Illinois police agencies worried over proposed change in drug forfeiture law

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BELLEVILLE, IL (KPLR) - Police agencies in Illinois say it’s a way to not only put drug dealers out of business but a way to help fund drug tactical units.  Some Illinois lawmakers feel a change is needed to current forfeiture laws.

St. Clair County Sheriff Rick Watson is disturbed by a bill introduced in Springfield.  The proposal would not allow police to seize property unless there’s first a conviction.

Watson predicts the legislation would not only mean less money for his department’s drug fighting efforts but would also make drug dealing more profitable.

“Don’t make drug dealing a lucrative business,” said Watson.

Watson said Illinois law enforcement must currently obtain a judge’s order before vehicles and property used in suspected drug crimes are seized.  His department eventually auctions those items off and the money is then used to pay for the drug tactical unit’s vehicles, gas, overtime, surveillance equipment and other resources.

The sheriff plans on using the money from future drug property forfeitures for a program he believes will save lives.

“I want to take some of this seizure money and I want to send people to drug rehab,” said Watson.

Supporters of the legislation believe a conviction should be required because sometimes mistakes are made.  They believe it’s the best way to protect the innocent.  The proposal would also require law enforcement to make available to the public details about the property seized and sold.