Illinois Reforms Civil Asset Forfeiture Laws
Effective July 1, 2018, Illinois residents will have greater protection against state confiscation of cars and other assets used in connection with criminal charges such as Aggravated DUI and narcotics possession.
Illinois Residents Forfeit Over $70 Million in Assets Annually
Over $30 million dollars worth of cars, boats, and other assets were seized in 2015 under Illinois’s civil forfeiture laws, namely:
• The Illinois Drug Asset Forfeiture Act , which authorizes the seizure of assets used in, or acquired with funds generated by, drug crimes.
• Article 36 of the Illinois Criminal Code: Seizure and Forfeiture of Vessels, Vehicles and Aircraft, which authorizes the seizure of assets used in the commission of other serious crimes such as aggravated DUI, drive-by shootings, and child pornography.
In addition, over $40 million dollars worth of assets were seized from Illinois residents in 2015 under federal law.
Civil Asset Forfeiture Is a Controversial Procedure
Civil asset forfeiture is controversial because it allows law enforcement to seize property they suspect was involved in criminal activity, even though the alleged perpetrator may not even have been convicted of a crime yet.
In some cases, the vehicle allegedly used in a crime does not even belong to the accused, but rather to some innocent friend or relative, who then faces significant hardship and a complicated process to try to get their car back. Even the temporary loss of a vehicle can, according to the Illinois Policy Institute, “precipitate a cascade of negative consequences...including the inability to maintain employment or even to attend court proceedings to try to reclaim the seized property.”
New Law Gives Illinois Residents More Protection from Asset Forfeiture
When assets are seized by an Illinois law enforcement agency in connection with an alleged violation of Illinois law, there is a defined procedure to go through before the assets are permanently forfeited. Under Article 36, a preliminary hearing must be held within 14 days of the seizure. At this hearing, the State will testify as to why the assets in question are legally subject to forfeiture, while the property owner can argue as to why his property should not be forfeited.
In the past, an innocent property owner had the burden of proving their own innocence. They had to prove that they were not involved and could not have reasonably known about the alleged crime, and therefore they should get to keep their car or other seized asset.
But now, thanks to a new law passed in 2017 that takes effect July 1, 2018, the burden of proof shifts to the State. The State will now be required to prove that the asset owner knew, or should reasonably have known, that the asset was going to be used in the alleged crime.
This change in the law, it is hoped, will return more seized assets to innocent owners. The reform legislation also creates new reporting requirements intended to bring transparency to the amount of assets seized by the state and how the resulting funds are being used.
Trust an Experienced Joliet Criminal Defense Attorney
If your vehicle or other property has been seized by the police in relation to an aggravated DUI charge, drug crime, or other offense, you will need the help of a knowledgeable and aggressive Will County criminal defense lawyer to try to prevent permanent forfeiture of that asset, as well as to defend against the alleged crime. Call the Law Offices of Jack L. Zaremba at 815-740-4025 for a free and confidential consultation; phone calls are answered 24 hours a day.