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People ex el. Kelly v. One Chevrolet Trailblazer

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fifth District

October 26, 2016

THE PEOPLE ex rel. BRENDAN F. KELLY State's Attorney of St. Clair County, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
ONE CHEVROLET TRAILBLAZER, Defendant Latoya Radford and Nathaniel D. Dukes, Claimants-Appellees.

          Rule 23 order filed September 19, 2016

          Motion to Publish Granted: October 26, 2016

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of St. Clair County, Nos. 15-FA-047 & 15-MR-179 Honorable Robert P. LeChien, Judge, presiding.

          Attorneys for Appellant Hon. Brendan F. Kelly, State's Attorney, St. Clair County, Patrick Delfino, Director, David J. Robinson, Acting Deputy Director, Kelly M. Stacey, Staff Attorney, Office of the State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor

          Attorneys (pro se) for Appellee Latoya Radford, Nathaniel D. Dukes

          PRESIDING JUSTICE SCHWARM delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Goldenhersh and Moore concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          SCHWARM PRESIDING JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 On May 17, 2015, following a traffic stop in Fairview Heights, claimant Nathaniel D. Dukes was arrested and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) (625 ILCS 5/11-501 (West 2014)) and driving while license revoked (DWLR) (625 ILCS 5/6-303 (West 2014)). The registered owner of the 2008 Chevrolet Trailblazer (VIN 1GNET13H582256890) that Dukes had been driving at the time of his arrest was his live-in girlfriend, claimant Latoya Radford.

         ¶ 2 On May 18, 2015, when interviewed by a detective with the Fairview Heights police department, Dukes stated, among other things, that Radford allowed him to use her Trailblazer "whenever he need[ed] it" and that the vehicle essentially belonged to "both of them." Dukes explained that he could not title a vehicle in his own name because his driver's license had been revoked.

         ¶ 3 On May 21, 2015, the State commenced a forfeiture action against the Trailblazer pursuant to article 36 of the Criminal Code of 2012 (720 ILCS 5/36-1 et seq. (West 2014)). Specifically, pursuant to section 36-1.5, the State filed a request that the circuit court hold a preliminary review hearing to determine whether there was probable cause that the vehicle "may be subject to forfeiture." 720 ILCS 5/36-1.5 (West 2014). Stating that Dukes was the "driver" of the Trailblazer and that Radford was the "registered owner, " the request referred to both as "the known claimants."

         ¶ 4 An affidavit in support of forfeiture was attached as an exhibit to the State's request for a preliminary review hearing. The affidavit set forth a detailed account of the events that led to Dukes's arrest and stated, among other things, that Dukes had been observed driving the Trailblazer erratically, that he had exhibited slurred speech and smelled of alcohol when the vehicle was stopped, and that a subsequent breath test revealed that his blood alcohol concentration was nearly twice the legal limit of 0.08. See 625 ILCS 5/11-501(a)(1) (West 2014). The affidavit further stated that Dukes had been arrested or convicted for DUI on five prior occasions since 1997 and that his driver's license was both suspended and revoked. The affidavit identified the Trailblazer by its vehicle identification number and its license plate number. The affidavit did not reference Radford at all, nor did it reference the statements that Dukes had made when interviewed on May 18, 2015.

         ¶ 5 On June 2, 2015, the cause proceeded to a preliminary review hearing. A transcript of the hearing is not included in the record on appeal, but the record indicates that the aforementioned affidavit was the only evidence presented for the circuit court's consideration. See 720 ILCS 5/36-1.5(b) (West 2014) ("The rules of evidence shall not apply to any proceeding conducted under this Section."). At the conclusion of the hearing, the circuit court entered a written order finding that the State had failed to establish probable cause that Radford knew or should have known that Dukes would be driving her Trailblazer on the date that it was seized. The court noted that its finding was based on "a lack of evidence." The court therefore determined that the State had failed to establish probable cause for purposes of section 36-1.5 and ordered that the Trailblazer be returned to Radford.

         ¶ 6 On June 30, 2015, the State filed a motion asking that the circuit court reconsider its June 2, 2015, order. The motion alleged that the affidavit in support of forfeiture overwhelmingly supported a finding of probable cause that the Trailblazer "may" be subject to forfeiture and that "the elements of 'knowledge and consent' are not part of the legal standard for a preliminary review determination." The State thus requested that the court enter an order finding probable cause so that the matter could proceed pursuant to section 36-2.

         ¶ 7 On August 4, 2015, the circuit court denied the State's motion to reconsider following a hearing. On August 20, ...


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