Civil asset forfeiture allows the police to question you during a traffic stop or other encounter, and if they suspect you of breaking the law such as dealing drugs, they can seize any cash or property that you have on your person, even if they do not arrest you or cannot prove their suspicion. The policy was presumably created to threaten the incentive for dealing drugs, but it invites such huge opportunities for abuse that it is astonishing that it was ever approved. And even if no legal action is appropriate or taken such as charging someone with a crime, it is almost impossible to get the cash or property back once the police have taken it. It is out and out theft, and now there is a new twist to the game.
As if civil asset forfeiture, where police can seize your property without having to prove you actually committed a crime, wasn’t contentious enough already, a new device allows the Oklahoma Highway Patrol to steal money directly from your bank account — on the spot.
The Electronic Recovery and Access to Data Machine, known by the acronym ERAD, can scan your bank account and prepaid cards, giving OHP instant access to the balance — and the funds — if a trooper believes the money is tied to a crime. OHP rolled out 16 ERAD devices in May, and unsurprisingly, has already employed the technology.
You don’t even have to be charged with a crime to be a victim of these badge-wearing armed robbers — which makes OHP’s new ERAD device an astonishing prospect.
“We’re gonna look for different factors in the way that you’re acting,” Oklahoma Highway Patrol Lt. John Vincent told local News 9. “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.”
What Vincent seems to be saying is OHP will try its damnedest to find a reason to rob you at gunpoint.
“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,” Vincent added.
This reasoning turns the very concept of innocent until proven guilty on its head. And State Sen. Kyle Loveless said cases where police abused this new system have already come to light, including single mothers, a cancer survivor who had their medication seized, a Christian band, and a number of other completely innocent people.
But law enforcement obstinately claims this isn’t about the money.
“I know a lot of people are just going to focus on the seizing money,” Vincent stated the obvious. “That’s a small thing that’s happening now. The largest part that we have found … the biggest benefit has been the identity theft,” he added without further explanation.
Countless cases dot headlines around the country evidence thousands of innocent people as victims of this financial terrorism perpetrated by the government. Police even managed to ‘seize’ $53,000 from a Christian band, an orphanage, and a church.
How in the world are people going to trust the police if they are as bad or worse than the criminals? Respect for the police is the foundation to their having the moral authority to maintain civic peace and control, and that authority will be gone once the public realizes that the good guys are now the bad guys. There are ample cases of how civil asset forfeiture has been abused.
A student returning to the University of Florida after visiting family in Ohio carried his life savings of $11,000 in his luggage on the airplane. A ticketing agent told airport police his luggage smelled like marijuana, and the police found the cash and confiscated it. No drugs were found, no arrest was made, but the police refuse to return his money. He is now wasting money on an attorney to try and regain what is his.
In 2012, an Illinois couple was driving to Utah to see a medical specialist and was pulled over for speeding. The officer claimed that a duffel bag in their car smelled of marijuana, searched it, and found it was stuffed with $107,000. Nothing else suspicious was found, and they were not charged or arrested for anything, but the officer seized the cash, and they have been trying to recover the money ever since.
The scourge of drugs in this nation is terrible, but the idea that police can seize and keep property and cash of citizens based on a suspicion of drug dealing is outrageous and corrupt and must stop. And police should not be surprised if citizens, recognizing piracy for what it is, begin to fight back and to react exactly as they would if a thief came and tried to rob them. And that is exactly what the civil asset forfeiture program is, it turns police into ordinary thieves, and police departments into mafia type crime gangs. The question is whether there is a legislator honest enough to take on the police unions and the greedy police departments looking to line their pockets with their ill-gotten gains.