Each year in the State of Illinois, millions of dollars in property are seized by local law enforcement agencies. Across the State of Illinois between July 1, 2018 and May 31, 2019 nearly $32 million dollars worth of assets were seized across the state. Civil asset forfeiture can include money, vehicles, jewelry, electronics and various other pieces of valuable personal property. These pieces of property can sometimes be seized by law enforcement without a criminal charge being filed or a criminal court case.
In the summer of 2017, under former Governor Bruce Rauner, Illinois revamped their asset forfeiture laws to be more transparent and fairer to those who are property owners being seized. A study by Lucy Parsons Labs say that asset forfeiture disporportionately hurts particular sectors society, especially those of low socio-economic standards.
In a FOIA request with the City of Jacksonville, WLDS/WEAI News shows that the city police received over $100,000 in forfeited property, fines, and fees from DUI and Drug arrests in the city. As forfeiture laws dictate, local units of government can spend the “drug funds” on better enforcement of drug laws and for public education initiatives about alcohol and drugs. Currently, the Jacksonville Police Department used these funds to purchase a golf cart for law enforcement recently.
Prior to the new law in 2017, Illinois was known to have one of the toughest civil asset forfeiture laws in the country. The nonprofit journalism organization, Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting, showed that Illinois seized over $282 million dollars in property between 2010-2017. In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a case of civil asset forfeiture that it violated the 8th Amendment of the Constitution which states that courts can’t impose excessive bail and court costs on individuals. Since the ruling, Illinois along with several other states began updating their asset forfeiture standards and the transparency for seizures in criminal cases.