Constitutional Law

Appeals court denies bid by Outlaws biker club for return of 3 forfeited leather vests

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After more than a year of litigation, the Outlaws Motorcycle Club has again been rebuffed in its efforts to reclaim three black leather vests seized from members who were involved in a 2012 bar fight in Wonder Lake, Illinois.

In particular, the patches on the vests are important to the club, even though they are mass-produced and hence replaceable. That’s because they represent “a certain level of pride,” attorney Joel Rabb told a three-judge appellate panel in suburban Chicago last month, after the club was allowed to intervene in the seizure matter.

Rabb also argued that confiscating the patches, which he says belong to the club rather than individual members, is a violation of free-speech rights, the Chicago Tribune (reg. req.) reported at the time of the January argument.

On Tuesday, a three-judge panel of the Illinois Appellate Court, 2nd District, disagreed. It held (PDF) that the vests and patches were properly confiscated because, as a lower court determined, based on expert evidence, they facilitate street-gang-related activity.

While the defendants did not cause the violence at issue in the 2012 incident simply by wearing their Outlaws vests “wearing the vests facilitated the violence,” the appellate panel wrote. “As this is all the statute requires, the trial court did not err in granting the state‚Äôs complaint for forfeiture.”

Rabb told the Chicago Tribune (reg. req.) the club is disappointed by the decision.

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