September 19, 2017

Legislation will increase fairness and transparency in process, remove financial incentives for local law enforcement departments

CHICAGO, IL – The ACLU of Illinois and legislative sponsors celebrated the signing of House Bill 303 today. The new law passed with bipartisan support in the Illinois legislature and reforms various asset forfeiture statutes to increase fairness to property owners, increase transparency in the forfeiture process, and remove financial incentives that encourage police and prosecutors to seize citizens' property.

Unlike criminal asset forfeiture, civil forfeiture does not require a criminal conviction before an individual's property can be taken by the government. Between 2005 and 2015, asset forfeiture resulted in gains of more than $319 million for Illinois police departments, sheriffs, state's attorneys, and other law enforcement agencies.

Statements from legislators and organizations are below:

Ben Ruddell, Criminal Justice Policy Attorney, ACLU of Illinois

“The measure being signed today is an important step toward ending ‘policing for profit’ and fixing the broken criminal justice system in Illinois. Civil asset forfeiture laws in Illinois have inflicted serious harm on the lives of many residents, exacerbating impoverishment and harming the property owner's innocent children and family members in the process.

The common-sense reforms being signed into law today ensure that asset forfeiture is fairer to those subjected to the practice and provides greater transparency around how much property the government takes through forfeiture and what it does with the proceeds.”

Illinois State Senator Don Harmon

“I am glad Illinois has taken this dramatic step forward, especially while the federal government seems poised to go backwards on this issue. 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.”

Illinois State Representative Will Guzzardi

“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. 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.”

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