Civil Asset Forfeiture Moves to Gift Cards. (Note to Self: Don’t MS in Oklahoma)

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Civil Asset Forfeiture Oklahoma
Imagine how this would look. Yes I bought all of these cards in one day a few years ago!

Civil Asset Forfeiture Oklahoma

Miles to Memories reader Ninja X sent me a link to a Huffington Post article that is quite disturbing. Over the past few years there have been numerous stories about police abusing Civil Asset Forfeiture. Basically, if they suspect you of committing a crime they can take any money you have on you and seize it. People have sometimes had to fight for years to get their money back, even if they aren’t charged with a crime.

Now, it seems that Civil Asset Forfeiture is moving towards prepaid cards. So let’s say you just went to your favorite local mall and bought $10K in Visa gift cards. How would it work?

Oklahoma police agencies are being equipped with devices that allow officers to scan prepaid debit cards and target funds linked to them for civil asset forfeiture, which allows law enforcers to permanently seize property they suspect is connected to criminal activity.

But this doesn’t seem to be limited to only prepaid cards. These readers give the officers much more information.

The device tells officers the balance of prepaid debit cards and gift cards, and allows them to seize the money if they determine it’s suspicious. ERAD readers also can provide limited information about pretty much any card with a magnetic strip, including bank debit cards and credit cards.

Perhaps what is most disturbing to me is the fact that the state is paying ERAD, the company who makes the machines a commission!

Each ERAD reader is costing the state about $5,000, plus about $1,500 for training. The state has agreed to pay the manufacturer, ERAD Group, 7.7 percent of all funds forfeited with the readers.

The article is very interesting and goes on to imply that the presence of prepaid debit cards may be enough to warrant the forfeiture of said cards. So let’s go back to my previous example. You leave the mall with 20 X $500 Visa gift cards and are then pulled over. The officer sees these gift cards and suspects they are suspicious. He then scans them, takes them and ERAD makes a nice $770 commission.

Civil Asset Forfeiture is meant to combat criminal activities, but there are enough cases of the power being abused that this news is very disturbing to me. There have been many times when I have been going around the city with tons of cards and I can only imagine how that might look. Giving officers the ability to simply take the money seems a step too far.

You can find the full Huffington Post article here. It is quite a good read. So what do you think about this new technological revolution? Is it good for officers to have this power to stop crime or are you afraid it will be abused?


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37 COMMENTS

  1. I’m sure if you’re a redneck with bumper stickers denouncing abortions and evolution, they won’t say a word πŸ™‚

    • actually, in Oklahoma, not Arizona, what does it matter? ;-(

      In the most infamous case afoot, the targets were a Christian Rock Band…. though to the racists folks running Oklahoma (I used to live there — even have my first degree from ORU)….., the fact that the hapless victims were of Burmese heritage meant they surely was guilty of sumtin’…. madness. (and all too d*mn typical of what’s left of the bible belt mind-set after 9/11, the rise of faux news as “the new gospel.” the guv’mnt is presumed to be always right…. and any of us daring to mention civil liberties gets condemned as “having sumtin to hide” — or an obvious alien in need of deportation. Such is what’s left of the America that the koch brothers destroyed…. and now, ya he’uh, they’s a calling for a “unity.” (what a crock)

  2. CAF is a bad program cause it is really completely up to the officer’s discretion and if they take property you essentially can’t get it back since the legal costs would be more than the value of the property seized. it is terrible to say but if you are an educated white person from the local area, you are probably in good shape. You are much more likely to fall victim to this if you are a minority or from out of state traveling on a highway.

  3. Great write up. Nice work man.

    This post actually ties in very well with a prior MtM post on Manufactured Spend & Money Orders.
    http://milestomemories.boardingarea.com/money-orders-manufactured-spend

    Civil Asset Forfeiture Abuse needs to STOP. We really need to fight this and get a petition out for every state. Total BS. Of course, it doesnt help when criminals are also reading these blogs and understand how to MS because MS definitely overlaps with money laundering techniques.

