Every criminal defense attorney in Chicago has encountered it: A client’s cash assets are taken by authorities at O’Hare Airport with little or no explanation. The defendant’s rights to a fair hearing are complicated because of laws that favor the agencies even if the seizures are illegitimate or questionable.
Just a few years ago, Illinois law put victims of aggressive cash seizures at airports undue pressure to make their cases well before the government needed to make theirs. Thankfully, Illinois legislators took steps to change that basic unfairness—and defendants must know those changes are in effect.
The most recent changes to Illinois’ civil asset forfeiture code passed the State Legislature in 2017 and took effect on July 1, 2018. The new provisions give defendants more legal standing in cash seizure cases and help protect their constitutional liberties.
Burden of Proof Shifts to Government
The new law’s most crucial component affirms that the burden of proof in cash seizure cases rests with the government. Previously, owners were required to explain why they should be allowed to retain possession of their property. But now the law enforcement agencies that confiscate the cash are required to justify their decision and action, a major victory for those whose assets were unreasonably taken.
Also, “probable cause” is no longer sufficient grounds for law agencies to seize your cash. Governments now must establish a rock-solid defense based on a preponderance of the evidence.
Property Owners No Longer Pay “Cost Bond”
In the past, victims of cash seizures were required to pay courts a fee, amounting to 10% of the value of seized assets, before their case was even considered by a judge. The courts kept this payment even if the defendant went on to win their forfeiture case. If the defendant was unable to pay the bond, their property was automatically forfeited. In addition to this cost bond, defendants had to agree to pay full legal costs and expenses of their proceedings if the government prevailed in court. The new amendments vacate all those requirements.
Other New Provisions of Illinois’ Cash Seizure Code
In addition to these major changes, the Illinois Assembly added other amendments to reinforce the rights of defendants in civil forfeiture cases:
- Small amounts of cash can no longer be confiscated
- Possession of small amounts of drugs or narcotics is no longer sufficient reason to seize cash or property
- Agencies must now make full disclosure of expenses related to forfeiture cases
- All cash seizure cases must now be published and searchable on the Department of State Police website
- Governments must make more effort to properly notify defendants of upcoming proceedings
Find a Criminal Defense Attorney in Chicago to Protect Your Rights
Even with these new, broader protections, cash seizures at airports can still be the source of legal landmines in the courtroom. To make sure your rights are preserved, and your hearing is fair, you need an Illinois criminal law attorney who knows how these new amendments benefit you and ensure that justice prevails.
Edward Johnson and Associates P.C.
Our powerhouse team has Chicago’s best criminal defense lawyers who are firmly devoted to protecting the rights of their clients. Contact us today!