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Illinois Police Reform Bill Fails to Address Civil Asset Forfeiture

Downtown ChicagoIllinois’ Police Reform Bill is supposed to make police work impartial and non-discriminatory. However, the bill remains controversial and continues to aggravate civil rights advocates and legislators alike.

The over 760-page criminal justice reform bill ratified by the General Assembly would increase the state’s powers of decertifying police officers for questionable or even criminal behavior. It would likewise put an end to cash bail for countless criminal acts, necessitate the use of body cameras by police officers, and make other alterations believed to make policing evenhanded and without exploitation and fraud.

On the other hand, critics of the bill say it will cripple law enforcement. Among the lawmakers who strongly voted against the bill is Rep. Lance Yednock of Ottawa, IL. He said that he is still trying to understand why the bill is silent about the contentious issue on civil asset forfeiture.

Civil asset forfeiture is a legal process permitting a government to take people’s property and other assets, sometimes without even charging the person with a crime. Civil asset forfeiture’s key objective is to provide efficient means of indicting lawbreakers and effective ways of combating organized crime.

With asset forfeiture, even if an individual is not legally accused of a wrongdoing, they still lose their assets to law enforcement authorities. For instance, a person’s car can be taken away even if the driver is simply suspected (rather than charged with) a drug crime. This can happen if the car is “found in close proximity” to drugs or materials utilized in the manufacture of the illegal drugs. 

In cases like this, the burden is placed on the car owner to prove that the presumption was false and reclaim their vehicle. Normally—when civil asset forfeiture is not involved—the accuser has the burden of proof. It is not the obligation of the one accused to prove their innocence, but the responsibility of the accuser to prove the guilt of the accused. This can be especially difficult for people who don’t have the assistance of an experienced attorney

In addition, the property owner must post a bond (10% of the value of the property) so as to have the right to challenge the forfeiture in court. Failure to post the bond will lead to non-judicial forfeiture of the property. In the event that the claimant wins through the forfeiture case, the law provides that the circuit court clerk shall keep 10% of the bond amount which is viewed as a “cost.”


Where Happens to Seized Assets?

Most items seized using civil asset forfeiture will go to the law enforcement agency that conducted the actual confiscation. Critics say this creates a monetary enticement for local police to be extremely forceful in their employment of forfeiture.

In its 2020 report, the Institute for Justice categorically states that under the civil asset forfeiture law, much of the proceeds from seized property will go to law enforcement reserves and to prosecuting attorneys who secured the forfeiture and use these to complement their budgets. This, they argue, is an arrangement that could lead to the pursuit of property more than the quest for justice. 


Nationwide Federal Civil Asset Forfeiture Attorney

Have police or federal agents taken your property using civil asset forfeiture? Contact Brian Silber, P.A. to set up a free initial consultation and work with an experienced nationwide federal civil asset forfeiture attorney.


Source: 2.7.21 Illinois Police Reform Bill

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