Report Issued Recommending System Reform in Illinois Asset-Forfeiture Laws

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Asset forfeitures occurs when state law enforcement seize or take personal property from individuals. This seizing is oftentimes the result of property that law enforcement believes to be involved, or used in illegal activity. The type of property seized varies from vehicles, real estate, cash, or other personal property.

However, this process of seizing an individual’s personal property does not require that individual to be convicted of a crime, and in some cases, it doesn’t even require that individual to be charged of a crime. Nevertheless, when these individuals attempt to get their property back, they often find the process time-consuming, expensive, and often unsuccessful.

In Illinois the counties with the highest forfeitures are: Cook county, Lake county , Will county , and Rock county.

Although forfeiture cases are decreasing (in 2005 there were 8,745 forfeitures valued at more than $25 million, in 2015 there were 2,950 forfeitures valued at more than $13 million), these cases still remain a significant issue in Illinois.   So much so, that organizations that often find themselves on opposite ends, have come together to issue a 32-page report against the current Illinois asset-forfeiture laws.

The American Civil Liberties Union and Illinois Policy Institute estimated that state law enforcement agencies made $319 million by seizing personal property in Illinois from 2005-2015. In the first-ever joint report between the ACLU and IPI, the organizations lay out 10 recommendations for improving Illinois’ problematic forfeiture laws.

Among them, the report calls for system reform, asking that legislators insist on ‘fair legal standards’ in all forfeiture cases. For instance, the report recommends legislators require a criminal conviction before personal property is taken, with the burden of proof falling on the government.

Also, the report recommends an increase in transparency, allowing news organizations and researchers access to accurate forfeiture information. The report also recommends money from forfeiture cases to be deposited into general funds instead of allowing law enforcement agencies to keep it, in order to decrease the incentives to engage in ‘policing for profit’.

The full report can be found here: http://www.aclu-il.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/civil-asset-forfeiture.pdf

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