Police in Oklahoma are now able to seize money from motorists even if they don’t have physical cash on them – and even if those people are merely suspected of a crime.
Using a new device called an ERAD, or Electronic Recovery and Access to Data machine, Oklahoma Highway Patrol officers can now swipe debit or prepaid cards if they suspect a driver of obtaining money contained in their bank accounts illegally.
Officers say they’re instituting new procedures to assess peculiar behavior, and may conduct roadside interrogations to spot motorists who may have to fork over their bank funds.
“We’re gonna look for different factors in the way that you’re acting,” Oklahoma Highway Patrol Lt. John Vincent told Oklahoma News9.com. “We’re gonna look for if there’s a difference in your story. If there’s someway that we can prove that you’re falsifying information to us about your business.”
If drivers can prove, to an officer’s satisfaction, that the cash is legally theirs, they can keep their money.
“If you can prove that you have a legitimate reason to have that money it will be given back to you. And we’ve done that in the past,” Lt. Vincent said.
All of this without an arrest, charge or warrant – an unconstitutional procedure that strips citizens of due process and civil rights, says Oklahoma Senator Kyle Loveless.
“We’ve seen single mom’s stuff be taken, a cancer survivor his drugs taken, we saw a Christian band being taken. We’ve seen innocent people’s stuff being taken. We’ve seen where the money goes and how it’s been misspent,” Loveless warned.
“If I had to err on the side of one side versus the other, I would err on the side of the Constitution,” Loveless said. “And I think that’s what we need to do.”
For those concerned about privacy, there’s more to worry about, as the contract between the Oklahoma Highway Patrol and ERAD Group Inc. puts device data security square in the hands of the agency.
The readers cost taxpayers an initial fee of $5,000 plus $1,600 for hardware, and the ERAD company gets 7.7 percent of all revenue forfeited from motorists.
ACLU Oklhoma Director Brady Henderson says the technology marks the start of a dangerous new trend which makes officers judge and jury.
“You have effectively a way of instantly seizing a digital account from a traffic stop,” Henderson said, according to OklahomaWatch.org. “That’s a capability I have never seen before.”
“I think this is likely to expand pretty radically the scope of civil asset forfeiture procedures,” Henderson stated. “This is a capability that law enforcement has never had before and one that is very likely to land DPS in litigation.”