The civil asset forfeiture procedure has been significantly changed over the past few years in Chicago. The most common tool used is that of confiscation orders in cases where a court process has started or is contemplated. One of the reasons for these changes is the increase in the sophistication and breadth of financial crimes. It was felt that the people that committed these crimes got to retain a large proportion of their criminally-acquired assets, hence making a mockery of justice. The end result was the overturning of the “crime doesn’t pay” mantra. Therefore, these procedures were tightened up in order to allow the victims and the prosecution authorities to target those illegally acquired assets.
The standard procedure is to dispose of or auction off the ill-gotten gains from criminality. The resultant funds are returned to the treasury but the judge may order that the victims be compensated. In addition, there is always the option for victims to sue the perpetrator for damages. One of the most controversial uses of this procedure has been to seize what is considered to be drug-related paraphernalia. The intentions behind the operation are to root out criminality from its source and main motivation. However, the end result is that poorer people are targeted and they end up losing everything on the basis of a suspicion. The forensic teams may find it difficult to distinguish legitimate from tainted assets.
The Rationale Behind the Confiscations and Seizures