      • Concur, thanks Tsai for posting — I hadn’t seen this before. (from 2 years ago — will hold or teaching — part of the reason Oliver is the best “news man” goin.) Astounding that this hasn’t risen to the level of a national issue….. liked the ending suggestion too, re. Hollywood. (alas, they’re being too supplicant fightin’ the war on terror — and so the police always get a free pass…. and to hell with little things like the 4th Amendment get ignored. (to the average faux head drinkin’ the NRA soma, the only thing that matters is that the police patrol doesn’t seize yer guns…. but if you gots gift cards, book ’em Danno.

  4. So be smart about it. Don’t make a spectacle of yourself. Put them in your glovebox or trunk. Know your rights. If they don’t see $10k of cards lying on your seat, what is there suspicion going to be? Make them get a warrant to open the glove box or trunk. Voila – no issues! (or at least a LOT lower liklihood while transporting).

    I think you’re much more likely to run into issues when actually trying to cash these or use them at a cashier (who takes it upon him or herself to get suspicious and call the cops) vs. transporting them.

    But know your rights, be smart and don’t flaunt it … can’t imagine this being a huge issue. That said, CAF is wrong and should be eliminated ASAP….

    • Hehe u must not deal with officers much. If ur being stopped by police they can find any excuse to search u. They can easily find a receipt for $500 GC in ur pocket or wallet or in car or they might find a receipt in wallet. They might find used GC packaging in car. They can say ur acting nervous or that u smell like drugs even if u dont. All of these things could lead to a further search, and if you think a trunk or glove compartment will keep them out good luck with that. Sure it may be illegal search but who is gonna stop them? Once they find ur GCs they can be scanned and now ur out of luck. Sure you can sue cuz all this is illegal but how long will that take and cost? How long will ur money b in limbo costing u interest while u try and fight this? I think we have all seen the video where officers pull up to scene and shoot a boy within 3 seconds of getting out of car cuz he had a toy gun in hand. If they can do that and get away with it what makes u think not acting a spectacle will guarantee ur civil rights won’t be violate? Wishful thinking

  5. This is what happens when you leave things in plain sight and some nosy cop wants to be a hero.

    I agree with others, CAF needs to stop. I’ve read cases of people having large sums of money on them as they go through an airport and the cops just seize the cash and there’s nothing you can do about it. Some of our police force is turning into the gestapo.

  6. It’s effing outrageous that they allow the police to seize and keep assets only based on suspicion, regardless of what, or who’s assets they may be.. That the Supreme Court hasn’t struck down this massively abused practice that incentivizes police to seize assets without proving it in court is simply boggling.

  7. Civil Forfeiture, as it exists today, needs to be stopped… Immediately. I don’t see how it’s possibly constitutional.

    The original intent was to target illicit drug money. Much like anything in government, it gets abused, just like how 9/11 gets flogged for every new spending project DHS/TSA/FBI/NSA want.

    If there is evidence of a crime (separate from financial instruments), THEN a SEIZURE in connection with the crime could be made. Thus, the onus is on the prosecutor to prove that the crime was indeed occurring AND the financial instruments were part of said crime. If they fail to produce, then the assets should be returned.

  8. put your tinfoil hats back on, nobody is coming for your guns or gift cards. Just because they can seize funds, doesn’t mean they keep them. They still have to go to court and prove they have reason, like you are a drug dealer and use it to launder money. If you are doing MS, it is not illegal and you will get your funds back. This is decided by a judge and not some greedy cop looking for free money….a good lawyer can even get you interest on your money if it was wrongfully seized.

  9. Oh good grief. This is much ado about nothing. I’m actually married to a civil asset forfeiture attorney in the civil division of a district attorney’s office. I would just like to ask the people that think that CAF should stop, then they think that drug dealers should be able to keep revenue from their criminal activity? Tens of thousands of dollars found along side heroin, meth, dope notes, scales, and other obvious signs of dealing??? That needs to just go back to the criminal? Of course it shouldn’t. Their fancy cars and jewelry should just be stored and returned to them whenever they bond out of jail? Or better yet, they should be able to use the drug money to bond out and hire an attorney. Of course, they worked HARD for that money. Why should the government STEAL IT from them.

    There are abuses in CAF just like there are abuses in absolutely EVERYTHING but It’s few and far between. If a police officer lied to get a search warrant, then we shouldn’t allow search warrants, right? That’s what some of you are saying.

