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Hayenga v. City of Rockford

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Second District

October 30, 2014

THERESA HAYENGA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
THE CITY OF ROCKFORD, Defendant-Appellant

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Winnebago County. No. 13-MR-397. Honorable Eugene G. Doherty, Judge, Presiding.



A decision by an administrative hearing officer for defendant city, a non-home-rule unit of government, upholding the impoundment of plaintiff's automobile after drug paraphernalia was discovered following a stop for a minor traffic violation was properly reversed by the trial court on administrative review, notwithstanding the city's contentions that the impoundment was authorized under a municipal ordinance and state law and that the trial court erred in denying the city's motion to reconsider, since section 17-41(a)(12) of the city's ordinances did not expressly authorize the city to impound a vehicle, it merely provided for the imposition of fees and costs related to an impounded vehicle, the city forfeited its argument that it had authority to impound the vehicle under section 11-208.7 of the Vehicle Code by failing to raise that argument in the administrative proceedings, and the city also forfeited its arguments against the denial of its motion to reconsider by failing to raise those arguments during the administrative hearing.

Kerry F. Partridge, Ifeanyi C. Mogbana, City of Rockford Department of Law, of Rockford, for Appellant.

Charles J. Prorok, Prorok Law Office, P.C., of Rockford, for Appellee.

Brian D. Day, Roger Huebner, Illinois Municipal League, of Springfield, Amicus Curiae.

JUSTICE McLAREN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Jorgensen and Spence concurred in the judgment and opinion.


Page 496


[¶1] After defendant, the City of Rockford (City), a non-home-rule unit of government, impounded a vehicle owned by plaintiff, Theresa Hayenga, she brought an administrative action. The administrative hearing officer ruled in favor of the City. On administrative review, the trial court reversed the administrative hearing officer's decision and ruled that the City did not have the authority to impound Hayenga's vehicle. The City appeals the trial court's decision, arguing that: (1) the City was authorized to impound Hayenga's vehicle under a municipal ordinance; (2) the City had authority under state law to impound Hayenga's vehicle; and (3) the trial court erred by denying the City's motion to reconsider. We affirm the trial court's decision.


[¶3] On January 2, 2013, at approximately 11 p.m., Matthew Wiseman, Hayenga's boyfriend, was driving Hayenga's vehicle, alone, when he was pulled over by the Rockford police for a burned-out rear license-plate light. Rockford police officer Christopher Jones observed multiple firearms, in plain view, on the backseat of the car. Upon Jones's request, Wiseman stepped out of the car. During a search of Wiseman, Jones found in Wiseman's pocket a glass bowl or pipe with what appeared to be cannabis residue. Jones arrested Wiseman for unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia, a Class A misdemeanor. See 720 ILCS 600/3.5 (West 2012). Jones also issued Wiseman a citation for the traffic violation and impounded Hayenga's vehicle. Hayenga sought an administrative hearing, challenging the City's authority to impound her vehicle.

[¶4] During the administrative hearing on March 8, 2013, the City argued that it had authority to impound Hayenga's vehicle pursuant to section 17-41(a)(12) of the Rockford Code of Ordinances (Rockford

Page 497

ode of Ordinances § 17-41(a)(12) (adopted Dec. 19, 2011)). Hayenga argued that section 17-41(a)(12) did not grant authority to impound vehicles, because it addressed only fees and procedures regarding impounded vehicles. Hayenga also argued that the impoundment was improper because Wiseman was arrested for a misdemeanor, such that " he did not have to be brought before a magistrate" without unnecessary delay, and the City " had absolutely no authority to impound the vehicle" under state law. Further, the City had no statutory authority for its interpretation of its ordinance.

[¶5] During the administrative hearing on April 12, the City argued that it relied on section 11-208.7(b)(12) of the Illinois Vehicle Code (625 ILCS 5/11-208.7(b)(12) (West 2012)) in enacting section 17-41(a)(12). The administrative hearing officer stated that there were no questions of fact and that section 17-41(a)(12)'s validity was a question of law. The hearing officer stated, " I do find this City's ordinance allows and is proper in accordance with State law and with [the Rockford police department's probable-cause statement] and I will uphold the impounding of the vehicle."

[¶6] The probable-cause statement indicated the following. Jones stopped Wiseman " for no rear registration light in the 1100 block of N. Church St." Because Jones observed multiple firearms on the backseat (the guns were later determined to be " BB/CO2 guns" ), Jones had Wiseman step out of the vehicle and patted him down. Jones removed from Wiseman's pocket a glass bowl or pipe used to ingest cannabis and took him " into custody at 1100 N. Church St. without incident."

[¶7] On April 23, 2013, Hayenga timely filed a complaint for administrative review in the trial court, alleging that " [t]he decision of the Hearing Officer was contrary to the law, against the manifest weight of the evidence and clearly erroneous" ; section 17-41(a)(12) did not authorize the impoundment of her vehicle; and the City did not otherwise have authority to impound her vehicle, because Wiseman " could have legally parked the vehicle where it was stopped." Hayenga asked the trial court to reverse the decision of the ...

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