The Oklahoma Highway Patrol (OHP) has taken civil asset forfeiture to a new level by using a device that enables officers to seize all funds directly from people's bank accounts (video below).
Under civil asset forfeiture, law enforcement can seize someone's money and property without proving that a person has committed a crime if law enforcement suspects that someone's assets are tied to a crime; no warrant or arrest is required.
According to KWTV, OHP uses 16 Electronic Recovery and Access to Data (ERAD) machines to scan bank cards and immediately seize money from a person's account.
Someone could be left financially destitute, and might have to hire a lawyer to go to court to get their money back.
"We're gonna look for different factors in the way that you're acting," OHP Lt. John Vincent told the news station. "We're gonna look for if there's a difference in your story. If there's some way that we can prove that you're falsifying information to us about your business."
However, OHP doesn't actually have to prove anything, but merely suspect that the money is tied to a crime of some sort.
"I know that a lot of people are just going to focus on the seizing money," Vincent added. "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."
Republican state Sen. Kyle Loveless believes that amounts to guilty until proven innocent and violates the due process of law.
"We've seen a single mom's stuff being taken, a cancer survivor, his drugs taken, we saw a Christian band being taken," Loveless stated. "We've seen innocent people's stuff taken. We've seen where the money goes and how it's been misspent."
Loveless is going to introduce a bill that would require law enforcement to get convictions before seizing people's assets.
"If I were to err on the side of one side versus the other, I would err on the side of the Constitution," Loveless added. "And I think that's what we need to do."
KWTV notes that a contract between the state of Oklahoma and the ERAD Group Inc. includes a $5,000 payment to ERAD for the card scanners and software, plus 7.7 percent of the cash seized by law enforcement.
Conservative billionaire Charles Koch and the American Civil Liberties Union teamed up in 2015 to stop civil forfeiture, according to The Associated Press.
Koch and the ACLU are hoping to get a federal law passed that is similar to New Mexico's law, which requires a criminal conviction before civil forfeiture; Minnesota and Montana already have these types of laws in place.
"You know something’s a good idea if everyone except law enforcement agencies that are profiting from these programs believes this is a good idea," Steven Robert Allen, a policy director for ACLU in New Mexico, said at the time.