The Oklahoma Highway Patrol recently began using card reader technology that allows them to seize money from pre-paid or gift cards without a warrant or arrest — a practice that has caused controversy across the state.
Card Readers Allow Troopers To Take Money, Check Balances, Freeze Accounts
With civil asset forfeiture policies in place, Oklahoma police are free to seize money if they suspect someone of criminal activity, even if they do not arrest the person. With the addition of 16 Electronic Recovery and Access to Data (ERAD) card readers, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol now has the ability to seize funds from pre-paid cards or from gift cards.
Not only can the card readers seize funds, but they can also check the balances on debit cards, credit cards, and gift cards. The ERAD devices can additionally be used to freeze funds to an electronic account.
Oklahoma Troopers say that the technology is designed to fight a growing fraud problem. They say that thieves are stealing credit or debit card information and loading it onto gift cards and that the ERAD card readers are just a tool in the fight against identity theft and fraud.
Troopers Promise To Give Money Back If You Can Prove It Is Yours
Further, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol promises that if they seize money that is really yours, they’ll return it: “If you can prove that you have a legitimate reason to have that money it will be given back to you.”
Senator, Florida Company, Object To Civil Asset Forfeiture Policy
Many say that the use of card reader technology goes too far. One Florida-based company that often sends employees to Oklahoma says that they’ll keep out of the state now because of the practice: “We simply cannot risk seizure of our employee’s and our company’s assets based upon the whims of an honorable, dedicated, and well-intentioned Oklahoma Highway Patrol officer.” He also points out that the average civil assets forfeiture in the state is $1200, which could be a crippling sum of money to take from someone who is struggling financially.
Oklahoma State Senator Kyle Loveless also opposes the policy and plans to introduce legislation to put a stop to civil asset forfeiture. He says, “Law enforcement will say this is used for identity theft, this is used for people who are using people’s identity. The problem I have with it is, you can still prove it without having to take people’s funds.”
Last year, Muskogee sheriff’s deputies wrongfully seized $58,000 from Burmese immigrant Eh Wah.
— Popular Science (@PopSci) June 9, 2016