People Avoid Oklahoma After Highway Patrol Reveals Device That Can Seize Money From Cards During Traffic Stop

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol revealed a new device that can seize money during traffic stops. The device is capable of seizing funds from prepaid debit cards before a person is ever convicted of a crime thanks to civil asset forfeiture laws. For the Oklahoma Highway Patrol to seize the funds, they only need to suspect that the person is engaging in a crime and using the money from the cards. Therefore, some businesses and travelers say they will avoid Oklahoma to ensure that their money is not seized without due process.

News 9 reports that the Oklahoma Highway Patrol has invested in new technology that allows officers to seize funds from prepaid debit cards during traffic stops. The seizure is legal if the police believe the person is engaging in a crime and utilizing the funds for the illegal activities. The civil asset forfeiture laws are controversial as they allow police to seize property and cash without first proving a person committed a crime. This seizure can take place without a warrant and without arresting the suspect, as long as the officer suspects that the property is somehow tied to a crime.

The new technology used by the OHP is called ERAD, or Electronic Recovery and Access to Data machine. The OHP currently has 16 of the devices in their possession and began officially using them last month. The OHP has not revealed how many funds have been seized since the ERADs were put into operation, but many fear that the devices could be used inappropriately and cause unnecessary hardship to an individual that is later found not guilty of a crime.

This is a risk that many businesses and individuals that use prepaid debit cards are not willing to take. With police only needing suspicion to seize the funds from the prepaid cards, some businesses and travelers say they will avoid traveling through Oklahoma until the devices are discontinued. Oklahoma Watch reports that Peak Power & Mfg., which designs, builds and installs automated manufacturing equipment, has banned its employees from traveling through Oklahoma while on business as the company does not want to put their business cards at risk of seizure by a “well-intentioned” officer.

“We simply cannot risk seizure of our employees’ and our company’s assets based upon the whims of an honorable, dedicated, and well-intentioned Oklahoma Highway Patrol Officer. We look forward to the time when the state of Oklahoma discontinues this practice that we may remove our travel ban.”

Laura Phares-Wilson, a Colorado alternative radio program host, also says she will not travel to Oklahoma until the devices are taken out of service. Phares-Wilson notes that with Colorado plates she is more likely to be pulled over in Oklahoma as Colorado allows for recreational marijuana use. Therefore, officers in Oklahoma are more likely to pull over someone with Colorado tags to search for the contraband plant. In fact, Laura says that her family cancelled a planned trip to Oklahoma due to the new devices as the family uses prepaid cards for travel as they prefer not to carry cash.

“In a Colorado car, the chances of getting pulled over are very, very likely. Can you just imagine us being pulled over and seizing our car and all our money and stranding us 700 miles from home? If there’s any chance of anything like that happening, we’re just not going to go.”

Though many are concerned about the use of the devices and seizure of money from individuals who have not been convicted of a crime or had a chance to appear in court, Oklahoma Highway Patrol Lt. John Vincent says it isn’t about money.

“I know that a lot of people are just going to focus on the seizing money. That’s a very small thing that’s happening now. The largest part that we have found… the biggest benefit has been the identity theft. 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.”

However, State Sen. Kyle Loveless says the device circumvents the legal system by taking money from an individual before they ever see a day in court. In fact, he says there have already been disturbing cases in which innocent people’s stuff was taken without due process.

“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.”

What do you think about the controversial device that can seize funds from prepaid debit cards? Will you avoid traveling through Oklahoma due to the use of the device?

[Image via Shutterstock]

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