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Proposed Bill Would Curtail Practice of Asset Forfeiture

Will County Lawyer

Did you know that if law enforcement officials believe that your property or assets were involved in the commission of a crime , they can legally seize the property in question? Under civil asset forfeiture laws in Illinois, you could lose your property even if you are never charged with a crime, let alone convicted. Over the last decade, law enforcement agencies have reportedly netted nearly $320 million worth of property and cash through asset seizures, including nearly $80 million seized by the Chicago Police Department alone.

Civil asset forfeiture is a contentious practice, and its merits have been hotly debated across the country in recent years. In fact, 19 states and Washington, D.C. have amended their asset forfeiture laws since 2014 to create a more equitable system. As it currently stands, only a dozen states currently require a criminal conviction before assets can be permanently confiscated, but several others, including Illinois, may soon adopt similar guidelines.

Measure Offers Improvements

According to Illinois state Senator Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, the asset forfeiture system in the state is comparable to an “unfettered piggybank” for local and state law enforcement agencies. While he acknowledged that seizing assets is sometimes appropriate—such as money directly tied to drug trafficking operations—the widespread use is “a real overreach.” Harmon is the sponsor of a legislative measure that would require a criminal conviction for permanent asset forfeiture. The bill would also force law enforcement officials to publicly document the assets they seize and the reasons for the seizure. Currently, no such reporting requirements are in place.

In addition, the proposed law would put the burden of proof on the state to show that the owner of the seized assets knowingly consented to his or her property being used for an illegal purpose. At the moment, the situation is reversed, and those looking to have their assets released must show the property was connected to a crime. The process of doing so is also notoriously difficult and slow, and many innocent people whose assets have been seized simply give up because they cannot afford to keep fighting. And, low-income individuals cannot even ask public defender for help because the cases involve property instead of criminal charges.

Law Enforcement Opposition

Perhaps unsurprisingly, many police and law enforcement groups oppose the proposed bill as it currently written. They say that asset forfeiture is a necessary tool in upsetting the ability of a criminal enterprise to operate. It is easy to imagine that most agencies would also not be keen on the idea of losing such a lucrative stream. According to a spokesman for the Illinois State Police, the ISP is willing to work with the measure’s sponsors to expand protections for innocent property owners without compromising law enforcement’s efforts to deter illegal activities.

Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney

If you have been charged with a crime or your property has been seized by law enforcement in connection with an alleged crime, contact an experienced Will County criminal defense lawyer right away. As a former prosecutor, Attorney Jack L. Zaremba understands the law, and he will fight to ensure your rights are fully protected. Call 815-740-4025 for a free consultation at our office today.

Driving Under the Influence in Illinois

Will County DUI Lawyer

Statistics from the Secretary of State’s office show that while there were fewer alcohol-related fatalities in recent years, the proportion of fatalities to which alcohol contributed has remained relatively stagnant, hovering around 40 percent except for one anomalous year. It is difficult for one to contemplate these figures; if the influence of alcohol were removed from the situation, the number of deaths would—at least in theory--be almost halved. Statistics like these only serve to reiterate how critical and important enforcement of DUI laws are to keeping the proverbial peace.

First Offenses

As is common in multiple other states in the U.S., a first offense of driving under the influence (DUI) carries relatively less stringent consequences than a second or third offense, but the intention is still punitive, and as such, offenders do not get off lightly. In Illinois, a first offense triggers administrative punishments including at least a six month license suspension, which may be as long as one full year, if the offender does not consent to blood alcohol content testing under the relevant implied consent laws. Criminal consequences include fines of up to $2,500 and a Class A misdemeanor on one’s criminal record.

It is imperative to grasp that for DUI convictions as an adult, there is no ‘forgiveness’ or ‘look-back’ period; if one is arrested again for DUI, it will count as the second time. Thus, one cannot attempt to argue that they ought to be treated as one committing their first offense. Probation and/or conditional discharge are classed as convictions under Illinois law, at least for the purpose of assessing whether an offender has been convicted of DUI before or not. Court supervision does not count as a conviction, but it does remain on one’s record, and it is only available once—usually for a first offense.

