Did you know that your property can be permanently taken away by the government even if you are never charged with a crime? Every year, $40 million or more in cash, cars, and even homes is taken from Illinois residents through something called civil asset forfeiture.
Once the police seize your property, you won’t get it back unless you successfully oppose the government in court. Unlike a criminal defendant, you are not provided with a lawyer. In fact, you may be required to pay 10% of the value of your property up front just for the privilege of “your day in court.” If your case goes to trial, the playing field is far from level, because the law gives the government every advantage in the courtroom against the property owner. Not surprisingly, many people in this situation simply give up and lose their property rather than spending additional resources to fight what is so often a losing battle.
Illinois law encourages the police to seize more and more property, because police departments and prosecutors’ offices are allowed to keep most of the money and property they extract from citizens through civil asset forfeiture. But the State’s taxpayers and elected officials mostly are kept in the dark about how much money police and prosecutors receive through this system, or for what purposes they use it. The ACLU of Illinois believes that no person should lose their property if they have not been convicted of a crime, and that police should never benefit financially from seizing people’s property. We are defending Illinois citizens’ property rights against policing for profit by fighting to reform the State’s asset forfeiture laws. We need your help! If your cash or property been taken by the police without justification and you have a story to share, please fill out this form.
- Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform in the legislature: House Bill 689 and Senate Bill 1578
- Download our civil asset forfeiture fact sheet (PDF)
- Watch a video from Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Civil Forfeiture
- Download the report from the Institute for Justice: Policing for Profit (PDF)
- Illinois Policy Institute poll: Robust support for criminal-justice reform (see page 22)
In the media:
- Chicago Business Journal: Asset forfeiture results in millions for feds in Chicago area — and for more criticism
- News-Gazette (Champaign-Urbana): How government seizes property
- Chicago Tribune (Eric Zorn): Illinois should seize chance to update forfeiture laws
- Chicago Tribune: Illinois law enforcement takes in more than $319 million on forfeited property
- Peoria Journal Star: Police property seizures raise questions about spirit of law
- Peoria Journal Star: Forfeiture proceedings can be tedious, difficult for people
- WGLT (NPR): ACLU, Illinois Policy Institute Unite On Drug Forfeiture Opposition
- Chicago Reader: Inside the Chicago Police Department’s secret budget
- Alton Daily News: ACLU Takes On Forfeiture Law
- Quad Cities Dispatch-Argus: Forfeiture law means woman paying for grandson's crime
- Quad Cities Dispatch-Argus Editorial: Let Wiese case spark reexamination of Illinois' forfeiture laws
- Quad Cities Dispatch-Argus: Man found innocent, but R.I. County still wants his 10-year-old truck
- Chicago Lawyer Magazine: How a prosecutor's police force turned a highway into a payday