Chicken-Fried News: Discredit cards

News that state highway patrol officers are now equipped with devices allowing them to glean some information from bank and credit cards and seize funds from prepaid cards was met with widespread criticism.

Several major media outlets reported on the purchase of the card readers by the Department of Public Safety (DPS), some suggesting officers could use the devices to seize money from personal accounts. According to Oklahoma Watch, department officials said in a June 13 news conference that some information being spread about the readers was inaccurate.

Oklahoma Highway Patrol Chief Ricky Adams said the readers are only capable of freezing or removing funds from prepaid gift and credit cards, not personal bank accounts. Officers do not need a warrant to make a seizure, just probable cause that the funds are tied to criminal activity.

Oklahoma Watch said the device vendor gets a 7.7 percent cut of seizures made.

Use of the readers was temporarily suspended until DPS Commissioner Michael Thompson has the opportunity to learn more about the technology. The commissioner has said the department will likely continue to use the device in the future.

Asset forfeiture is by no means a new concept. Police forces in the state and around the country have long been seizing drugs and cash believed to be tied to criminal activity.

A bill by Sen. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, allowing those who have had their funds unjustly seized to recover attorney fees from the state, was signed into law in April.

Print headline: Discredit cards