Illinois Bill Takes on “Policing for Profit” via Asset Forfeiture, Closes Federal Loophole

By Mike Maharrey

A bill introduced in the Illinois House would reform the state’s asset forfeiture laws to prohibit the state from taking property without a criminal conviction. The legislation also takes on federal forfeiture programs by banning prosecutors from circumventing state laws by passing cases off to the feds.

Rep. Al Riley (D-Hazel Crest) introduced House Bill 468 (HB468) on Jan. 17. The legislation would reform Indiana law by requiring a criminal conviction before prosecutors could proceed with asset forfeiture. The proposed law would completely eliminate civil forfeiture in Illinois. Under current law, Illinois law enforcement can take property even if a person is never found guilt of a crime, or even charged.

HB468 would also require prosecutors to deposit proceeds from forfeiture into the general fund after paying certain expenses. Currently Illinois law enforcement agencies can keep up to 90 percent of forfeiture money. This change would reduce the perverse policing for profit incentives in the current law.


HB468 also closes a loophole that allows prosecutors to bypass more stringent state asset forfeiture laws by passing cases off to the federal government under its Equitable Sharing forfeiture program. The proposed law would specifically prohibit this practice in most cases.

(a) No unit of State government may transfer a criminal investigation or proceeding to the federal government to circumvent State forfeiture law.

(b) For a State government unit to transfer a criminal investigation or proceeding that includes forfeiture to the federal government, a State court shall affirmatively find that:
(1) the suspected criminal activity giving rise to the forfeiture is interstate in nature and sufficiently complex to justify the transfer; or
(2) the seized property is forfeitable only as a violation of federal law.

The proposed law would also require equitable sharing funds to be deposited in the general fund.

The inclusion of provisions barring state and local law enforcement agencies from passing off cases to the feds is particularly important. In several states with strict asset forfeiture laws, prosecutors have done just that. By placing the case under federal jurisdiction, law enforcement can bypass the need for a conviction under state law and collect up to 80 percent of the proceeds from forfeited assets via the federal Equitable Sharing Program.

For example, California previously had some of the strongest state-level restrictions on civil asset forfeiture in the country, but law enforcement would often bypass the state restrictions by partnering with a federal asset forfeiture program known as “equitable sharing.” Under these arrangements, state officials would simply hand over forfeiture prosecutions to the federal government and then receive up to 80 percent of the proceeds—even when state law banned or limited the practice. According to a report by the Institute for Justice, Policing for Profit, California ranked dead last of all states in the country between 2000 and 2013 as the worst offender. During the 2016 legislative session, the state closed the loophole.

As the Tenth Amendment Center previously reported the federal government inserted itself into the asset forfeiture debate in California. The feds clearly want the policy to continue.


We can only guess. But perhaps the feds recognize paying state and local police agencies directly in cash for handling their enforcement would reveal their weakness. After all, the federal government would find it nearly impossible to prosecute its unconstitutional “War on Drugs” without state and local assistance. Asset forfeiture “equitable sharing” provides a pipeline the feds use to incentivize state and local police to serve as de facto arms of the federal government by funneling billions of dollars into their budgets.


HB468 was referred to the House Rules Committee where it will need to pass by a majority vote before moving forward in the legislative process.

Michael Maharrey [send him email] is the Communications Director for the Tenth Amendment Center, where this article first appeared. He proudly resides in the original home of the Principles of ’98 – Kentucky. See his blog archive here and his article archive here. He is the author of the book, Our Last Hope: Rediscovering the Lost Path to Liberty. You can visit his personal website at and like him on Facebook HERE

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5 Comments on "Illinois Bill Takes on “Policing for Profit” via Asset Forfeiture, Closes Federal Loophole"

  1. Wow…already?? What a disgrace that this was even allowed in this country.

    • Dude. You just said that it’s a disgrace that policing-for-profit is unconstitutional. IOW, you wish it was constitutional!

      Be careful when using negative constructions. You can easily say the opposite of what you intended to say!

      • It’s always been unconstitutional in the state where I live and has never been a concern here. So I get a little excited about Govt abuse like that and wonder how that obvious public looting by the police can be tolerated by the masses to the point it’s gone on now. Although in the past few weeks there was another state that also put an end to this state-sponsored crime. I’ll re-read that and straighten that up a bit so thanks for pointing that out…

        • No problem. People get caught inside negative constructions all the time. You’re thinking one thing but writing another.

          It’s also never a great idea to proofread your own writing if it’s something important; you will miss something because you see it as you are thinking it, and not the way it’s written.

  2. The legislation would reform Indiana…
    Very confusing talking about Illinois and then about Indiana then back to Illinois again.

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