Asset forfeiture laws help Illinois police pocket millions of dollars’ worth of hard-earned property each year. The seizure of vehicles, land and other assets is easy if they are linked to a crime.
Because of these laws, if you are accused of transporting drugs using your car or laundering money on your property, you could lose these assets — whether you or someone else is convicted of the crime or not.
Asset seizure without conviction
Criminal and civil asset forfeiture allows the government to legally take property that is connected to a crime. However, this practice has been abused. A recent study showed that between 1997 and 2013, 87 percent of property seizures were made without the defendant being convicted of a crime.
Civil forfeiture law doesn’t require that the defendant was convicted for the crime connected to the property or even charged with a crime at all.
Further, it can be difficult for defendants to prove they were not in any way at fault for allowing their property to be connected to a crime someone else committed.
Policing for profit
But, why would law enforcement seize property from someone who is not convicted of the crime the property was connected to? The payout. Between 2005 and 2015, law enforcement personal collected more than $319 million dollars from asset forfeiture.
Seized property is auctioned by the government and the proceeds could end up directly in police and prosecutors’ offices. These law enforcement agencies are not required to report how much property they seize, where seizures happen, the outcome of the case or how profits are spent.
A lawyer can help
If your property is seized through criminal asset forfeiture, it’s crucial that you consult with a criminal defense lawyer for help.
As politicians make way for reforms of these types of laws, an experienced attorney can provide up-to-date knowledge on how to navigate them in your favor.