Asset Forfeiture in Illinois

 Posted on August 22, 2016 in Civil Rights

Illinois defense attorney, Illinois criminal lawyer, Illinois asset forfeiture attorney, Innocent until proven guilty. A person in America must be proven, beyond a reasonable doubt, to be guilty of committing a criminal act before a conviction. It is one of the most important pieces of the American criminal justice system, but a principle not afforded to many in Illinois and elsewhere, thanks to asset forfeiture laws. Through asset forfeiture, police departments in Illinois are able to take possession of any personal property they believe is related to a criminal act, whether that is actually the case or not. Over the past two years, Illinois police have seized millions of dollars in assets and personal property through civil and criminal asset forfeiture, a system that many say is broken. Here is what you need to know about asset forfeiture in Illinois. Guilty until Proven Innocent? While asset forfeiture laws in the United States have existed for many years, they were greatly expanded in the 1980s when authorities were hoping to seize the assets collected by major drug kingpins and organized criminals. Taking illegally obtained assets from criminals makes sense, but in Illinois, asset forfeiture laws are affecting more than just those engaged in criminal behavior. Civil asset forfeiture allows Illinois police departments across the state to seize any personal asset or property they believe to be related to a crime. Authorities need no proof, criminal charges, or a warrant to seize the suspected assets, and it then becomes the property owner's responsibility to prove their property is not related to criminal activity. In August of 2015, an Illinois senior citizen and grandmother had her car seized and held for five months. She had let her grandson use the vehicle, and he was stopped and arrested for driving with a revoked license. The grandmother was unaware of her grandson’s situation, and while he was only sentenced to 10 days in jail, the car was not returned for five months. Over that five-month period, the grandmother struggled to live without a vehicle, and also attempted to represent herself in court and prove that her vehicle was not related to a crime. Many residents have found themselves in a similar position, required to fight for their own assets taken by authorities without any proof or warrant. “There are so many cases that people cannot contest,” says one Illinois attorney, who worked pro bono with the grandmother to help her obtain her car. “The burden of proof needs to be on the prosecutor. It is quasi-criminal, if not criminal, to take someone’s property from them in this way.” Legal specialists say that asset forfeiture is more common in Illinois than residents would think. According to records from the Illinois chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, Illinois police have seized $72 million in assets over the last two years alone. Agencies are able to keep 90 percent of the proceeds of the assets they collect, a policy some people say is cause for concern. Even officers themselves have said that many authorities view asset forfeiture as a revenue generator. While states like Nebraska, Michigan, and New Mexico have all taken recent steps to either banish or reform asset forfeiture within their states, Illinois has yet to make any reformations. In fact, Illinois received a D-minus from the Institute for Justice due to the quality of protections the state provides to property owners. You Need a Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are facing any criminal charges in Illinois, you need the help of a qualified Chicago area criminal defense attorney. Call 312-629-0669 today to learn more about how attorney Hal M. Garfinkel and his team can help you. We provide aggressive legal representation and have years of experience defending clients from a variety of criminal charges. Call now to set up a free consultation with us.


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