Oklahoma Cops Find A New Way To Take People’s Money, Even If They Don’t Have Cash
Where would police departments be without civil asset forfeiture, which allows them simply to take your cash and possessions if they want to, though sometimes by paying a lawyer and going to court you can recover some or all of your property. Nick Wing reports in the Huffington Post:
Oklahoma police agencies are being equipped with devices that allow officers to scan prepaid debit cards and target funds linked to them for civil asset forfeiture, which allows law enforcers to permanently seize property they suspect is connected to criminal activity.
The Oklahoma Department of Public Safety has purchased Electronic Recovery and Access to Data machines for installation in Oklahoma Highway Patrol and Oklahoma City police cruisers, according to an Oklahoma Watch report published Tuesday. The device tells officers the balance of prepaid debit cards and gift cards, and allows them to seize the money if they determine it’s suspicious. ERAD readers also can provide limited information about pretty much any card with a magnetic strip, including bank debit cards and credit cards.
Oklahoma has become a battleground in the debate over civil asset forfeiture reform in recent years, prompted by high-profile cases of cops using the practice to take cash and property from innocent people — often without charging them with a crime. Thanks to the new ERAD readers, police can now access people’s electronic funds as well.
Each ERAD reader is costing the state about $5,000, plus about $1,500 for training. The state has agreed to pay the manufacturer, ERAD Group, 7.7 percent of all funds forfeited with the readers.
Law enforcement officials in Oklahoma and elsewhere describe civil asset forfeiture as an important weapon against the drug trade, allowing them to target illicit proceeds that may not be in proximity to contraband. They say ERAD technology is a necessary tool to keep up with criminals who have begun putting money on prepaid cards in order to avoid having cash seized by police. . .
Civil asset forfeiture is, of course, also an important source of revenue to police departments. So far as fighting the drug trade, it’s often been observed that the police prefer to let drug shipments go through and then try to seize the money from the sale. Simply seizing drugs is not all that profitable, and many police departments are run to make a profit—cf. Ferguson MO until the DOJ stepped in.
Later in the article:
To avoid losing the money permanently, the owner would have to fight an expensive and time-consuming legal battle to prove the property wasn’t connected to criminal activity. In civil forfeiture proceedings, the legal principle of “innocent until proven guilty” is effectively inverted.
Read the whole thing. There’s plenty more.