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Asset Forfeiture Has Become a Police For-Profit Business in Illinois

Joliet Asset ForfeitureIn 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.

Criminal Trends and Common Juvenile Offenses

Joliet Juvenile LawyerIn the realm of criminal law, the word “juvenile” is used to describe suspects and offenders under the age of eighteen. Juveniles are responsible for a large number of everyday offenses, often taking place in our schools, on our streets, and in our neighborhood establishments. Similar to adult crimes, juvenile crimes can include everything from minor scuffles with another young person to more serious assault charges to underage drinking and much more. Many juvenile offenses, however, go unreported, making it difficult to resolve many cases, and even more difficult to collect proper data for statistical purposes.

Observed Trends

While unreported juvenile offenses make it more difficult to get a complete picture of the problem, there are still distinct trends that have been observed over time, revealing certain patterns in activity among youth offenders. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention reports the following:

Juvenile offenses are not always minor. - While it is true that many juvenile crimes are minor in nature, many others are life-altering for both the offenders and victims. Homicide and other violent crimes, such as sexual and aggravated assault, as well as robbery are all prevalent among juvenile offenders. The U.S. Department of Justice reports that over 600 murders in the year 2014 alone included juvenile involvement.

Violent juvenile crimes happen most often during the hours immediately after the school day is over. - Studies show violent crimes by youth tend to peak during afterschool hours, although there is also a spike on non-school days, particularly during the early evening hours from 7 to 9 p.m.

Robbery has been reported as one of the most common youth crimes. - According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics' National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), past studies have revealed that robberies represented one of the largest percentages of youth offender involvement, with assault not far behind. Sexual assault was less common than other violent crimes, but still accounted for around 14 percent of all serious violent offense.

Violent juvenile crimes involving a firearm typically take place during specific hours. - The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency also reports that 28 percent of firearm-related violent crimes committed by juveniles occur between the hours of 8 and 11 p.m. Adult offenders who use firearms usually offend later in the evening compared to juveniles.

Consistent Patterns Over Time

Law enforcement agencies and government officials continue to review statistics, the nature of youth crimes and the times and rates at which they happen change. In the meantime, if someone you care about has been involved in a juvenile crime of any kind and you are concerned about protecting their rights, you need to speak with a qualified Joliet criminal defense attorney who can answer your questions and help represent the offender in a court of law. Contact the Law Office Jack L. Zaremba today for a free consultation.

DUI Checkpoints: Are They Constitutional?

Joliet DUI LawyerAs we begin the winter holiday season, you will probably start to see reports of DUI checkpoints being set up throughout the Chicago region. Beginning with the night before Thanksgiving and continuing through New Year’s Day, these checkpoints are designed to be a deterrent for drunk drivers and to get those who are intoxicated off the roads. Many people, however, come to me with questions about the legality of DUI checkpoints and whether they violate the Fourth Amendment’s guarantee to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.

Important Questions

More than a quarter century ago, the issue was taken before the highest court in the country. The case began with a challenge by residents in Saginaw County, Michigan, who believed that being required to stop at a DUI checkpoint was a violation of their Fourth Amendment rights. The plaintiffs claimed that being detained, even for a couple minutes, constituted a seizure of their personal property—their vehicles—which could eventually become an arrest on DUI charges.

Supreme Court Ruling

By a 6-3 margin, the Supreme Court determined that, when properly conducted, a DUI checkpoint is legal. Writing the majority opinion, Chief Justice William Rehnquist agreed with the plaintiffs’ claim that such stops are essentially seizures, but that the real question was one of balance. How does the government’s interest in removing drunk drivers from the road and keeping the roads safer match up with “the level of intrusion on an individual’s privacy caused by the checkpoints?” Asking a driver to stop and be observed for a few seconds for signs of intoxication, the court determined, is not overly intrusive, as long as the established protocol is applied evenly and without bias.

Comparison to Roving Patrols

One of the arguments present by the plaintiffs was that DUI checkpoints created unreasonable “fear and surprise” for drivers as they approached. The Court rejected this notion, indicating that a driver can usually see lights and other cars being stopped well in advance. The other alternative—roving patrols of officers looking for drunk drivers—is bound to create much more “fear and surprise” when flashing lights suddenly appear behind a driver who may or may not have been drinking.

Around the Country

Since the Supreme Court’s decision in Michigan v. Sitz in 1990, the use of DUI checkpoints has continued throughout the United States with a few exceptions. Some states, including Iowa and Wisconsin, have prohibited the practice through state laws. Even Michigan has amended its constitution since the ruling, and such checkpoints are no longer conducted there, either. If you are traveling in Illinois, Indiana, and Missouri this holiday season, however, you should be prepared to encounter a DUI checkpoint.

If a checkpoint stop results in an arrest on charges of driving under the influence, contact an experienced Joliet criminal defense attorney right away. Call 815-740-4025 for a free consultation at the Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba and get the help you need.

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