Property Seizure May Occur In Illinois Even if There is No Conviction

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Many people may not know this until it is too late, but police in Illinois can seize your property even if you have not been convicted of a crime . Asset forfeiture can result in the loss of your car, home, or other possessions while creating a major burden for you and your family.

Civil Asset Forfeiture

Authorities expanded the application and use of forfeiture laws while engaged in the “War on Drugs” with criminal drug kingpins during the 1980s. The strategy was to cripple a criminal organization by taking possession of cars, trucks, boats, homes, and other assets found to be used in the manufacturing, storage, transportation, or distribution of illegal drugs.

Now, however, innocent citizens are finding themselves inconvenienced, because under the law, police can take possession of and keep property they suspect may have been involved in the commission of a crime. This can take place even if the person who owns the property was not involved in the alleged crime. For example, a 70-year-old woman lost her car for five months when it was seized by police. The car was being driven by her grandson when he was arrested for driving on a revoked license.

The practice of civil asset forfeiture by police is believed to be more widespread than is known by citizens, and its application can cause confusion and end up costing defendants large sums of money while fighting to regain custody of their property. Records obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) show that police in Illinois have seized property totaling $72 million dollars over the past two years. This practice has led to some criminal activity on the part of law enforcement, as one Illinois police chief was sent to a federal prison for his role in a scheme to profit from the seizure and sale of property.

The unfairness of this practice and the incidents of impropriety have led many to assert that civil asset forfeiture laws in Illinois are ready for reform.