash, if police allege that the property or cash was involved in certain kinds of crimes, usually drug trafficking.
The property or cash is usually forfeited without a trial, and in many cases, the accused are never charged with a crime. Millions of dollars in cash and assets have been seized in Oklahoma by many law enforcement agencies.
Loveless and a number of groups, both conservative and progressive, have decried the practice. In 2015, Loveless drafted a bill for the senate, but it was blocked by pro-law-enforcement legislators from coming to a vote.