THE PEOPLE ex rel. BRENDAN F. KELLY State's Attorney of St. Clair County, Plaintiff-Appellant,
ONE CHEVROLET TRAILBLAZER, Defendant Latoya Radford and Nathaniel D. Dukes, Claimants-Appellees.
23 order filed September 19, 2016
to Publish Granted: October 26, 2016
from the Circuit Court of St. Clair County, Nos. 15-FA-047
& 15-MR-179 Honorable Robert P. LeChien, Judge,
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
Attorneys (pro se) for Appellee Latoya Radford, Nathaniel D.
PRESIDING JUSTICE SCHWARM delivered the judgment of the
court, with opinion. Justices Goldenhersh and Moore concurred
in the judgment and 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because his driver's license had been revoked.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, ...