OKLAHOMA CITY-There’s a lot of controversy surrounding a new way to enforce civil asset forfeiture.
That’s where police can seize your money or property, typically along the highway, if they suspect it’s tied to a crime.
Now, new technology the Highway Patrol is using has an out of state company saying they won’t drive through Oklahoma.
Troopers say they only use it on gift cards or pre-paid debit cards and they can’t seize money directly from your bank account.
Oklahoma Highway Patrol says it’s a growing problem: thieves taking other people’s debit or credit card information and loading it onto a gift card. All it takes is a card with a magnetic strip.
Their new machine is supposed to detect the fraud.
“Say for instance, look at the number on the back of this card. We swipe the card. The numbers on this card should come back to this card. If they don’t, we realize you’re dealing with someone who has taken someone’s identity,” Capt. Paul Timmons said.
Some aren’t buying it.
Senator Kyle Loveless thinks this new technology is simply a new way to seize people’s property, otherwise known as civil asset forfeiture
“Law enforcement will say this is used for identity theft, this is used for people who are using people’s identity. The problem I have with it is, you can still prove it without having to take people’s funds,” Sen. Loveless said.
Word of the new machines has spread into the business community.
This letter from a manufacturing company in Florida that routinely sends employees through Oklahoma says they won’t anymore, claiming, “we simply cannot risk seizure of our employee’s and our company’s assets based upon the whims of an honorable, dedicated, and well-intentioned Oklahoma Highway Patrol officer.”
“The average forfeiture in Oklahoma is 1200 dollars. You’re a single mom, you get pulled over, they drain your funds. How are you supposed to pay for your rent, your mortgage, your car payment, gas, and then go get an attorney to fight it?” Sen. Loveless said.
Troopers say that won’t happen.
“Who carries around 300 cards like this at one time unless they’er involved in some type of illegal activity,” Capt. Timmons says, “As far as anything that deals with banking information, that’s all protected information. We don’t have the ability to get that, even with a warrant.”
If troopers seize a gift card, the money stays frozen for seven days, and if the owner proves it’s theirs, OHP will give it back.
The state paid about $5,000 per scanner, and OHP is currently using more than a dozen.