Friday, October 28, 2016

GETTING YOUR CAR BACK: THE ILLINOIS LAW ON FORFEITURE

After you were arrested for a drug or another offense, the state took a look at your expensive car. Or maybe police found drugs in your boat or plane. Maybe that car, boat or plane really belonged to an innocent third party. In any case, the state wants to keep it.

Can they do that? What can you do?

Illinois criminal law allows the state to seize a vehicle, such as a car, boat or airplane, involved in a crime. The state files a civil forfeiture action against the vehicle itself, and thus the property would be listed as the defendant.

Under the Illinois Seizure Law, the state may seize any vehicle used with the owner’s knowledge and consent in the commission of a crime. Such crime may include arson, robbery, predatory sex offenses, murder, kidnapping, drug offenses, gambling, DUI and stalking. The property must have helped facilitate the offense in some way.

Within 14 days of a seizure, the state must request a preliminary hearing for the court to determine if there is probable cause to seize the property. The owner need not be notified at this stage. Once the court determines there is probable cause, the state must file the forfeiture action and notify the owner. The vehicle is held until the court’s final decision.

In a forfeiture, the state must prove that the vehicle was used in the commission of the offense by a preponderance of the evidence. The owner may then show that he or she had no reason to know the vehicle would be used in that way. The state may then disprove the owner’s claims. If the state wins, you lose your property.

If you have a vehicle subject to a forfeiture, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can guide you through the procedure and help present the best possible defense to get your property back.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

Source: People ex rel Brendon F. Kelly vs One 2008 Chevy Trailblazer.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

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