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NOT GUILTY: Seized Property & Fines

Published on March 29th, 2018

What happens to your fine or seized property when you’re not guilty? You might need to help to get a repayment or property returned from the Government…

More from the US Supreme Court to help ordinary people dealing with ordinary problems. In a recent decision the US Supreme Court helped 2 former defendants in Colorado who paid substantial fines and costs and wanted their money back after their convictions were overturned. These former defendants had costs and wanted their money back after their convictions were overturned. These former defendants had to bring a civil action which eventually became Nelson v. Colorado,137 S.Ct 30 (S.Ct 2017). The plaintiffs in Nelson v. Colorado were originally told they had to sue the state under it “Exoneration Act” which required the former defendants to “prove they were actually innocent to get their fines and costs back”. The State of Colorado further claimed in its argument that “the presumption of innocence only applies in criminal cases and not civil claims”. The US Supreme Court said this turns American Justice on its head; violating the long standing presumption of innocence for all accused. The US Supreme Court held that the presumption applies in any claim involving the government.

This seems that it only helps on fines if you limit the use of the decision. But it also branches out to the various claims for forfeitures of property to the government. I’ve handled several forfeiture cases over the years. Two cases come to mind: one a forfeiture of an automobile in a drug related case and a seizure of a rifle in an alleged “poaching” case.

In the automobile case the automobile was seized when my client was on his way to High School and picked up a friend. The car was stopped and the 2 boys searched. The friend of my client had marijuana in his back pack and my client’s car was seized under Chapter 720 of the Illinois Compiled Statutes Section 550/12. It took a civil action and 11 months of regular Court appearances to get the automobile returned when I was able to show that my client had committed no crime. The “poaching” case involved a client who had taken a new hunting dog out to train out of season and the Conservation Police found him with a rifle and 3 cartridges while training the dog. He was strip searched by the Conservation police for the alleged raccoons he had “poached” and his rifle was seized under Chapter 720 of the Illinois Compiled Statutes Section 5/36-1. The problem for my client was that while the rifle was only worth about $40.00, the scope on it was worth about 500.00. So he wanted it back. Again in this pre- Nelson v. Colorado situation we had to spend a lot of Court time to get the property back.

The Nelson v. Colorado decision provides a new way to get the fines, costs, and property back of people accused of offenses who are found to be not guilty. If you are accused and property is seized or bond is paid we can get you money or property back more easily now. Consulting an attorney on any matter where the Courts or the Government is involved is your best move.


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