The Oklahoma Department of Public Safety has purchased several devices capable of seizing funds loaded on prepaid debit cards. These devices will be in law enforcement vehicles, and enable troopers to freeze, seize, and return stolen cards.
Troopers hope that these scanners will be useful in roadside seizures of suspected drug-trafficking proceeds.The scanners would also be capable of retrieving and storing limited account information from other cards as well, such as banking debit cards, credit cards and “payment account information from virtually any magnetic stripe card”. Law officers would be able to seize money from the financial institution which issued the prepaid debit card. That data, along with any accompanying notes, would then be saved in a case management database for future use.
The scanners are from a Texas-based company, Electronic Recovery and Access to Data or ERAD. A contract was signed by the ERAD group and the state of Oklahoma. The Oklahoma Department of Public Safety will pay a one-time $5,000 implementation charge and a $1,500 training charge for the devices. ERAD Group will also receive a 7.7% cut of all funds seized via the card readers.
This latest purchase is part of an ongoing national debate over civil asset forfeiture. State and federal laws allow law enforcement agencies to seize property and cash believed to be involved in the illicit drug trade and then take ownership of the assets through a civil-court action. Police officers insist that drug dealers are using prepaid cards instead of cash. And they believe that these scanners are essential in their war against drug trafficking.
Others argue that the process violates individuals’ property and civil liberties. Innocent people could potentially have their money seized without being arrested or charged. Brady Henderson, legal director for ACLU Oklahoma, stated, “This is a capability that law enforcement has never had before and one that is very likely to land DPS in litigation.” T. Jack Williams, ERAD Group insists that that because prepaid cards are treated like currency, they can be seized like currency. The debate is ongoing and will likely result in several court cases.