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Illinois

Illinois

Illinois earns a D- for its civil forfeiture laws:

Standard of Proof

Low bar to forfeit in most cases: In general, prosecutors’ standard is preponderance of the evidence. If a related criminal case results in acquittal or non-indictment, the standard is clear and convincing evidence. Forfeiture is not permitted for currency under $500 in drug cases and under $100 in all other cases.

Innocent Owner Burden

Poor protections for the innocent: Third-party owners must prove their own innocence to recover seized property at pretrial hearings.

Financial Incentive

Large profit incentive: 90% of forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement.

The letter grade reflects the state’s forfeiture laws as of December 2020. When we become aware of relevant reforms, we are updating the standard of proof, innocent owner burden and financial incentive language above, but we are not updating the letter grade.

Recent Reforms

  • (2017) HB 303: Removed burden on owners to prove property is not subject to forfeiture; required government to prove owners’ culpability or negligence—which is not a crime—at forfeiture trial, though innocent owners still bear the burden of proving their own innocence at pretrial innocent owner hearings; eliminated bond requirement for owners challenging administrative forfeiture; strengthened transparency requirements.

Recommendations

  • End civil forfeiture
  • Direct all forfeiture proceeds to a non-law enforcement fund
  • Strengthen protections for innocent third-party owners
  • Close the equitable sharing loophole
  • Strengthen transparency and accountability requirements

State and Federal Forfeiture Revenues, 2000-2019

Between 2000 and 2019, Illinois law enforcement agencies forfeited more than $676 million under state law and generated an additional $364 million from federal equitable sharing, for a total of at least $1 billion in forfeiture revenue—averaging more than $50 million a year. Illinois ranks 46th for its participation in the Department of Justice’s equitable sharing program. The state does not prevent state and local agencies from using equitable sharing to circumvent state forfeiture law.

At least $1 billion in state and federal forfeiture revenue
2000–2019

Year Illinois Forfeiture Revenues Dept. of Justice Equitable Sharing Proceeds Treasury Equitable Sharing Proceeds Total
2000 $16,134,076 $9,754,782 $4,723,000 $30,611,858
2001 $18,610,350 $8,386,258 $3,513,000 $30,509,608
2002 $16,937,249 $6,618,603 $1,322,000 $24,877,852
2003 $12,728,189 $7,284,801 $1,511,000 $21,523,990
2004 $15,888,673 $8,529,033 $2,620,000 $27,037,706
2005 $21,466,730 $8,004,118 $999,000 $30,469,848
2006 $27,188,794 $12,102,313 $2,408,000 $41,699,107
2007 $20,151,788 $13,460,269 $873,000 $34,485,057
2008 $17,070,220 $13,761,071 $3,622,000 $34,453,291
2009 $20,161,006 $13,838,679 $5112,000 $39,111,685
2010 $64,388,300 $21,585,139 $7,249,000 $93,222,439
2011 $32,834,479 $16,586,155 $2,406,000 $51,826,634
2012 $64,657,826 $25,793,168 $3,245,000 $93,695,994
2013 $54,373,537 $20,912,725 $1,537,000 $76,823,262
2014 $55,050,790 $16,143,203 $5128,000 $76,321,993
2015 $55,166,423 $19,364,854 $3,772,000 $78,303,277
2016 $48,407,550 $12,584,194 $2,174,000 $63,165,744
2017 $39,221,031 $20,288,523 $5268,000 $64,777,554
2018 $38,125,066 $21,498,057 $6,864,000 $66,487,123
2019 $37,577,996 $16,047,774 $7,408,000 $61,033,770
Totals $676,140,073 $292,543,719 $71,754,000 $1,040,437,792

All revenue figures include both civil and criminal forfeitures. Revenues are not adjusted for inflation.

Illinois's Forfeiture Transparency and Accountability Report Card

Tracking Seized Property

C

Accounting for Forfeiture Fund Spending

C

Statewide Forfeiture Reports

B

Accessibility of Forfeiture Records

A

Penalties for Failure to File a Report

F

Financial Audits of Forfeiture Accounts

A

For full transparency and accountability grades, visit www.ij.org/TransparencyReportCards.

Forfeitures Under Illinois Law: Key Facts

Median Value

$755

From 2015 to 2019, half of Illinois’ currency forfeitures were worth less than $755.

Property Types

From 2010 to 2019, more than three-quarters of Illinois’ forfeitures were of currency.

Civil vs. Criminal

UNKNOWN

Illinois does not report whether forfeitures are processed under civil or criminal forfeiture law.

Expenditures

In 2019, Illinois law enforcement spent $14 million from forfeiture funds—mostly on equipment, capital expenditures and operating expenses.

Data Notes and Legal Sources

Data Notes

Property-level forfeiture proceeds data were obtained through public records requests to the Illinois State Police. Figures for 2000 through 2009 are in calendar years, while those for 2010 through 2019 are in fiscal years. 2019 covers thirteen months, July 2018 through July 2019. Expenditure data for calendar-year 2019 are from ISP’s website. Equitable sharing data are from DOJ’s and Treasury’s annual forfeiture reports. Due to differences in reporting and accounting practices, state figures may not match aggregate numbers produced by the state or cover the same 12-month period as the federal data.

Legal Sources

Standard of proof: In general, preponderance of the evidence. The standard of proof increases to clear and convincing evidence in certain situations where a related criminal case results in acquittal or non-indictment. Forfeiture is unavailable for currency under $500 related to drug possession offenses and under $100 for all other offenses.

725 Ill. Comp. Stat. 150/9(G), (G-5), (G-10), 720 Ill. Comp. Stat. 570/505(d).

Innocent owner burden: Owner. At pretrial innocent owner hearings, the owner bears the burden of proof. However, if the forfeiture action goes to trial, the government must prove the owner’s culpability or negligence, which is not a crime.

725 Ill. Comp. Stat. 150/9.1, 150/9(G).

Financial incentive: 90%.

725 Ill. Comp. Stat. 150/13.2.

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