    I’ll bet you that there is at least one police agency in EVERY metro area that has these readers and it’s only going to become more common. I know of one where I live. Law enforcement has to be able to keep up with the technology of the criminals and this is the wave of the future.

    This Huff Post article is a perfect example of why I never read Huff Post articles. It’s sensational and lacks substance.

    • So, we should forget about being assumed innocent until proven guilty in court? Let’s just let the cops and district attorneys decide who is guilty, take their ill gotten gains, and make them sue to prove they are innocent to get it back. Few will do it because they cannot afford to pay a lawyer. I can see that this is so much more efficient than having to bring criminal charges. No one who is not a criminal could object to this idea.

    • Lindy, does it hurt when you think? Surely your mental issues are congenital.

      The issue isn’t letting criminals keep their ill-gotten gains. The issue is that these issues need to be decided with due process before a judge and not some two-bit, trigger-pumping moron like your husband and / or the police.

      Stop lying. The reason you don’t read Huff is because you have literacy issues.

  10. They are decided before a judge, JC. This isn’t something that occurs without due process. Where do you people get your information? Oh yeah, the Huffington Post,…such a non-biased and well- researched source.
    I do not know of ONE civil forfeiture in my county that didn’t not have a criminal case related to it. NOT ONE. And because they are all tied to a criminal case, all the defendants have lawyers.
    And before you start to insult my intelligence again, I should let you know that I am a criminal attorney and have been for over 16 years.

  11. How do you know when a lawyer is lying? When their lips are moving.

    You should tell the two federal circuit courts of appeals that have decided civil forfeiture cases that they were wrong. And tell the US Attorneys that have litigated civil forfeiture cases that they need to go back and make sure the property owners get another chance with a criminal defense attorney’s assistance. Oh, order the White House to toe the line and not prohibit federal agencies from participation in the myriad of cases states get involved with where there is no defendant.

    I think you are pretending to be a lawyer. Don’t you know that is illegal?

  12. You didn’t address one thing that I stated and it’s because your arguments are nonsensical and you’re bouncing back and forth between the federal system and the state. The topic is state asset forfeitures, or do you not know the difference? I don’t pretend to know much about federal forfeitures and what I do know, I do not like. I have very little respect for The AGs office in general. All my dealing with them have been cumbersome and, like dealing with you, nonsensical.

    Why do you think I’m not really a lawyer? Is it because I’m a woman? I assure you that I attended an accredited law school, passed the bar and am a licensed attorney in good standing with the State Bar of Texas.

    Why would I lie about being a lawyer? Everybody hates lawyers (lol). I’ve been employed by a DA’s office for 16 years. What this experience has given me is the knowledge to know what is inherently unfair in our justice system and what works well. The justice system is far from perfect but this CAF stuff is manufactured hysteria much like the bathroom controversy going on right now.

    Go ahead, JC, google stuff and regurgitate it here and keep thinking you sound intelligent. And keep hurling your lame insults. It’s you who looks bad, not me. I will not respond to any more of your comments.
    Goodbye.

  13. Lindy, your lying must be congenital. You just make up your drivel as you type, right?

    Tell us about the standard used in Texas to decide whether the asset is forfeited. Try to convince us that “preponderance of the evidence” is a joke and that the property owner has to go to court, incur legal fees most likely, and then the judge decides based on which is the most likely story.

    Tell us why Don Willett and two of his fellow Texas Supreme Court justices write that Texas civil asset forfeiture is widely abused in Texas. By a preponderance of the evidence, it’s much more likely that the dunce is you and not three State Supreme Court justices.

    What about the TX State Office of Court Administration? Enlighten us why they say civil asset forfeiture in Texas is horrendous. Come on faux attorney, Lindy. Tell us.

    You don’t like Huff Post. Ok, fair enough. What about the ACLU, Texas / Dallas Observer, Dallas News or Forbes? They paint you as a flaming myopic moron, too.

    Tell us how nearly 20% of every law enforcement / DA budget is comprised of money “stolen” in civil assert forfeiture. Cops and DAs don’t push the envelope and you are still driving that Ford Pinto instead of the BMW you stolen.

    You are pathetic.

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