Multiple Offenses

A second DUI offense in Illinois, as one might suppose, comes with significantly stricter penalties. The offense is still categorized as a Class A misdemeanor in most instances—if it is not deemed aggravated DUI, which is the charge most often brought when a minor is in the car and injured. A second conviction carries a mandatory minimum of five days in jail or 240 hours of community service, as well as the suspension of the vehicle’s registration. If the second DUI occurs with 20 years of the first, the offender’s driving privileges will be revoked completely for a minimum of 5 years. Also, an ignition interlock device will be placed on the offender’s car, which can create inconveniences and issues.

It is worth noting that any DUI offense after the second in Illinois automatically converts to an aggravated DUI, which is a felony. Aggravated DUI is also the charge that is most often utilized when a particular incident has been deemed to display reckless disregard for others, especially one’s passengers, but there are many different reasons for which a standard DUI may be elevated. In rare cases, even a first offense may be raised to an aggravated DUI if harm is caused. For example, if DUI is committed in a public transport vehicle—buses, taxis, etc.—or if death occurs as a result of the driver’s actions.

Consult an Experienced DUI Attorney

It is not uncommon to feel too ashamed or frightened to seek legal counsel after a DUI, but generally, it is the best option. Contact an experienced Joliet DUI defense attorney at the Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba to get the help you need. Call 815-740-4025 for a free consultation today.

FOID Applications for Convicted Felons

Felony Lawyer Joliet

In most states across the U.S., conviction on a felony charge can lead to a person losing many civil rights, some temporarily and others permanently. In Illinois, one of the rights a person stands to lose upon conviction of felony charges is the right to firearms ownership . While the loss of this right is not technically permanent, the law makes it difficult for a convicted felon to regain the ability to legally own a firearm.

Firearm Owner’s Identification Card

In Illinois, gun owners are required to possess a Firearm Owner’s Identification Card, also known as a FOID card, in order to buy or own a gun. When a person is convicted of a felony, and he or she is a gun owner with a valid FOID card, the card is revoked after the person’s conviction. In addition, when applying for a FOID card, a person has to make a statement declaring that he or she has not been convicted of a felony. However, if a person’s felony conviction is far enough in the past, he or she may be eligible for a FOID card if other conditions are met.

Under Illinois law, a person who is prohibited from getting a FOID card and from owning a firearm for a felony conviction can apply to the Director of the State Police, or to a court in the county where he or she lives to have the decision overturned. The person making such an application has to satisfy the following conditions to the satisfaction of the director or applicable court in order to get the revocation overturned:

• The applicant must serve the State’s Attorney with a copy of the application 30 days before the hearing on the matter;
• The applicant must not have been convicted of a forcible felony under the laws of Illinois or any jurisdiction within 20 years of the application, or 20 years must have passed since the applicant was last imprisoned on a forcible felony conviction;
• The applicant must not be likely to act in a manner that is dangerous to the public. This determination is made by looking into the applicant’s criminal record;
• Restoring the applicant’s rights must not be contrary to public interest; and
• Restoring the applicant’s rights must not be against federal law.

While a person convicted of a felony may be able to meet the first two requirements easily, it may be more difficult for him or her to satisfy the other three. If a person has no other arrests or convictions after the felony conviction, he or she is more likely to have a revocation reversed because he or she can show that he or she would not be likely to act in a manner that is dangerous to the public. However, the real difficulty comes in overcoming the fifth condition, due to the federal prohibitions on gun ownership for people convicted of certain crimes .

Contact an Illinois Criminal Defense Attorney

It may be a difficult and extended process to regain gun rights for a person convicted of a felony; however, it is not impossible. An experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to better assess your particular case and better advise you on the possibility of regaining your rights to own firearms. The best way to avoid the consequences of a felony conviction would be to avoid the conviction in the first place if possible. If you have been arrested on felony charges, you should consult with an experienced Will County criminal defense attorney at the Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba today.

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