Confiscation and Forfeiture Laws in Chicago

nicolas-barbier-garreau-256433-copy-300x240In the legal world, few matters are as controversial as those that allow confiscation and forfeiture by the police. It is something that has dramatically polarized the two sides. It is rare that you will find someone who is neither truly “for” nor truly “against” these laws. Those who are in favor of the police departments being legally allowed to confiscate goods and money hold that law enforcement is taking away the proceeds of criminal enterprises. Staunch advocates, however, state that the police are nothing but thieves with badges who are taking the property of citizens without trials or due process. This issue is a complex one, to say the least.

Policing for Profit

To understand the law in Chicago, one must first understand what civil forfeiture and confiscation means and how it would apply to the person being affected by it. The standard rule of law used in Chicago dictates that police may confiscate property, including money, that meets certain criteria. These criteria are simple and, to some, are far too broad: Law enforcement officers have to believe that the property was used in a crime, is intended to be used in a crime, or has been obtained in connection with a crime. As you can see, this is a straightforward, if broad, list.

This list of criteria is one of the main reasons that so many are against the current confiscation and forfeiture laws in Chicago. Some feel that it is too easy for police officers to mistake fairly earned and obtained property with that which has been gained illegally. Others feel that simply suspecting or believing that the item or items are connected to the crime is not enough to warrant a violation of civil liberties. Those in favor of the current laws, however, state that those who do not use or gain property in connection with a crime have nothing to worry about.

A Lack of Due Process

But, the criteria needed in order to confiscate a citizen’s private property is not the only controversial aspect of Chicago’s laws. For some, the constitutionality of it is what is truly in question. Many of the more outspoken critics of civil forfeiture have compared it directly to theft by the government, which uses the cash as it sees fit and can auction off property for fiduciary gain. For some, there are even more pressing concerns. There is no system of checks and balances to be found. Police officers make the decision; no one else, such as a judge, oversees the process at all.

Those in favor of the current laws, however, do make a valid point: There are ways to go about proving that the property or money is yours and that it was obtained through legal means not connected to the crime. Though the process can be trying and drawn-out (most who are successful decide to use a lawyer), it is perfectly possible to have your possessions returned to you. This means, of course, that you must be able to show that they do not meet any of the criteria for civil forfeiture or confiscation by the Chicago police.

Controversial at best, the civil forfeiture and confiscation laws found in Chicago are much-debated. Though some do say that it works to keep illicitly earned property off of the streets, others say that it violates constitutional rights, taking all due process from the legal system. One thing is certain: There are two strongly differing sides to this, and the solution is going to be a difficult one to find. For expert help with your criminal case, contact David Freidberg Attorney at Law at 312-567-7100.

(image courtesy of nicolas-barbier-garreau)