ACLU, Illinois Policy Institute Unite On Drug Forfeiture Opposition | WGLT

ACLU, Illinois Policy Institute Unite On Drug Forfeiture Opposition

Nov 21, 2016

Credit Emma Shores/WGLT

In the last decade, the Bloomington Police Department has seized more than one point-one-million-dollars in property through asset forfeiture laws. The city has kept more than half of that money.

The Town of Normal has seized more than 800-thousand dollars in property.

At the state and federal level the combined tally is more than seven-hundred-million-dollars from Illinois residents. That's according to a new report from the ACLU of Illinois and the Illinois Policy Institute.

The ACLU and the conservative Illinois Policy Institute are seeking legislation to make authorities wait for asset forfeiture until someone has been convicted of a crime.

ACLU Attorney Ben Ruddell says that's because the system is rigged against citizens getting due process.

"We shouldn't require the property owner to post a cost bond just for the privilege of having their day in court to contest the forfeiture. Illinois law currently requires a person put up a bond equal to ten percent of the value of the property they are seeking to get back," said Ruddell.

And the courts keep part of that bond even if the citizen wins the case.
Ruddell said the standard for forfeiture is far too low.

"They are all either preponderance of the evidence or in the case of the drug statute, probable cause, which is unconscionably low for a standard of proof in a court proceeding. That's an appropriate standard for an arrest or a seizure, not for a judgment," said Ruddell.

The ACLU and the Illinois Policy Institute prefer clear and convincing evidence property was involved in the commission of a crime or was bought with the proceeds from a crime to allow foreiture. That is still less than the criminal conviction standard of beyond a reasonable doubt.  

The ACLU and the IPI may seem like strange bedfellows, but in this interview with GLT's Charlie Schlenker ACLU Attorney Ben Ruddell says not really.