The Oklahoma Highway Patrol has found a new way to increase the reach of civil asset forfeiture. Using a device called electronic recovery and access to data (ERAD) the OHP can swipe your debit cards and prepaid cards and seize all the money that is tied to those accounts.
As with other civil asset forfeiture cases, law enforcement can do this without finding evidence, filing charges, or officially arresting you. The only justification they need to take all the cash in your wallet and all the money in your checking account is a suspicion that your money is somehow connected to a crime.
Once your money or property has been seized, it’s up to you to prove that you’re not a criminal. You have to go to court, you have to pay for a lawyer, you have to find a way to pay for everything while being dragged through court. Meanwhile, the state holds your money and will eventually spend it if you can’t prove you’re not a criminal.
OHP started using the ERAD last month, paying $5,000 for the scanners. The manufacturer of the scanner also gets 7.7% of all cash seized using the devices.
Lieutenant John Vincent of OHP defended this tactic in a recent interview.
“A lot of people are just going to focus on the seizing money, that’s a very small thing that’s happening right now. The largest part, the biggest benefit we have found is the identity theft. If you can prove you have a legitimate reason for having that money, it will be given back to you.”
While this new tool probably will help law enforcement stop a few cases of identity theft here and there, it’s also terrifying that anyone can have their bank accounts drained based solely on suspicion.
If you’ve been victimized by civil asset forfeiture you need to find a lawyer fast. As an Oklahoma City civil asset forfeiture lawyer, we know what it takes to go toe to toe with the state.