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The People of the State of Illinois v. Single Story House

October 22, 2012

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS,
PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
SINGLE STORY HOUSE, ET AL.,
DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Randolph County. Nos. 07-MR-82 & 07-MR-83 Honorable Richard A. Aguirre, Judge, presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Wexstten

NOTICE

The text of this decision may be changed or corrected prior to the filing of a Petition for Rehearing or the disposition of the same.

JUSTICE WEXSTTEN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Spomer and Stewart concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

¶ 1 In December 2007, the State filed in the circuit court of Randolph County a complaint for forfeiture, pursuant to the Cannabis Control Act (720 ILCS 550/12 (West 2006)), of a single-story house at 9972 Surman Lane in Chester, Illinois. Thereafter, the legislature amended subsection 12 of the Cannabis Control Act to specifically include "real property" as subject to forfeiture. 720 ILCS 550/12(6) (West 2010). Concluding that the real property at issue was not subject to forfeiture pursuant to section 12(a)(4) of the prior version of the Cannabis Control Act (720 ILCS 550/12(a)(4) (West 2006)), the circuit court entered judgment against the State, and the State appeals.

¶ 2 On appeal, the State argues that the circuit court erred in applying the prior version of the Cannabis Control Act to this case but that even if the prior version of the statute applies, the real property at issue was nevertheless subject to forfeiture as a "thing[ ] of value." 720 ILCS 550/12(a)(4) (West 2006). For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

¶ 3 BACKGROUND

¶ 4 On September 27, 2007, Darrel W. Eggemeyer and Margaret A. Eggemeyer were arrested for violating the Cannabis Control Act (720 ILCS 550/5(g), 8(d) (West 2006)). At that time, government agents seized approximately 1,539.3 grams of cannabis located on their real property, which included a single-story house with a basement, buildings, and 20 acres, on which they resided as joint tenants. Government agents seized approximately 15,130 grams of cannabis on real property not owned by the Eggemeyers.

¶ 5 On July 8, 2008, Darrel pled guilty to unlawful possession with intent to deliver more than 2,000 grams but less than 5,000 grams of a substance containing cannabis (720 ILCS 550/5(f) (West 2006)) and was sentenced to four years' imprisonment. Margaret pled guilty to unlawful possession with intent to deliver more than 500 grams but less than 2,000 grams of a substance containing cannabis (720 ILCS 550/5(e) (West 2006)) and was sentenced to two years' probation.

¶ 6 On December 28, 2007, prior to the Eggemeyers' convictions, the State initiated forfeiture proceedings, alleging that the Eggemeyers' real property was subject to forfeiture, as it was used to facilitate the transportation, possession, or concealment of production and possession of cannabis, pursuant to section 12(a)(4) of the Cannabis Control Act (720 ILCS 550/12(a)(4) (West 2006)). While the State's forfeiture case was pending, the legislature amended the Cannabis Control Act to specifically include, as subject to forfeiture, "real property *** used or intended to be used to facilitate the manufacture, distribution, sale, receipt, or concealment of" cannabis. 720 ILCS 550/12(a)(6) (West 2010). At a motion hearing on April 9, 2009, the circuit court questioned whether it should "apply a new law that was [not] in effect when the complaint was filed." At a hearing on August 10, 2011, the State represented that it was proceeding under the prior version of the statute.

¶ 7 Accordingly, on October 5, 2011, the circuit court entered judgment against the State, concluding that the real property was not subject to forfeiture as a "thing[ ] of value" pursuant to the prior version of the Cannabis Control Act in effect when the Eggemeyers were arrested, pled guilty, and were sentenced. 720 ILCS 550/12(a)(4) (West 2006). The circuit court noted that the term "things of value" appeared between "money" and "books, records, and research products and materials including formulas, microfilm, tapes, and data which are used, or intended for use in a felony violation." 720 ILCS 550/12(a)(4) (West 2006). The circuit court held that to construe "thing[ ]" to encompass real property and all other categories enumerated elsewhere as subject to forfeiture would render the statute's provisions meaningless and would result in an absurdity plainly not intended by the legislature. The circuit court concluded that under the doctrine of expressio unius est exclusio alterius, the enumeration of formulas, microfilm, tapes, and data, with no enumeration of real property, indicated the exclusion of real property as an item subject to forfeiture. Likewise, the circuit court determined that, pursuant to the doctrine of ejusdem generis, the term "things of value" included items of the same class as the specific items enumerated in subsection 12(a)(4). 720 ILCS 550/12(a)(4) (West 2006). The circuit court further held that the Illinois Controlled Substances Act and the Cannabis Control Act, when construed together, revealed the legislature's intent to exclude real property as subject to forfeiture as a "thing[ ] of value" under either Act. On November 4, 2011, the State filed a motion to reconsider, which the circuit court denied on November 21, 2011. On December 20, 2011, the State filed its notice of appeal.

¶ 8 ANALYSIS

¶ 9 On appeal, the State argues initially that the circuit court erred in applying the prior version of the Cannabis Control Act to this case. Alternatively, the State argues that even if the prior version of the Cannabis Control Act applies, the Eggemeyers' real property was nevertheless subject to forfeiture as a "thing[ ] of value." 720 ILCS 550/12(a)(4) (West 2006).

¶ 10 The resolution of this dispute turns on questions of statutory interpretation. "The fundamental rule of statutory construction is to ascertain and give effect to the legislature's intent." Hall v. Henn, 208 Ill. 2d 325, 330 (2003). The best indication of legislative intent is the statutory language, giving the words their plain meaning and construing them in context. Id.; In re Application of the County Collector, 356 Ill. App. 3d 668, 670 (2005). A statute should be construed, if possible, so that no part of it is rendered superfluous, meaningless, absurd, inconvenient, or unjust. Id. The court must construe the statute as written, however, and may not, under the guise of construction, supply omissions, remedy defects, annex new provisions, add exceptions, or otherwise change the law so as to depart from the plain meaning of the language employed in the statute. In re Application of the County Collector, 356 Ill. App. 3d at 670. "The construction of a statute is a question of law that is reviewed de novo." Hall, 208 Ill. 2d at 330.

¶ 11 On August 16, 1971, the Cannabis Control Act (720 ILCS 550/1 to 19 (West 2010)) and the Illinois Controlled Substances Act (Controlled Substances Act) (720 ILCS 570/100 to 603 (West 2010)) became law in the State of Illinois. The original versions of these Acts contained similar provisions regarding forfeiture of property. The original version of the Cannabis Control Act provided, in pertinent part, that the following were subject to forfeiture: "all money, things of value, books, records, and research products and materials including formulas, microfilm, tapes, and data which are used, or intended for use, in violation of this Act." 720 ILCS 550/12(a)(4); previously Ill. Rev. Stat., ch. 561/2 , ¶ 712(a)(4) (eff. Aug. 16, 1971, through Sept. 9, 1990).

¶ 12 The original version of the Controlled Substances Act provided, in pertinent part, that the following were subject to forfeiture:

"all books, records, and research products and materials including formulas, microfilm, tapes, and data which are used, or intended to be used in violation of this Act." 720 ILCS 570/505(a)(4); previously Ill. Rev. Stat., ch. 561/2 , ...


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