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Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill Awaits Governor’s Signature

joliet asset forfeiture

According to a recent analysis of public records, law enforcement agencies and prosecutors in Cook County conducted 23,000 seizures of private property between since 2012. The study also indicated that a disproportionate number of the seizures occurred in the most poverty-stricken neighborhoods of Chicago—which also happen to be primarily communities of people of color. A proposed law, however, has been passed by the state legislature that would curtail the practice of asset forfeiture related to criminal activity and is now on the desk of Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner.

What Is Asset Forfeiture?

Asset forfeiture laws were originally enacted to help police agencies address the problem of organized crime and large-scale criminal operations. The idea was that if the government—through the police and prosecutors—was permitted to seize property related to the commission of a crime, they would be able to disrupt crime syndicates and gangs. Under such laws, police could seize property based on the suspicion that it was involved in criminal activity, even if the owner is never charged, let alone convicted.

The major problem is that over time, law enforcement agencies seem to have shifted their focus from large-scale cartels and organized crime to smaller-scale operations and individuals, at least when it comes to asset forfeiture. Of the 23,000 seizures in the last five years , nearly half involved cash of less than $1,000, and about 1,500 cases involved seized amounts of less than $100.

Getting Property Back

When a person has his or her property seized, he or she may have the opportunity to get it back, but he or she must first pay 10 percent of the property’s value as bond to even begin the proceedings. Then, the owner must take action in civil court to prove that he or she is innocent and that the property should be returned. In addition to flipping the presumption of innocence, the other effect of holding the proceedings in civil court is that attorneys are not provided for property owners, and few have the resources to hire one. Thus, many seizures go uncontested for financial reasons, allowing the police to simply keep the seized property. In fact, between 2005 and 2015, the American Civil Liberties Union reports that Illinois law enforcement entities brought in more than $319 million through asset forfeiture.

The Proposed Law

Last month, the Illinois House passed a bill that would limit the ability of law enforcement to seize and keep private property. The Senate had approved the bill unanimously a month earlier. If Governor Rauner signs the bill, several changes will be made to the asset forfeiture system. First, seizures of less than $500 would be barred in most drug cases, and assets will only be permanently forfeited if the government shows it was involved in a crime by a preponderance of the evidence—a step up from the current standard of probable cause.

The new law would also remove the 10 percent bond requirement and expedite the scheduling of hearings for owners who wish to prove their innocence. The bill stops short of requiring a conviction to proceed with asset forfeiture. This was reportedly the result of a compromise between law makers and police groups, but such requirements are beginning to take hold across the country, with Connecticut becoming the most recent state to require a conviction for asset forfeiture.

Asset Forfeiture Questions

If your property has been seized by law enforcement in connection with an arrest on criminal charges, you need help right away. Contact an experienced Joliet criminal defense attorney to discuss your options. Call 815-740-4025 for a free consultation at the Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba today.

A DUI Does Not Always Result in Lost Driving Privileges

joliet dui attorney

First, it must be stressed that at no times should anyone operate a motor vehicle after consuming alcohol or while under the influence of drugs; the consequences of doing so could be life altering. However, even the most well-intentioned individuals make mistakes and could find themselves facing a long and expensive journey through the legal system.

It is important to remember that a DUI charge in Illinois does not necessarily mean that your driving privileges end. The outcome of your case, even in the event of a conviction, could still allow you to retain some driving privileges and, eventually, file for reinstatement of your license .

Some Possible Consequences and Options if you Receive a DUI

Under the strictest application of penalties for a first DUI conviction , a Class A misdemeanor, one may face the revocation of driving privileges for one year (two years if the driver is under the age of 21) and the suspension of vehicle registration. However, the following is a summary of possible options for individuals facing a first or even subsequent DUI offense in Illinois that include the ability to continue driving:

• Prior to a court appearance, a defendant will receive a receipt that allows him or her to drive for 45 days.
• A first-time DUI offender may obtain a Monitoring Device Driving Permit to allow unlimited driving during the statutory summary suspension.
• Under a provision enacted in 2016 , DUI offenders may apply for a Monitoring Device or Restricted Driving Permit and they will be required to have a Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device installed in their vehicles.
• Even a repeat DUI offender may be eligible for a Restricted Driving Permit in a vehicle equipped with a Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device.

Contact a Will County DUI Defense Lawyer for the Help You Need

If you are charged with a DUI or other serious traffic offense , do not hesitate to find an attorney with the right kind of experience to help you navigate the complexities of the Illinois judicial system. Securing the services of a knowledgeable Joliet DUI defense attorney allows you to pursue a variety of options available under the law. The Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba will apply years of DUI defense experience to your case to ensure you or your family member receive strong legal representation and services. Our DUI lawyer will provide a strong defense on your behalf and seek the best possible resolution.

The Difference Between Misdemeanor Shoplifting and Felony Retail Theft

joliet shoplifting theft attorney

An individual charged with shoplifting may later learn they are facing a much more serious felony charge. How did this happen? What should you do? Illinois statutes lay out in detail the difference between theft and retail theft , and within the laws are provisions that allow for prosecutors to upgrade charges from misdemeanor shoplifting to a felony depending on the circumstances of the case.

When Does Shoplifting Become a Felony?

The basic definition of retail shoplifting is when a person is alleged to take, possess, carry away, or transfer any retail merchandise. However, intent to deprive the merchant of full value must be proven. Under this definition, the accused of an alleged crime should pay for the merchandise, but not pay full value – as if one were to alter or swap out a price tag or “under ring” the item’s price at checkout. Under Illinois law , when it is a first offense and the value of the merchandise is under $300 (or $150 in motor fuel), a misdemeanor charge is usually brought.

Under certain circumstances in Illinois, a misdemeanor charge of shoplifting can be upgraded to a felony if any of the following criteria are met:

• The value of the stolen merchandise exceeds $300 (or $150 in motor fuel), even if the first offense.
• A subsequent shoplifting charge, after a previous misdemeanor conviction.
• Use of an emergency exit to commit theft, even when the value of the stolen merchandise does not exceed $300.
• Retail theft of property, even when the full retail value of the property does not exceed $300 (or $150 for motor fuel), may result in the felony charge if there was a previous conviction of any type of theft, robbery, armed robbery, burglary, residential burglary, possession of burglary tools, home invasion, unlawful use of a credit card, or forgery.

Get the Help of an Experienced Retail Theft Defense Attorney

If ever you are charged with a crime such as shoplifting, it is important to protect yourself with the help of a legal professional who knows the nuances of Illinois laws. Securing the services of a knowledgeable Will County retail theft lawyer will ensure you are treated fairly throughout the entire process. The Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba will provide a strong defense on your behalf and seek the best possible resolution to the situation.

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