Civil Asset Forfeiture Law Tightened

A press release from Governor Bruce Rauner:

Gov. Rauner enacts civil asset forfeiture reform

Makes important changes to protect Illinois residents from unjust property forfeiture

CHICAGO (Sept. 19, 2017) – Gov. Bruce Rauner today signed HB303, bipartisan legislation aimed at reforming Illinois’ asset forfeiture system.

The reforms will increase transparency and shift burdens of proof to protect innocent citizens while maintaining the proper use of asset forfeiture as a tool for law enforcement. Gov. Rauner was joined by Illinois State Police (ISP) officials, ACLU members, legislators, and advocate organizations.

“Illinois residents should be protected from the unfair seizure of their private property,” Gov. Rauner said.

“This legislation will enact needed reforms to prevent abuse of the civil asset forfeiture process, while maintaining its importance as a critical tool for law enforcement to make our communities safer.”

When properly applied, asset forfeiture strikes at the economic foundation of criminal activity. The seizure of monetary assets has been utilized as an effective method to disrupt the business activities of drug trafficking organizations and bring down high-level drug distributors.

However, if asset forfeiture is misused, it can have major economic ramifications on Illinoisans who may be innocent of any wrongdoing. The forfeiture of cash, a vehicle, or even a home can also affect their family members and exacerbate financial insecurity.

This important piece of legislation will provide for greater public transparency in Asset Forfeiture proceedings through the collection and publicly accessible reporting of forfeiture data, as well as additional sanction authority for abuse and violations of forfeiture rules by the ISP.

HB 303 also shifts the burden of proving guilt to the government, and increases the burden of proof to mirror that of the federal government in forfeiture cases from probable cause to a preponderance of the evidence, a fair and equitable standard. It also makes a number of other changes such as eliminating restrictive bonding requirements and adjusting the threshold amounts of money subject to forfeiture as well as the levels of cannabis and controlled substance possession that can lead to forfeiture proceedings as a way to thoughtfully limit the use of this system to its intended purposes.

Funds received through the Asset Forfeiture Program support the costs of law enforcement overtime and wire intercepts for major investigations, training, intelligence centers, prevention programs and investigative equipment.

“I am glad Illinois has taken this dramatic step forward, especially while the federal government seems poised to go backwards on this issue,” said state Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park). “It’s a simple concept – the government should have to prove that it has a right to take your property, not the other way around.”

“Asset forfeiture laws target the heart of much criminal activity – the financial gain. However, as with any law, we need to make sure it does not unduly burden those who may be innocent,” said state Sen. Tim Bivins (R-Dixon), a cosponsor of the law who served more than 32 years in law enforcement, 20 years as Lee County Sheriff. “House Bill 303 makes sure that the spirit of civil asset forfeiture is not abused.”

“We must strike the proper balance between targeting criminal enterprises and safeguarding the rights of innocent property owners,” said state Sen. Michael Connelly (R-Naperville). “The Institute for Justice gave Illinois a D- for our current civil forfeiture laws. The law signed today seeks to improve the current system by providing increased protections for property owners and requiring greater accountability from law enforcement.”

“Civil asset forfeiture in Illinois and across this country is out of control—Americans lose more of their property each year to forfeiture than to burglary,” state Rep. Will Guzzardi (D-Chicago) said. “This landmark bill gives Illinoisans some of the strongest protections against unjust forfeitures in the country, and it’s a crucial step in restoring faith between civilians and law enforcement.”

“Civil asset forfeiture reform is an important step to ensure the Constitutional rights of Illinoisans are being protected,” said state Rep. Tom Demmer (R-Rochelle). “This law protects property rights, reduces the chance for abuses of power, and defends the rights of the individual. I’m proud to support this bipartisan initiative.”


Civil Asset Forfeiture Law Tightened — 10 Comments

  1. Why do you need “Civil Asset Forfeiture” when we already have RICO ?

    It’s just another government money/property grabbing abuse of its citizenry.

    Bigger government is less liberty.

  2. Thank you Big Government for protecting us from big corporations! Tic, tock, tic, tock…

  3. Civil Asset Forfeiture is seizing the fruits of drug dealing and other crimes and using the results for public good.

    The only complainants are the criminals who thought they would have a stash to go to when they got out of prison for good behavior.

  4. Charles wake up!

    That was what it supposedly WAS. No longer.

    Joe is telling you the definition they use now to “legally” steal from ANYONE.

    Have you not been paying attention?

  5. That’s been around for years, drug dealers lose their profits, no big deal.

    Judges have always placed burden on the agencies to prove that…..

    Rauner is desperate to stay gov……

    Not for long

  6. The police have a perverse incentive to seize assets when they get to keep part of the loot.

    This law is a small step in the right direction, but the burden of proof for asset forfeiture should be “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

    They’ve created a system in which it is too expensive and burdensome to fight a seizure.

    If the State tries to seize assets and loses, it should have to pay all legal fees and other expenses incurred by the owner of the property.

  7. The Police do not get the “loot”.

    The Taxpayers get it.

    Cindy, stop defending drug dealers. You are right on most other issues.

  8. The split varies depending upon whether multiple agencies were involved, and whether the forfeiture was done under state or federal laws, but the seizing agencies get to keep a large chunk of the loot.

    The cash must be spent for “law enforcement purposes” but that is a very loose standard and there really isn’t a whole lot of oversight.

    Departments tend to view seized assets as “found money”, and rather than use them to reduce the tax burden, they often use them to purchase toys such as mobile command posts that the taxpayers would have probably balked at paying for.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *