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Wheaton criminal defense attorneyAccording to data collected by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Illinois Policy Institute, state and local police agencies have seized and kept nearly $320 million in assets purportedly related to criminal activity since 2005. During that same time, federal law enforcement entities within Illinois seized an additional $404 million. Law enforcements agencies have the authority to do so under state and federal asset forfeiture laws, but with a signature from Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner, the laws regarding asset forfeiture in Illinois could be about to change.

Understanding Asset Forfeiture

When a person is arrested in connection with a criminal offense, it is understandable that the police would seize contraband including drugs, paraphernalia, and weapons owned without proper licensing. Law enforcement, however, is also permitted to seize any private property believed to have been used or generated in connection with the criminal activity. While existing laws were intended to help combat organized crime and drug cartels by reducing their available assets, police departments have long since applied the same laws to much smaller operations. Seized assets may include cars, guns, homes, and, most often, cash, and the assets may be seized and kept even if the owner is never convicted or charged.

If a property owner wishes to reclaim seized property, existing law requires him or her to pay a bond of 10 percent of the value of the property just to have his or her case heard. Even then, law enforcement must only show probable cause that the assets were used or generated in the commission of a crime—not necessarily by the owner—in order to keep the property.

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DuPage County criminal defense attorneyBeing pulled over by the police is a very sobering experience after a night out on the town. In that instant, all of the laughter and fun are swept away as the dread of what currently unfolds washes over you. Anxiety courses through your mind as you mentally debate your level of intoxication. After convincing yourself that you are safe to drive, it comes as a complete shock when not only are you being charged with a DUI but they are also seizing your vehicle.

Can They Do That?

The short answer is yes, under the right circumstances police can seize your vehicle. In fact, an officer can also take a vehicle that is not even registered to the drunken driver. Additionally, the authority encompasses all forms of transportation, including watercraft. Furthermore, Article 36 of the Illinois Criminal Code explains that in addition to a seizure to impound, law enforcement also reserves the right to sell the vehicle at auction. The intent to sell the property is often unknown and is humiliatingly discovered at the police station, in front of at least one friend or family member that provided the transportation to the station expecting to drive away in separate cars.

What Offenses Place You at Risk?

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