Illinois DUI Can Mean Seized Vehicle

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In Naperville, Illinois, officials are taking a tough stance against drunk driving. Drivers arrested for DUI can now have their vehicles seized and forfeited.

Since the beginning of 2008, Naperville has seized 78 vehicles after DUI and criminal arrests. Police Chief David Dial says that approximately five vehicles a week are seized in Naperville due to a state program that now allows the vehicles of drunk drivers to be seized. Under Article 36 of Illinois criminal code, any vehicle used in the commission of one of 48 different crimes, including Illinois DUI, may be seized and forfeited.

Over 418 vehicle seizures have been filed this year by the DuPage County attorney's office, according to the Naperville Sun. Approximately 64 percent of the vehicle seizures were for arrests stemming from revoked or suspended license violations and 29 percent of the vehicle seizures were for Illinois DUI arrests.

Only seven percent of the vehicles seized were for other Article 36 violations such as murder, exploitation of a child, criminal sexual abuse or assault, aggravated battery, armed robbery, arson or stalking. Some vehicles were also seized and forfeited for gambling and violation of the Cigarette Tax Act by 10 cartons or more.

Although the seizure and forfeiture of vehicles stem from criminal violations and DUI arrests, the actual forfeiture process is handled as a civil matter. This means that the burden of proof is not "beyond a reasonable doubt," and is instead the lesser "beyond a preponderance of doubt.

The case is heard before a judge who weighs the evidence according to the civil standard and decides the fate of the vehicle. This means that regardless of guilt or innocence, a person suspected of DUI can lose their vehicle simply because they have been accused of drunk driving if the judge feels that they are "probably" guilty.

When a vehicle is ruled forfeited, it is returned to the police agency that filed the original Illinois DUI or criminal charges and will be sold. The proceeds of the sale of forfeited vehicles go into the municipality's general fund.

During the 2008 fiscal year ending April 30, the city of Naperville brought in approximately $137,000 with the sale of seized and forfeited vehicles. That was approximately $12,000 more than in the previous fiscal year and the city expects the amount to continue to rise. More than 50 vehicles seized in DUI and criminal arrests go on the auction block in September.

DuPage County State's Attorney Joe Birkett says that the seizure, forfeiture and sale of vehicles in not meant to be a revenue generator, but instead should be a deterrent of drunk driving. He says that police agencies in DuPage County do not want to seize more vehicles, they want less Illinois DUI arrests.


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