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Illinois Trying to Change Civil Asset Forfeiture Law

Posted on in Criminal Law
Illinois trying to change civil asset forfeiture lawWhen someone is charged with a criminal offense in Illinois, the law in some cases allows police to use civil asset forfeiture to seize property they believe was part of the crime. Civil rights advocacy groups malign this process because they say police departments:

  • Have low standards for proving that the property forfeiture is justified; and
  • Have incentive to use forfeiture because they can generate revenue from the assets they keep.

Many states have changed their civil asset forfeiture laws in recent years. Now, Illinois legislators have proposed a bill that would create stricter requirements for the process and greater oversight of seized assets.

Current Law

Civil asset forfeiture requirements in Illinois vary, based on the offense. For some offenses, the burden of proof placed on law enforcement officials in order to seize property is considered among the lowest of any state. In cases involving drug charges, police can claim forfeiture of property if they can show probable cause that the property was involved in the suspected crime. The property owner does not have to be convicted of the crime or charged with the offense. The assets that police can take include real property, vehicles, money, and valuables.

Once the police have seized an asset, the owner must file a claim to retrieve the property. During the hearing, the owner must show:

  • That he or she was not part of, did not know about, and did not benefit from the criminal conduct; or
  • That losing the property causes him or her undue hardship.

If the asset is real property or personal property valued at more than $150,000, a claim is automatically filed on behalf of the owner. Otherwise, the owner has 45 days to file a claim, which includes paying a bond worth 10 percent of the asset's value. If the owner is successful in the case, he or she will be refunded 90 percent of the bond.

New Law

The bill being discussed in the Illinois House of Representatives would create overarching guidelines for civil asset forfeiture and change current practices:

  • In most cases, an asset would be subject to forfeiture only if the defendant is convicted of the crime and law enforcement can provide clear evidence that the asset is related to the crime.
  • Police departments would have to report all seized assets to the state and list them publicly on a website.
  • All revenue generated from forfeited assets would go to the Asset Forfeiture Proceeds Fund, which would disburse the money through law enforcement grants.
  • State and local law enforcement could not circumvent the civil asset forfeiture law by transferring a case to federal authorities.

Criminal defense

Civil asset forfeiture is just one of the possible consequences of facing criminal charges. If you have been charged, contact a McHenry County criminal defense attorney at Botto Gilbert Lancaster, PC to obtain legal representation for your case.




Illinois State Bar Association State Bar of Wisconsin Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerce Illinois Trial Lawyers Association McHenry County Bar Association
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