Legislators debate plan for seizing debit cards

CARSON CITY -- A plan to allow no-warrant seizures of funds on prepaid debit cards was defended Thursday by Nevada cyber-sleuths as a way to track down terrorists and drug dealers but was criticized by foes as unconstitutional.

SB82, being considered by the state Senate Judiciary Committee, was pushed by Jim Earl, executive director of the Nevada Technological Crime Advisory Board.

The plan was opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada and public defenders from Reno and Las Vegas. They argued it violates the U.S. Constitution's 4th Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure.

Earl said that under SB82, police with probable cause to think a prepaid card was linked to criminals could freeze the funds on the card account for up to 10 days, until a warrant is obtained from a judge, or seize the funds without a warrant in certain cases.

Lee Rowland of the ACLU of Nevada said that constitutional flaws, such as the secret seizure of funds without a warrant from a judge, "should give us all the heebie-jeebies."