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How much is state law enforcement relying on asset forfeiture? - II

Last week, we began discussing a shocking report on property forfeiture here in Illinois, a process through which law enforcement agencies can essentially take anything they merely suspect was involved in some manner of criminal activity.

To recap, the report, co-authored by the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois and the Illinois Policy Institute, found that law enforcement officials confiscated a staggering $319 million in property and cash via property forfeiture from 2005 to 2015, calling it an instrument that encourages "policing for profit."

We'll continue our discussion of this eye-opening report in today's post.

Which law enforcement officials are using property forfeiture the most?

The Chicago Police Department was identified as the law enforcement agency that derived the largest profits from property forfeiture, taking in over $79.5 million in confiscated assets from 2005 to 2015. This reality, coupled with the fact that the Chicago PD conducts the most seizures, should perhaps come as little surprise given the city's massive population and crime rate.

The Chicago PD was followed by the Illinois State Police, a statewide drug task force and the Cook County Sheriff's Office, respectively.

Do people have any options for retrieving confiscated assets?

Those property owners seeking the return of assets taken from them via property forfeiture do have options for having it returned to them. However, it is an inherently complex process and the law does not provide people in these situations with access to a public defender.

Does the report make any recommendations concerning this staggering reliance on property forfeiture?

In the report, both the ACLU and the Institute indicate that they will be pushing for the following changes during the upcoming legislative session:

  • Amending existing laws, such that a conviction is required before property can be confiscated
  • Introducing greater transparency into the property forfeiture process by passing laws mandating that agencies report to the public on everything from the amount, time and location of seizures to the outcome of cases and the manner in which proceeds were ultimately spent
  • Placing forfeiture funds into the state's general revenue fund in a bid to help curb the temptation for agencies to fill depleted coffers by conducting more forfeitures/seizures

Here's hoping we see some much-needed change in this area sooner than later …

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