Illinoisans accused of a crime may not only have to fight charges in court, but the American Civil Liberties Union says they’ll have an uphill battle to get back seized property.

ACLU of Illinois Criminal Justice Policy Attorney Ben Ruddell said property is seized unjustifiably and the deck is stacked against people trying to get it back “because of the burden of proof being on them instead of the state where it belongs.”

Ruddell said the state should only get to keep the property if a person is convicted of a crime.

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State’s Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor Director Pat Delfino is also the executive director of the Illinois State’s Attorneys Association. Delfino said the members of the organization are satisfied with the status quo. 

“It’s a war on drugs – and I emphasize war on drugs – and this is one of our best weapons,” Delfino said. 

A bond of 10 percent of the value of the seized property is required to hold a hearing, something Ruddell said is unconscionable, especially for poorer populations.

Where does the property go after it’s seized? Most of it goes to the law enforcement agency, but some of it could cover travel expenses to trainings.

Valuable assets are typically auctioned off and the money used to buy police equipment such as cars. In some instances property such as computers or vehicles goes directly to law enforcement if the agency explicitly reports what law enforcement purpose the property would serve.

Sometimes travel expenses for attending law enforcement trainings around the country are covered. Delfino said the trainings feature experts in the field.

“It’s very productive for prosecutors across the country to attend, and I’m guessing most of these get their expenses paid,” Delfino said.

Outside of Cook County, 65 percent of seized assets go to the seizing agency, 12.5 percent go to both the state’s attorney and to the state’s attorney appellate prosecutor’s office. The remaining 10 percent go to Illinois State Police.


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