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People v. Adams

January 22, 2001

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS,
PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
V.
MICHAEL ADAMS, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Lee County. No. 98--CF--52 Honorable David T. Fritts, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Rapp

Defendant, Michael Adams, pleaded guilty to burglary (720 ILCS 5/19--1(a) (West 1998)) and was sentenced to four years' imprisonment. Later, upon the State's complaint, the trial court ordered the forfeiture of defendant's 1987 Oldsmobile station wagon (vehicle). See 720 ILCS 5/36--2 (West 1998). Defendant appeals the forfeiture order, arguing that (1) the Dixon police, after seizing the vehicle, failed to "deliver" it to the Lee County sheriff (see 720 ILCS 5/36--1 (West 1998)); and (2) the State failed to prove that the vehicle was used "in the commission" of his crime (720 ILCS 5/36--1 (West 1998)). We affirm.

The factual basis for defendant's plea was as follows. On March 9, 1998, defendant entered the "office area" of a Shell gas station. He was not authorized to do so. Once inside, defendant took some receipts containing various credit card numbers. He used those numbers to charge the tolls of calls to telephone "chat lines."

In its complaint for forfeiture, the State alleged that defendant owned the vehicle and used it to commit his burglary. At the hearing on that complaint, Clay Whelan, a Dixon police officer, testified as follows. Defendant's crime was recorded by a surveillance camera. When the police confronted him, defendant confessed that he had driven the vehicle to the gas station. Pursuant to a warrant, the police searched the vehicle but found no evidence therein. A title search revealed that defendant was the sole owner of the vehicle and that defendant's interest was unencumbered. The police seized the vehicle and kept it "at a facility owned by the City of Dixon." The vehicle remained there through the day of the hearing.

Defendant testified that, although the vehicle was titled in his name alone, his wife relied heavily on the vehicle and could not afford to replace it.

The following conversation occurred among the court, defendant, and Assistant State's Attorney Ronald Jacobson:

"THE COURT: Have they changed the law [so that] the vehicle [that] has been seized doesn't have to be turned over to the Sheriff any longer?

MR. JACOBSON: I don't know, Judge, if it has or not. I know in this case the Dixon Police Department notified [the] Sheriff *** on March 12 [of 1998] that the vehicle had been seized ***. On March 13 [the] Sheriff notified Mr. Adams of the fact [that] the vehicle had been seized and the papers had been forwarded to the State's Attorney's office for consideration of filing [a] complaint for forfeiture. I don't know if [the vehicle] actually technically has to get in the Sheriff's Department['s] hands. I know the possession is steered by the Sheriff's Department.

MR. JACOBSON: *** I would argue [that] the fact that the Dixon Police Department has custody of [the vehicle] doesn't abrogate the intent of the statute because [the required] notices were given by the Sheriff *** to Mr. Adams. I would argue that it is just a matter of convenience for the police department *** to [retain] custody of the vehicle even though the Sheriff's Department is in the driver's seat as far as the forfeiture is concerned.

THE COURT: Mr. Adams, did you receive [the sheriff's notice] while you were at the county jail?

MR. ADAMS: Yes."

The court ruled that defendant was the sole owner of the vehicle and that he used it in the commission of his burglary. Therefore, the court entered an order of forfeiture, and defendant appealed.

Initially we address the State's request that we dismiss this appeal because defendant's brief does not comply with Supreme Court Rule 341 (177 Ill. 2d R. 341). As the State points out, defendant's statement of facts contains no citations to the record (177 Ill. 2d R. 341(e)(6)), and his argument contains no citations to authorities (177 Ill. 2d R. 341(e)(7)). We observe that defendant is pro se, but "a pro se litigant must comply with the rules of procedure required of attorneys, and a court will not apply a more lenient standard to pro se litigants." People v. Fowler, 222 Ill. App. 3d 157, 165 (1991).

Nevertheless, we will not dismiss an appeal for briefing deficiencies "if a reading of the entire brief makes it possible for the court to determine the questions or issues sought to be raised." People ex rel. Carter v. Touchette, 5 Ill. 2d 303, 305 (1955). Despite defendant's violations of Rule 341, we are fully capable of ...


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