Police officers are using a new technology, called ERAD machines, to siphon funds directly from drivers' pre-paid cards in the course of ordinary traffic stops.
The tactic, which cops have deployed for months in states like Oklahoma, is a new twist in "civil forfeiture," a controversial legal process that lets police seize funds from motorists if they suspect money is tied to a drug crime. Critics, however, liken the practice to banditry—noting the police use forfeiture to pay themselves, and that citizens must take extraordinary legal measures to get their money back.
The controversy over civil forfeiture soared to national attention in 2013, in part thanks to a scorching New Yorker article called "Taken" that described how certain police departments are effectively using traffic stops to rob citizens of cash. Comedian John Oliver also took up the subject in a widely-watched 2014 episode of Last Week Tonight.
Most of the incidents arise in so-called "forfeiture corridors" in states like Texas and Pennsylvania, where police officers confiscate cash from motorists, even though many of them were using the cash for legitimate small businesses or personal matters.
Typically, the police do not even bother filing a criminal drug charge, but instead just bring a forfeiture case to keep the cash. In the event the motorist who once held the cash wants to recover it, he or she is required to intervene in the case, the time and cost of retaining an attorney and attending court is often not a viable option. The cops win almost every time.
Even though the article states they don't hit cards with actual bank accounts it's only a matter of time before they do. The door has already been opened. What concerns me even more is other criminal elements getting their hands on this technology. I bet they're drooling for it. It's conceivable a resourceful hacker could augment the machine to scan all kinds of cards.