Illinois shouldn’t be permitted to seize your property just because someone in authority has a hunch it’s tenuously connected to a crime.

But, right now, that’s the law. The state’s forfeiture rules let Illinois and local law enforcement officials grab cars, cash, real estate or pretty much any personal property at any time. They just have to suspect that property — usually cars or cash — was involved in a crime or was purchased through the profits of an illegal enterprise.

Innocent until proven guilty doesn’t apply in civil forfeiture cases, nor do indigent people have a right to a lawyer. In a pernicious twist, someone who contests a forfeiture must pay filing fees and a “cost bond” equal to 10 percent of the value of the confiscated property just to appeal. Even if they win, they only get 90 percent of their cost bond back, and they can’t recover their legal fees. No innocent person wants to be caught up in a Kafkaesque system like that.

Illinois shouldn’t be permitted to seize your property just because someone in authority has a hunch it’s tenuously connected to a crime.

But, right now, that’s the law. The state’s forfeiture rules let Illinois and local law enforcement officials grab cars, cash, real estate or pretty much any personal property at any time. They just have to suspect that property — usually cars or cash — was involved in a crime or was purchased through the profits of an illegal enterprise.

Innocent until proven guilty doesn’t apply in civil forfeiture cases, nor do indigent people have a right to a lawyer. In a pernicious twist, someone who contests a forfeiture must pay filing fees and a “cost bond” equal to 10 percent of the value of the confiscated property just to appeal. Even if they win, they only get 90 percent of their cost bond back, and they can’t recover their legal fees. No innocent person wants to be caught up in a Kafkaesque system like that.

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