Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Third Division
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 13 M1 450165. Honorable Joseph M. Sconza, Judge Presiding.
For Appellant: Zachary D. Limbaugh, of counsel, The Limbaugh Law Firm, LLC, Chicago, IL.
For Appellee: Benna Ruth Solomon, Myriam Zreczny Kasper, Justin A. Houppert, of counsel, Corporation Counsel of the City of Chicago, Chicago, IL.
JUSTICE MASON delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Pucinski and Justice Hyman concurred in the judgment and opinion.
[¶1] Plaintiff Patrick Sloper appeals the finding of the City of Chicago's (City) department of administrative hearings that he violated a municipal ordinance prohibiting narcotics in vehicles and the $3,320 judgment imposed against him for that violation. On appeal, Sloper claims the administrative law officer (ALO) lost jurisdiction to decide the matter because the impoundment hearing was held more than 30 days after Sloper's request. Sloper also claims the penalty imposed was unconstitutionally excessive because the value of his vehicle was substantially less than the penalty and he was an " innocent owner" since he had no knowledge that the individual using his vehicle would possess narcotics inside the vehicle. Finding Sloper's claims unpersuasive, we affirm.
[¶3] On December 5, 2012, Michelle Calomino dropped Sloper off at the airport and he left his 1995 Ford Escort in her possession. Sloper traveled to Las Vegas to visit his sister and remained there until December 10.
[¶4] On December 9, 2012 in the vicinity of 4816 S. LeClaire in Chicago, police officers identified a vehicle they were looking for based on information that the vehicle's driver possessed narcotics. The officers stopped the vehicle and asked the driver, later identified as Calomino, to exit the vehicle. Calomino was driving Sloper's vehicle at that time. Following Calomino's admission that she possessed narcotics, the officers recovered six bags of suspected heroin in her possession.
[¶5] After recovering the narcotics from Calomino, the officers impounded the vehicle pursuant to section 7-24-225 of the Municipal Code of Chicago (Municipal Code) (Chicago Municipal Code § 7-24-225 (amended Nov. 16, 2011)), which subjects a vehicle containing any controlled substance to seizure and impoundment. The ordinance further provides for a $2,000 administrative penalty for a vehicle found to contain narcotics; the penalty increases to $3,000 if the violation takes place within 500 feet of a public park or school. On the impoundment form, the location of the violation was listed as within 500 feet of a park or school. The impoundment form also listed Calomino as the vehicle's driver and Sloper as the vehicle's owner.
[¶6] The officers inventoried the bags recovered from Calomino and sent the bags to the Illinois State Crime laboratory for testing. Following testing on 1.1 grams of the powder, the crime laboratory identified the recovered substance as heroin.
[¶7] After Sloper returned to Chicago on December 10, Calomino's mother was unable to tell him the whereabouts of Calomino or his vehicle. Sloper checked the City's impoundment records and discovered his vehicle had been impounded.
[¶8] On December 14, 2012, the City's department of administrative hearings held a probable cause hearing regarding the vehicle's impoundment. The City presented the vehicle impoundment seizure report in which the police officer stated the driver was found to be in possession of six bags of suspected heroin. The ALO found the City had established probable cause to impound the vehicle and that the vehicle contained unlawful drugs within 500 feet of a park or school. The ALO imposed a $3,235 judgment for the violation consisting of a $3,000 penalty, a storage fee ...