The state of Illinois – just like many states in the country – maintains a civil asset forfeiture statute. This law allows law enforcement officials to seize and take possession of any property that they suspect is tied to illegal activity. Unlike a defendant, who is “innocent until proven guilty” in the eyes of the law, the property is considered “guilty until proven innocent.”
According to various reports, in approximately 80 percent of the cases where property is seized under the asset forfeiture law, the person who owns the property was never actually charged with a crime, either at the time of the seizure or at any point the future. If the property is actually cash, then the law allows law enforcement to keep that money, with as much as 10 percent going to the prosecutor’s office. Seized property can also be auctioned off, with the proceeds again going to the police agency who seized the property and the prosecutor’s office.
Critics of asset forfeiture laws say these statutes violate the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which guarantees citizens due process of law. However, the practice continues. Not only can money, vehicles, and other items be seized by police without strong evidence, but even a person’s home can be seized under asset forfeiture.
Other People’s Assets
Alarmingly, not only can a suspect’s property be seized, but property they borrow from someone else can also be taken. This is exactly what recently occurred in Rockland County, when a 70-year-old woman lent her grandson her vehicle to get to work one night last August. Her grandson had previously had his license revoked, but lied to her that it had been reinstated. While driving the 2009 Jeep, he was stopped by police and found to be driving on a suspended license. He subsequently pled guilty to that charge and spent 10 days in jail.
Now, almost six months later, the grandmother still cannot get her vehicle back. The Sheriff’s Department has decided that the Jeep was being used in the commission of a crime (the grandson driving on a suspended license), so they are keeping the vehicle under the asset forfeiture law. The elderly woman, who reportedly does not have the funds to hire an attorney is left with few options in fighting the seizure.
If you have had property seized by law enforcement under suspicion that it was used for criminal activity, contact an experienced Wheaton defense attorney. Call the Law Offices of Salvatore C. Miglore & Associates at 630-933-8400 today for a free consultation.