In the state of Illinois, there is a little-known law that can leave those suspected of, arrested for, charged with, or convicted of a crime in a serious financial bind. Even worse is that law enforcement is often profiting from their misfortunes. The statute regarding civil forfeiture may allow the police to seize your assets and personal belongings, even if you are never convicted of a crime.
Civil Forfeiture – What Is It, and How Might It Affect You?
State and federal laws permit law enforcement to seize any land, cash, vehicle, or property that could be tied to a crime or illegal activity. The police and other law enforcement agencies are not required to verify that the property belongs to the suspected individual, nor do the laws require that the suspected person be charged (let alone convicted) of a crime to seize or withhold that property from its rightful owner.
In fact, a grandmother from Rock Island County had her Jeep Compass seized when her grandson was arrested for allegedly driving on a revoked license. The grandmother was not an accessory, and she argued that she did not know that her grandson had been driving on a revoked license. Yet law enforcement refused to return her vehicle, stating it had been used in the commission of a crime. She is not alone.
Law Enforcement Seizes More Than $319 Million in a Decade
A joint report issued by the Illinois Policy Institute and American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois found that law enforcement throughout the state of Illinois had seized and sold more than $319 million in property from its citizens over the last ten years. On average, law enforcement agencies auction off around $30 million in forfeited property per year. Even worse is that retrieving seized property is extremely difficult for citizens. Further, they may be denied a refund of any other losses they may have experienced throughout the process.
For these reasons and many others, advocacy groups are pushing to change the laws. They want a valid conviction before property can be forfeited. They also want there to be more transparency when it comes to listing what kind of property was seized, when, and where. This could potentially reduce the “lost assets” that seem to be plaguing the current system.
Fighting Criminal Charges and Property Seizure
If you or someone you love has been subjected to the seizure of personal property or assets or is at risk for the conviction of a crime, an experienced Joliet criminal defense attorney can help. As a former prosecutor, Attorney Jack L. Zaremba understands the legal system and will work hard to protect your rights. Call 815-740-4025 for a free consultation at our office today.