Drug Asset Seizures: Can the Police Take Everything?
Have you heard horror stories about people who were merely accused (but not yet convicted) of a drug crime, and the police immediately seized their houses, cars, cash, and everything else of value that they owned? These “drug asset” seizures can leave innocent family members homeless and without transportation, while providing incremental funding to law enforcement agencies. You may well wonder if such stories are exaggerated or for real.
Here are some key facts to help you understand the Illinois laws regarding the seizure and forfeiture of assets used in drug crimes.
1. Illinois Laws Allowing Civil Asset Seizure and Forfeiture
Illinois police can seize property which has been used in or is intended to be used in the commission of, or bought with the proceeds of, crimes defined in the following Illinois state laws:
• Controlled Substances Act (720 ILCS 570), which governs both illegal drugs like cocaine and heroin and the illegal use of prescription drugs like fentanyl, oxycodone, and morphine.
• Cannabis Control Act (720 ILCS 550), which governs illegal activities involving marijuana.
• Methamphetamine Control and Community Protection Act (720 ILCS 646), which governs illegal activities involving crystal meth.
• Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (410 ILCS 620), which governs illegal activities involving pharmaceuticals not covered under the Controlled Substances Act.
The Illinois Drug Asset Forfeiture Procedure Act (725 ILCS 150) defines the process by which the police may seize drug-crime assets.
2. Types of Property that Can be Seized
The police can seize just about anything and everything of value, whether it was used in commision of a drug crime, obtained with proceeds of a drug crime, or received in exchange for drugs. This includes:
• Ingredients and equipment to manufacture or distribute drugs.
• Vehicles used to transport illegal substances, including aircraft and watercraft, as well as wheeled vehicles like cars, trucks, motorcycles, and recreational vehicles (except if the legal owner had no knowledge of the illegal use).
• Real estate, including a home or commercial building.
• Cash, securities, and items of value such as TVs, jewelry, furniture, and expensive clothing.
3. What Happens to Seized Property
The state must hold a hearing within 14 days of a seizure to determine if the seized assets should be permanently forfeited to the state. Thanks to a new law that took effect on July 1, 2018, forfeiture requires the state to prove that the legal owner of any seized property knew or reasonably should have known about the illegal activity.
Forfeited assets must be delivered to the Illinois State Police within 60 days, who will sell assets and distribute the proceeds as follows:
• 65% will be shared amongst the law enforcement agencies that participated in the criminal investigation that led to the forfeiture, based on the extent of each agency’s participation. These funds are to be used for drug-related law enforcement and public education.
• 12.5% to the State’s Attorney in the county where the forfeiture occurred.
• 12.5% to the State’s Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor (except if the forfeiture happened in Cook County, in which case this share goes to the county State’s Attorney).
• 10% to the State Police.
Get Help From an Established Joliet Drug Crimes Defense Attorney
Illinois law does give the police the right to seize assets that were used in or are reasonably believed to be ill-gotten gains from drug crimes. A hearing will take place within weeks of the seizure to determine if the state gets permanent possession (forfeiture). So, if you are in this situation, you need to act fast. Drug crimes and the related asset forfeiture are too serious to try to handle on your own. You need an aggressive, experienced Will County drug crimes defense lawyer. Call the Law Offices of Jack L. Zaremba at 815-740-4025 for a free consultation; we answer calls 24/7.