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Case Basics
Docket No. 
Anita Alvarez, Cook County State's Attorney
Chermane Smith, et al.
(argued the cause for the petitioner)
(Assistant to the Solicitor General, Department of Justice, for the United States as amicus curiae)
(argued the cause for the respondents)
Facts of the Case 

The Chicago Police Department seized property belonging to the plaintiffs, using the power granted it by the Illinois Drug Asset Forfeiture Procedure Act (DAFPA). The plaintiffs filed suit in an Illinois federal district court under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 arguing that when property is seized under the DAFPA, due process requires a prompt, postseizure, probable cause hearing. The district court dismissed, but the plaintiffs asked for a rehearing in light of Mathews v. Eldridge, which prohibited the seizure of real property without a prior hearing. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit granted review.

On appeal, the Seventh Circuit held that the DAFPA did not provide adequate due process for an owner to contest the seizure of his property, reasoning the length of time between seizure and contest was too long (a maximum of 97 to 187 days). The court remanded the case and instructed the district court to devise a mechanism by which an owner can contest the validity of the retention of his property.


In determining whether the Due Process Clause requires a state or local government to provide a postseizure, probable cause hearing, prior to a forfeiture of property, should the district court apply the test employed in United States v. $8,850 or that in Mathews v. Eldridge?

Decision: 8 votes for Alvarez, 1 vote(s) against
Legal provision:

Unanswered. In an opinion authored by Justice Stephen J. Breyer, the court dismissed the case as moot. At oral argument, the parties confirmed that there was no longer any dispute about the ownership or possession of the property in question. Justice John Paul Stevens concurred in part but opposed vacating the judgment of the Court of Appeals.

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ALVAREZ v. SMITH . The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 25 August 2015. <>.
ALVAREZ v. SMITH , The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, (last visited August 25, 2015).
"ALVAREZ v. SMITH ," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 25, 2015,