One of the most egregious attacks on civil liberties and individual freedom in the United States has been the explosion in the use “civil asset forfeiture” to allow police forces to seize personal property on a whim and divert that personal property to the use of the organization that has seized it. For government at all levels it is a winner. They can fund law enforcement without having to raise taxes. Of course, at some point, it becomes a self-licking ice cream cone where law enforcement basically has to seize assets in order to sustain its own structure that was built on asset forfeiture. (RedState commentary on the subject.)
The system is rife with abuses where law abiding citizens are essentially jacked up by law enforcement for the sole reason of stealing their money with no criminal arrest or indictment ever made in the case. And, naturally, once they get your stuff the odds of getting it back approach zero.Not satisfied with taking your house or car or loose cash or anything else that isn’t nailed down, some police forces now are moving to seize money from bank accounts:
Via the Washington Post:
But the Oklahoma state police are now using some new technology that could make that advice obsolete.
The Oklahoma Highway Patrol has a device that also allows them to seize money in your bank account or on prepaid cards.
It’s called an ERAD, or Electronic Recovery and Access to Data machine, and state police began using 16 of them last month.
Here’s how it works. If a trooper suspects you may have money tied to some type of crime, the highway patrol can scan any cards you have and seize the money.
“We’re gonna look for different factors in the way that you’re acting,” Oklahoma Highway Patrol Lt. John Vincent said. “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.”
Troopers insist this isn’t just about seizing cash.
“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,” Vincent said.
“If you can prove 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,” Vincent said about any money seized.
Since we’re talking about prepaid cards, I’m not sure how this is going to help fight identity theft. Unlike a regular credit card, a prepaid card can be used only if someone adds money to it. Maybe I’m overlooking something, but I just don’t see any advantage to using someone’s identity to obtain a prepaid card unless the thief also has access to the victim’s banking account. But if a thief has access to your bank account, I’m not sure why he’d go to the trouble of then obtaining a prepaid card and filling it with your money.
There is some evidence that some criminals are moving to prepaid cards as alternative to cash. But a lot of low-income people and people with bad credit use prepaid cards, too. Not coincidentally, they’re also more likely to be pulled over and more likely to be suspected of using or selling illicit drugs. Wealthier people with conventional credit cards don’t have to worry about this new technology.
The even scarier question here is whether this technology can also seize money in accounts that are tied to check cards or secured credit cards.
Lest you think this is about law enforcement, think again. This is a joint, profit-making venture between the Oklahoma State Police and the equipment manufacturer:
News 9 obtained a copy of the contract with the state.
It shows the state is paying ERAD Group Inc., $5,000 for the software and scanners, then 7.7 percent of all the cash forfeited through the courts to the highway patrol.
There is no place for civil asset forfeiture in a free society. It is an unmitigated evil that can only produce evil outcomes. It encourages police forces to focus on seizing property to sustain themselves at the expense of acting as an force dedicated, oddly enough, to law enforcement. It falls most heavily on those people unable to defend themselves. If property has been used in commission of a crime or represents the proceeds of a crime, there are means of seizing it when the individual is convicted and the sentence includes a fine or restitution.
Putting the contents of your bank account up for seizure without probable cause or even reasonable suspicion is simply wrong.