This past July 4th holiday weekend, authorities warned of an increased police presence and additional roadside checks over the weekend. Illinois State Police Commander Jeffrey Hedrich is quoted in the Chicago Sun-Times before the weekend as saying some 200 police agencies in the state will be conducting over 100 roadside checks over the weekend.
DuPage County authorities have announced that they will be seizing vehicles from drivers; so far this year, they have seized 417 vehicles, mostly as a result of alcohol-related stops. State Attorney Joseph Birkett reminded the public in a news conference that pursuant to Illinois state law, local law enforcement agencies are authorized to seize and sell vehicles from drivers who are under the influence.
State Attorney Birkett is referring to the seizure of vehicles under 720 ILCS 5/36-1 and the corresponding forfeiture proceedings pursuant to 720 ILCS 5/36-2.1. If you are driving on a suspended license (such as a statutory summary suspension) or a revoked license (based on a previous DUI conviction) and are arrested on suspicion of felony DUI charges, your car is subject to possible seizure and forfeiture.
When a person is arrested, the vehicle is seized by the arresting police department and must be delivered “forthwith” to the sheriff of the county where the seizure occurred. Upon delivery of the vehicle, within 15 days the sheriff must notify everyone listed on the title to the vehicle by certified mail to the address on file with the Secretary of State, and must also notify the State’s Attorney in the county where the seizure occurred. The statute provides that the spouse of the owner of the seized vehicle can file a hardship provision transferring title to the vehicle to the spouse if the vehicle is the family’s sole form of transportation and the hardship to the family outweighs the state’s interest in the vehicle. Hardship relief is only available once per family. If someone in the family subsequently has the same or another vehicle seized, hardship relief will not be available.
Unless there are other mitigating factors warranting remission of the forfeiture, the State Attorney must file a complaint for forfeiture in the circuit court and serve notice on the appropriate parties, who must file a verified answer to the complaint within 20 days from the date the complaint was mailed. If the vehicle is subject to a lien, the lienholder will typically file an answer asserting their interest in the vehicle and stating they had no knowledge the vehicle would be used in the commission of an offense. The lienholder will also file a petition seeking the return of the vehicle under their security interest.
If the vehicle is not released on a hardship provision or on a lienholder’s petition, a hearing is held on the forfeiture. The state must only show by a preponderance of the evidence that the vehicle was used in the commission of a crime. The vehicle owner does not have to be convicted of the underlying offense to uphold a forfeiture proceeding.
If you have been accused of a violation of Illinois’ DUI laws, or if your vehicle has been seized, contact me for immediate assistance. Thanks for reading, and have a safe 4th of July holiday weekend.