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May 1, 1996


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Lake County. No. 94-MR-110. Honorable Henry C. Tonigan III, Judge, Presiding.

Released for Publication June 4, 1996.

The Honorable Justice Colwell delivered the opinion of the court: Doyle and Rathje, JJ., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Colwell

JUSTICE COLWELL delivered the opinion of the court:

Claimant, Maurice Hood, appeals the circuit court's order forfeiting $5,970 pursuant to section 505(a)(5) of the Illinois Controlled Substances Act (Act) (720 ILCS 570/505(a)(5) (West 1994)). Claimant contends that (1) the trial court's order was against the manifest weight of the evidence because he presented evidence rebutting the statutory presumption that the currency was furnished or intended to be furnished in exchange for drugs (725 ILCS 150/7(1) (West 1992)); (2) the trial court abused its discretion by ordering forfeiture of the currency where no nexus existed between the currency and the unlawful activity; and (3) the forfeiture of the currency violates the excessive fines clause of the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution (U.S. Const., amend. VIII). We affirm.

On March 18, 1994, the State filed a complaint for forfeiture. In the complaint, the State alleged that, on December 18, 1993, claimant possessed cocaine in violation of section 402 of the Act (720 ILCS 570/402 (West 1992)). The State further alleged that law enforcement officers seized $5,970 from claimant and that the currency was subject to forfeiture pursuant to section 505(a)(5) of the Act (720 ILCS 570/505(a)(5) (West 1994)).

On June 20, 1994, the trial court held a hearing on the complaint for forfeiture. Although there is no transcript of the hearing, the record on appeal does contain a certified bystander's report (155 Ill. 2d R. 323(c)). The relevant facts, taken from the bystander's report, are as follows. On December 18, 1993, Officer Todd Schmitz learned that claimant was driving a vehicle while his license was suspended. Officer Schmitz stopped the vehicle driven by claimant and arrested him for driving while his driver's license was suspended (625 ILCS 5/6--303(a) (West 1992)). Officer Schmitz then searched the vehicle, finding a "Twinkies" box on the passenger side front floorboard. One side of the box exposed a large amount of money totalling $5,970. OfficerSchmitz testified that claimant said he did not know anything about the box. In addition, claimant did not protest when he took the money. A woman who said she was claimant's relative arrived at the scene, and claimant said to give her the money.

Officer Schmitz testified that, within inches of the currency on the floorboard, he found a plastic baggie containing a white rocky residue. Officer Schmitz also discovered a pager attached to the right pocket of claimant's pants and another plastic baggie with a small amount of white rocky residue in his left pocket. Field tests were performed on each of the white rocky substances which tested positive for cocaine.

Officer Schmitz further stated that he saw claimant on March 25, 1994. At that time, claimant told Officer Schmitz that he "could care less about this money" and he had "more where that came from."

Detective Jay Tapia testified that he received a complaint concerning claimant from one of claimant's neighbors, Bob Osario. Osario told Detective Tapia that, at all hours of the night, people would knock on his door asking for "Bob" and asking if he was working. Officer Tapia testified that asking if a person is working is slang for "are you selling drugs?" and that claimant's nickname was "Bob." Osario would refer these individuals to claimant's residence. Osario also told Detective Tapia that automobiles would stop at claimant's home and that the vehicles' occupants would stay for only a few minutes. Osario noticed on the vehicles city stickers from different towns. Detective Tapia concluded from speaking to Osario that drugs were being sold from claimant's residence.

The State introduced a certified copy of claimant's conviction for possession of a controlled substance (720 ILCS 570/402 (West 1992)). Claimant was convicted pursuant to an Alford plea ( North Carolina v. Alford, 400 U.S. 25, 27 L. Ed. 2d 162, 91 S. Ct. 160 (1970)), and the conviction arose out of the same incident as the forfeiture proceeding.

Romino Rhyan testified that she was at the scene of the traffic stop and heard Officer Schmitz say that claimant was being arrested for traffic violations. The officer did not tell Rhyan anything about drugs, and she never saw a plastic baggie.

Claimant's mother, Effie Wroten, testified that claimant lived with her and that she did not know of any drugs being sold from her home. Wroten said that claimant sold her an automobile. In exchange for the automobile, Wroten gave claimant $6,000 in cash and a receipt. Wroten stated that the same day the seizure occurred, she went to the post office, got a receipt, and stamped the receipt with the date. Wroten also said that claimant gave her the vehicle's title, although she never filed it. Wroten did not know how claimant paid for the vehicle or when he purchased it. However, she said she gave him the cash on that day because he needed the $6,000 to buy Christmas gifts.

Claimant testified that the seized currency belonged to him. Claimant said he never sold drugs at his mother's house and that he did not observe or know of any drugs being found in close proximity to the seized currency. Claimant stated that he sold an automobile to his mother and that his mother gave him the cash 1 1/2 hours before it was seized. Claimant testified that he originally purchased the automobile from someone in McHenry for $7,000 and later sold to his mother. Claimant could not recall where he went to purchase the vehicle or from whom he bought it. Although claimant stated that he procured the vehicle to fix it up, he admitted in interrogatories that he did not perform any mechanical ...

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