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Civil Asset Forfeitures

Civil asset forfeitures occur when the government takes a civilian’s property when that person is suspected of of involvement in a crime or illegal activity . Simply because someone’s money, car, or home has been seized doesn’t mean that the government has charged the person in question with any wrongdoing. Civil asset forfeiture laws are often controversial, resulting in extremely murky and contentious courtroom battles. When assets are seized, they are not necessarily subject to release and return to the rightful owner, until after the accused has been brought to trial. Once declared forfeit, police departments often use seized assets – particularly currency and cars – for their own investigative efforts, such as converting seized vehicles into use as undercover cars. . Civil asset forfeiture has been the law of the land for quite some time, however, there has been an exponential increase in civil asset forfeitures within the last decade.

Will I Be Charged with a Crime?

According to FOIA requests, 87% of people who have had their assets seized are never criminally charged. Even if the civilian in question is believed to have earned their assets through criminal activities, they are often not brought to court, because the government may not have evidence sufficient to sustain a criminal burden of proof. This is in part why the policy is so controversial.

What Is Civil Forfeiture?

As mentioned previously, asset forfeiture laws, such as the Illinois Drug Asset Forfeiture Procedure Act 725 ILCS 150/1 et seq. and Article 36 of the Illinois Code of Criminal Procedure, 720 ILCS 5/36-1, et seq., enable law enforcement to seize assets (i.e. houses, cars, boats, money, bank accounts, etc.) if they believe that they are in some way connected to a crime, either for having been used to commit a crime, or having been purchased with proceeds of a crime or criminal entrprise. An example would be a cop pulling over a suspect and seizing money for forfeiture, because they believe that the money was earned through illegal activity, such as through drug dealing, and also seizing the car for forfeiture, if it was used to transport drug to a deal or as a place to shield the use or sale of illegal drugs.. A property owner does not need to be charged with a crime, brought to court, or even have a criminal background to warrant a seizure of property in this fashion — in fact, innocent owners of property used unlawfully by a co-owner or other person permitted to use the property, are at risk of having their assets seized in this type of scenario. Law enforcement officers can take your belongings if they have probable cause to believe the property was used in the commission of, or to facilitate the commision of, an offense, or represents proceeds of illegal activity that you, or someone you allowed to use your property, have been involved in..

How Do I Fight a Civil Asset Forfeiture?

The process of winning back your belongings is complex, and best handled by an experienced attorney familiar with asset forfeiture laws and local practices. . The litigation team at Michelle Moore Law haslitigated thousands of civil asset forfeiture cases, both as a State prosecutor, and as a defense attorney, and has emerged victorious on numerous occasions. Part of the reason that residents of Glen Ellyn and surrounding communities have such difficulty regaining their assets is that the government must only establish an item’s forfeitability by a “preponderance of evidence” standard (i.e. whether the property’s use in the commission of an offense is more probably true than not true) to forfeit property to the State. This means that those seeking to keep your things need only prove that it’s more likely than not that the assets seized were in some way related to illegal activity. Remember that Civil Asset Forfeiture proceedings are not criminal cases, and the government’s ability to seize your property is not subject to the “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” standard used in criminal proceedings..

Will A Free Lawyer Be Assigned to Represent Me?

Because this is not a criminal proceeding, and there is no risk of going to jail or prison after property is seized the State will not provide you with a defense attorney in your civil asset forfeiture proceedings. In order to win your case, it’s highly recommended that you hire a lawyer. Quite often, seized, some people don’t even bother fighting the government, as the litigation costs exceed the value of the property at issue. However, if substantial assets have been seized, or assets subject to loans for which the property owner will still be liable, even if they lose their right to possess the property, (such as car loans or mortgage loans) and you endeavor to retrieve them, you cannot afford to do this on your own and really must hire a lawyer to protect your interests and insulate you from further liability on loans or liens held against the property..

Due to the difficulty in winning assets back from the government, it’s advisable that you hire a lawyer in order to assist you in this endeavor. If you’re located in the Glen Ellyn, Naperville, Wheaton, Elmhurst, Bloomingdale, Downers Grove, Oak Brook, Hinsdale, Villa Park, Woodridge, Winfield, Warrenville, Roselle, Itasca, Wood Dale, or anywhere in DuPage, Cook, Kane, Kendall and Will Counties and need an experienced civil asset forfeiture lawyer, call Michelle Moore at 630.858.9800.