Illinois Cops May Lose The Ability To Just Take Your Property

Anders Hagstrom | Justice Reporter

Illinois is on the cusp of protecting its residents from civil asset forfeiture after the state senate sent a justice reform bill to Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, media outlets reported Thursday.

House Bill 303, which passed through the Senate with only a single vote in opposition, requires police to prove that the appropriation of a suspect’s property is justified. Under previous Illinois law, the burden of proof was on the defendant to establish that his property had been appropriated unjustly, Illinois News Network reported Thursday.

Democratic State Rep. Will Guzzardi lauded the change as a return to “innocent until proven guilty.”

“The burden of proof now falls on the state,” Guzzardi said. “So when the state takes your stuff they have to say, ‘We can prove that it was involved in the commission of a crime,’ rather than you, the property owner, having to prove that your stuff was not involved in the commission of a crime.”

Asset forfeiture reform is a widely bipartisan issue, with organizations like the Heritage Foundation finding common ground with the American Civil Liberties Union.

Conservative estimates indicate that Illinois law enforcement confiscates more than $30 million each year through asset forfeiture, according to Criminal Justice Reform Project President Ben Ruddell.

The $30 million is likely low, however, as there is no basic requirement for law enforcement to report seizures. HB 303 changes that as well, establishing more transparency when police seize property.

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