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The People of the State of Illinois v. Four Thousand Eight Hundred Fifty

July 25, 2011

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS,
PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
FOUR THOUSAND EIGHT HUNDRED FIFTY
DOLLARS ($4,850) UNITED STATES CURRENCY, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from Circuit Court of Macon County No. 07MR530 Honorable Lisa Holder White, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Appleton

2011 IL App (4th) 100528

JUSTICE APPLETON delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Steigmann and Pope concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

¶ 1 The police seized $4,850 in cash from the residence of Deeandre Woodland on the ground that the money was connected to illegal narcotics. The State thereafter brought an action pursuant to the Drug Asset Forfeiture Procedure Act (Act) (725 ILCS 150/1 through 14 (West 2006)), seeking a judgment that the currency should be forfeited to the State. Woodland filed a motion to dismiss the forfeiture action because the State had exceeded the cumulative 97-day deadline in sections 5 and 6(A) of the Act (725 ILCS 150/5, 6(A) (West 2006)). The trial court granted his motion, and the State appeals. We agree with the trial court that the cumulative 97-day deadline created by sections 5 and 6(A) is mandatory, not directory, and that missing the deadline had the consequence of barring the requested forfeiture. Therefore, we affirm the trial court's judgment.

¶ 2 I. BACKGROUND

¶ 3 On August 30, 2007, the State's Attorney filed a notice of forfeiture with the circuit court. The notice was addressed to Woodland at 1435 North Woodford Street in Decatur and notified him that forfeiture proceedings were pending against $4,850 in United States currency, which the police seized on April 18, 2007, at 227 North 25th Street. The notice referred to Woodland as an owner of this currency and warned him that he might forfeit his ownership unless, within 45 days, he filed two documents with the State's Attorney's office: (1) a verified claim for the return of the currency, setting forth his interest in the currency and why that interest was not subject to forfeiture; and (2) a cost bond or, alternatively, an indigency affidavit.

¶ 4 On October 11, 2007, Woodland filed two documents with the circuit court: (1) a document entitled "Verified Claim and Motion To Dismiss" and (2) an indigency affidavit. In the first document, Woodland stated he had acquired the $4,850 "as the result of the sale of a motor vehicle, a 1997 Ford Expedition XLT, to Christy Rubi on or about April 10, 2007."

¶ 5 In addition to explaining where the currency came from and why it was not subject to forfeiture, the "Verified Claim and Motion To Dismiss" pointed out the State's noncompliance with sections 5 and 6(A) of the Act (725 ILCS 150/5, 6(A) (West 2006)). Section 5 required the police, within 52 days after seizing the currency, to notify the State's Attorney of the seizure, and section 6(A) required the State's Attorney, within 45 days after receiving the notice of seizure from the police, to cause a notice of pending forfeiture to be given to the owner of the currency. Woodland observed that under those two statutory provisions, sections 5 and 6(A), the State had, at the most, a total of 97 days after the seizure of the currency to give him notice of a pending forfeiture (52 45 = 97). He further observed that the State had missed this cumulative 97-day deadline. The police seized the currency on April 18, 2007, and 134 days later, on August 30, 2007, the State's Attorney gave Woodland notice of a pending forfeiture. Consequently, in his "Verified Claim and Motion To Dismiss," Woodland requested "[t]hat the forfeiture action herein commenced be dismissed, with prejudice," and that the $4,850 be returned to him.

¶ 6 On June 4, 2008, by docket entry, the trial court granted Woodland's motion for dismissal for the reason Woodland had urged, namely, the violation of the cumulative 97-day deadline in sections 5 and 6(A) (725 ILCS 150/5, 6(A) (West 2006)).

¶ 7 The State appealed, and on December 24, 2009, we dismissed the appeal for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. People v. One Thousand Two Hundred Forty Dollars ($1,240), 396 Ill. App. 3d 665, 667 (2009). We reasoned that because the State's Attorney had not yet filed a verified complaint pursuant to section 9(A) of the Act (725 ILCS 150/9(A) (West 2006)), the trial court "lacked jurisdiction over Woodland's motion to dismiss." $1,240, 396 Ill. App. 3d at 672. We explained that under the Act, "Woodland had to file his own verified claim with the State's Attorney for the return of the property" (he had done so) and that "the State's Attorney had then to file a verified complaint thereby commencing the judicial forfeiture proceeding. Because the latter never occurred, the court lacked jurisdiction," so we held. Id.

