Illinois police confiscated $128,000 in a brief civil forfeiture hearing Thursday where the property owner was not present, nor had he been charged with a crime.
Galesburg police officer Mike Ingles testified that the money, confiscated from 21-year-old Deshawn Oliver on Jan. 23, was almost certainly drug money, according to the Galesburg Register-Mail. Oliver’s travel itinerary took him from New York to Chicago by train and then from Chicago to California. Ingles suspected the route was for drug trafficking and interrogated Oliver in his sleeper car, where he found the $128,000 in vacuum-sealed plastic bags.
Oliver was not notified that the forfeiture proceedings were taking place Thursday morning.
Ingles claimed Oliver initially denied having more than $10,000 in cash with him, only admitting to having more than that when Ingles moved to search his bag. Oliver explained the cash at the time by saying it was his life savings, but Detective Lane Mings testified that Oliver’s work history didn’t line up with that story.
“It comes from illegal activity,” Mings said. “There is no doubt in my mind this is from illegal activities.”
Ming admitted that police had recently confiscated and returned sums of $60,000 and $100,000 following unwarranted forfeitures, but he argued the department took these cases very seriously.
Illinois received a D- for their civil asset forfeiture laws, according to a 2014 study conducted by the Institute for Justice, making it one of the 10 worst states in the country. Police must only show that a “preponderance of the evidence” indicates that property was involved in a crime in order to forfeit it. Additionally, the burden of proof is on the owner to prove his property’s innocence, the opposite of criminal cases.
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Once the property has been confiscated, 90 percent of the proceeds go to law enforcement itself, creating a worrying incentive.
Police claim the practice is essential to effectively combating the drug trade where criminal charges are often difficult to prove. The law directs law enforcement not to use forfeiture as an alternative means of securing funding, but police departments across the country have been found doing just that.
Police will conduct another hearing on the cash in roughly 45 days, and the state will notify Oliver of this hearing by mail.
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