from the Circuit Court of the 10th Judicial Circuit, Peoria
County, Illinois, Circuit No. 16-SC-478 Honorable Katherine
S. Gorman, Judge, Presiding.
Presiding Justice Holdridge and Justice Carter concurred in
the judgment and opinion.
1 Plaintiff, Esteban Carrillo Rodriguez, filed a complaint in
small claims court seeking the return of money that had been
seized from him upon arrest and subsequently subjected to
civil forfeiture. Defendant is Jerry Brady, the Peoria County
State's Attorney, whose office executed the civil
forfeiture. Plaintiff argued in his complaint that the notice
of forfeiture sent to his home address was constitutionally
insufficient where defendant knew or should have known that
plaintiff was in the Kane County jail after being arrested in
Peoria County. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss the small
claim, which the circuit court granted. We reverse and remand
for further proceedings.
3 Plaintiff filed a small claims complaint in the Peoria
County circuit court against defendant. In the complaint,
plaintiff alleged that "without proof of notice and
contrary to statute, the Peoria County State's Attorney
deprived the Plaintiff of his $5, 335.00." Within the
complaint, plaintiff made a number of supporting factual
allegations. Plaintiff alleged that he was arrested on
October 7, 2008, in Peoria County, pursuant to a Kane County
warrant. Plaintiff was in possession of $5335 at the time of
his arrest, and that money was seized by arresting officers.
After plaintiff had made numerous attempts to recoup his
seized assets, the Kane County circuit court ordered the
return of the money on January 30, 2014. Subsequently,
plaintiff received a letter from the Kane County State's
Attorney's office notifying him that the Aurora police
department would be returning his money.
4 On March 5, 2014, the Kane County State's
Attorney's office filed a motion seeking vacatur of the
circuit court's previous order. In the motion, the Kane
County State's Attorney's office alleged that the
Peoria County State's Attorney had executed a declaration
of forfeiture on the money in question prior to the
court's order. The circuit court granted the motion.
Plaintiff subsequently wrote to the Peoria County circuit
court, seeking a copy of the notice of forfeiture that was
allegedly mailed to him. In response, plaintiff received a
letter from the Peoria County State's Attorney's
office informing him that notice of forfeiture had been
mailed to him on November 19, 2014. The correspondence
included a copy of the declaration of forfeiture, as well as
a copy of the return receipt of the certified mailing of the
notice of forfeiture. The declaration of forfeiture showed
that notice was first mailed on November 11, 2008. The copy
of the certified mail envelope showed that attempts were made
on three dates to deliver the notice to plaintiff at 18 W.
204 Knollwood Lane in Villa Park.
5 Plaintiff further alleged in his complaint that he had
remained in continuous custody from the date of his arrest in
October 2008. After receiving the above correspondence from
the Peoria County State's Attorney's office,
plaintiff contacted the Kane County jail, where he was
residing throughout November 2008. The jail had no record of
any mail addressed to plaintiff.
6 Plaintiff concluded that the Peoria County State's
Attorney's notice of forfeiture was insufficient, where
the office knew or should have known that plaintiff was in
jail and not in his home in Villa Park. Absent proper notice,
plaintiff argued, the executed forfeiture of the $5335 in
question was nothing more than a conversion.
7 Plaintiff attached to his complaint a number of exhibits
that verified his factual allegations. The exhibits included
the judgment from the Kane County circuit court ordering the
return of $5335, as well as a copy of the letter sent by the
Kane County State's Attorney's office to plaintiff
informing him that the Aurora police department would be
returning the money. Also attached was the letter from the
Peoria County State's Attorney's office, as well as
copies of the declaration of forfeiture and the notice of
forfeiture and its return receipt.
8 Defendant filed a motion to dismiss plaintiff's
complaint. In the motion, defendant alleged that plaintiff
was arrested in Peoria County on October 7, 2008,
"pursuant to a warrant by deputy U.S. Marshals and
Aurora, IL law enforcement personnel." The motion
further alleged that $5335 was seized from plaintiff as
suspected proceeds of a drug transaction. Plaintiff gave his
address to arresting officers as 18 W. 204 Knollwood Lane,
Villa Park, Illinois.
9 Defendant's allegations were supported by an Aurora
police department report, which defendant attached to his
motion. That police report described in detail a joint
operation between Aurora police officers and United States
Marshals to apprehend plaintiff in Peoria County. At the time
of the arrest, plaintiff was in possession of $5335 in cash.
The report showed that plaintiff was transported to the
Aurora police department upon his arrest. The $5335 was
placed into the evidence safe at the Aurora police
department. The police report explained that plaintiff had
been the "middle man for a drug transaction involving 5
kilos of cocaine." An inventory of seized property form,
also attached to defendant's motion, showed that the
money was later deposited into Old Second National Bank in
Aurora. That same form listed "Peoria County" as a
25% participant in the seizure.
10 Defendant alleged that notice of forfeiture was sent to
plaintiff at the given address, in compliance with statute.
Following a 45-day period, the money in question was declared
forfeited. Defendant concluded: "the Plaintiff was
notified in accordance with the statute and he no longer has
a basis in law for the return of that money to him."
11 Following a telephonic conference between the court,
plaintiff, and counsel for defendant, the court granted
defendant's motion to dismiss. The ensuing written order
declares that the court "grants the Defendant's
Motion to Dismiss." Notably, defendant's motion to
dismiss did not specify a particular section of the civil
code under which dismissal was ...