¶ 8 On March 16, 2010, the State filed a verified complaint, which alleged as follows. On November 10, 2006, the police stopped Woodland in the 300 block of East Division Street for a traffic violation. During the traffic stop, the police searched Woodland's person and found $1,240 in currency as well as a digital scale with cocaine residue on it. On April 18, 2007, the police executed a warrant to search Woodland's residence at 227 North 25th Street. Woodland was home at the time. The police found an open bag of dog food by the back door, and inside the bag, they found a total of $4,850 in currency, banded into five separate bundles. In a trash can just outside the back door, the police found two plastic-bag corners with cocaine residue inside them. While searching the residence, the police questioned Woodland, and he stated he was unemployed. The complaint alleged that the $4,850 that the police had found in the bag of dog food was subject to forfeiture because the money was connected with drug trafficking.

¶ 9 On April 7, 2010, instead of filing an answer, Woodland filed a motion to dismiss the State's complaint, and to return the $4,850 to him, for the same reason he had stated in his previous (premature) motion for dismissal, namely, the State had waited more than 97 days after seizing the currency to give him notice of a pending forfeiture, thereby violating sections 5 and 6(A) of the Act (725 ILCS 150/5, 6(A) (West 2006)). In a docket entry on July 1, 2010, the trial court granted Woodland's motion, again for that reason.

¶ 10 This appeal followed.

¶ 11 II. ANALYSIS

¶ 12 A. The State's Confusion of Standing With Jurisdiction

¶ 13 The State argues that section 9(E) of the Act (725 ILCS 150/9(E) (West 2008)) required Woodland to file an answer to the complaint within 45 days after service of the complaint and that because Woodland never filed an answer, he never established his standing to appear before the trial court in this in rem forfeiture proceeding. The State further argues that because Woodland never established his standing, he "failed to bring himself within the circuit court's jurisdiction[] and he failed [to] invoke its jurisdiction over the subject matter of his motion."

¶ 14 Thus, the State takes the position that because Woodland never established his standing, the trial court lacked personal jurisdiction over him and the court also lacked subject-matter jurisdiction. The State is mistaken on both points. Under Illinois law (in contrast to federal law), standing has nothing to do with subject-matter jurisdiction. Lebron v. Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, 237 Ill. 2d 217, 253-54, 254 n.4 (2010). As for the asserted lack of personal jurisdiction over Woodland, in rem jurisdiction is an alternative to personal jurisdiction (In re Possession & Control of the Commissioner of Banks & Real Estate of Independent Trust Corp., 327 Ill. App. 3d 441, 463 (2001)), and besides, Woodland submitted himself to the jurisdiction of the trial court by appearing generally and arguing that the State's complaint should be dismissed and that the currency should be returned to him (see In re Possession, 327 Ill. App. 3d at 464).

¶ 15 B. The Standing of Woodland

¶ 16 The State contends that Woodland had to file an answer in order to show that he had standing, a "real interest in the outcome of the controversy." People v. $1,124,905 U. S. Currency & One 1988 Chevrolet Astro Van, 177 Ill. 2d 314, 328 (1997). We disagree. It already was apparent from the State's own filings that Woodland had standing.

¶ 17 In its notice of pending forfeiture, for example, the State identified Woodland as the owner of the currency. Also, the verified complaint alleged that the police found the currency inside a bag of dog food in Woodland's residence. If money is found inside a person's residence, the money presumably belongs to that person. Ownership of personal property, including money, is presumed from the possession of it (Brownell v. Dixon, 37 Ill. 197, 206 (1865); People v. Hermann, 150 Ill. App. 3d 224, 230 (1986); Lyon & Healy v. Walldren, 201 Ill. App. 609, 612 (1916); State v. One Hundred Fifty-Two Thousand, Seven Hundred Sixty, & 00/100 Dollars ($152,760.00), in United States Currency, 87 S.W.3d 374, 380 (Mo. Ct. App. 2002)), and personal property located inside a person's residence is considered to be in the constructive possession of that person (People v. Morrison, 178 Ill. App. 3d 76, 90 (1988); Bishop v. Ellsworth, 91 Ill. App. 2d 386, 391 (1968)). Because Woodland controlled his residence at 227 North 25th Street along with everything inside it, he was in constructive possession of the $4,850 and therefore was presumably ...


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