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People ex rel. Hartrich v. 2010 Harley-Davidson

Supreme Court of Illinois

February 16, 2018

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS ex rel. MATTHEW HARTRICH, State's Attorney of Crawford County, Illinois, Appellant,
2010 HARLEY-DAVIDSON (Petra Henderson, Appellee).

          JUSTICE KILBRIDE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Freeman, Thomas, Garman, and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion.



         ¶ 1 The last time this court addressed the application of the excessive fines clause of the federal constitution's eighth amendment to the civil forfeiture of personal property was our decision in People ex rel. Waller v. 1989 Ford F350 Truck, 162 Ill.2d 78 (1994). In this appeal, we return to that issue.

         ¶ 2 After the trial court ordered the forfeiture of the claimant's motorcycle based on her husband's criminal conduct while driving it, she first raised an as-applied constitutional challenge to the Illinois civil forfeiture statute (720 ILCS 5/36-1 (West 2012)). She argued that the statute, as applied to the specific facts in this case, violated the excessive fines clause of the United States Constitution (U.S. Const., amend. VIII). Those facts showed that her husband was driving on a revoked license while under the influence of alcohol after an earlier revocation was extended due to his prior conviction for driving while his license was revoked, following multiple driving under the influence (DUI) convictions and statutory summary suspensions. The trial court rejected her claim, but the appellate court reversed. The appellate court concluded the forfeiture of the motorcycle constituted a constitutionally excessive penalty, violating the excessive fines clause of the eighth amendment. 2016 IL App (5th) 150035, ¶ 41. We reverse the judgment of the appellate court and reinstate the trial court's forfeiture order.

         ¶ 3 I. BACKGROUND

         ¶ 4 After midnight on April 26, 2014, a police officer in Robinson, Illinois, heard a motorcycle "revving" before observing a trike-style motorcycle make a "very wide" right turn, swerve, and nearly hit a telephone pole. The officer followed and turned on his car's emergency lights, but the motorcycle did not stop. The officer then activated his siren, but the motorcycle still did not stop. Instead, it continued to weave across the road for a total of about 12 blocks before turning into a driveway. The motorcycle was driven by Mark Henderson, whose wife, Petra, was a passenger on the back.

         ¶ 5 When Mark got off the motorcycle, the officer noted that he exhibited "a strong odor of alcohol, " slurred speech, and poor balance. The officer placed him under arrest. A breath test revealed his blood alcohol concentration was 0.161, over twice the legal limit. Mark was charged with aggravated DUI (625 ILCS 5/11-501(d) (West 2014)) and driving with a suspended or revoked driver's license (625 ILCS 5/6-303 (West 2014)).[1] Since 1996, his license had been summarily suspended multiple times, and his license was revoked following his 2008 DUI conviction. That revocation was extended after he was convicted of driving with a revoked license in 2012; as of April 2014, Mark's license remained revoked. The police seized the motorcycle, a 2010 Harley-Davidson, and the State filed initial and amended forfeiture complaints in the circuit court of Crawford County pursuant to section 36-1 of the Criminal Code of 2012 (720 ILCS 5/36-1(a)(6)(A)(i) (West 2012)).

         ¶ 6 At a December 2014 hearing on the State's forfeiture request, Mark's wife Petra, the claimant in this case, was shown to be the title owner of the motorcycle, although Mark took care of the maintenance on the vehicle. Mark also had the key fob with him throughout the night of his arrest. The evidence showed that the motorcycle could be started whenever its key fob was near.

         ¶ 7 The claimant and her husband provided similar descriptions of that evening's events. The claimant testified that Mark was a passenger as she drove the motorcycle to a number of bars in nearby towns. Prior to the couple's 12-block ride home from the Corner Place bar in Robinson, Illinois, he jumped on the motorcycle before her for the first time that night and started it. The claimant, who had not been drinking, initially objected to her husband driving. He, however, refused to get off the motorcycle. At the forfeiture hearing, the claimant admitted that she knew Mark was intoxicated and had no driver's license. That statement matched the account she gave to the police when Mark was arrested. Nonetheless, she allowed him to drive her home because he told her the only alternative was for her to walk. The claimant testified that she had purchased the motorcycle in 2010 for $35, 000, but no evidence was adduced about its value at either the time of her husband's arrest or the forfeiture hearing.

         ¶ 8 After hearing the evidence and the parties' arguments, the trial court entered an order of civil forfeiture, expressly finding that the claimant's testimony was self-serving and not credible. The trial court concluded that the claimant consented to her husband driving the motorcycle even though she knew he was intoxicated and did not have a valid driver's license, making the motorcycle subject to civil forfeiture. In a posttrial motion, the claimant argued for the first time that the forfeiture order created an as-applied violation of the excessive fines clause of the federal constitution's eighth amendment. The trial court rejected her claim, and she filed a timely notice of appeal.

         ¶ 9 The appellate court declined to overturn the trial judge's factual findings that the claimant's testimony was not credible and that she knowingly consented to her husband driving the motorcycle that night. Nonetheless, the court reversed the forfeiture order, concluding that, in light of the claimant's limited culpability, the penalty was unconstitutionally excessive under this court's three-part test in Waller, 162 Ill.2d at 89-90. We allowed the State's petition for leave to appeal pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 315(a) (eff. Mar. 15, 2016).

         ¶ 10 II. ANALYSIS

         ¶ 11 This appeal addresses the constitutionality of the Illinois civil forfeiture statute (720 ILCS 5/36-1(a)(6)(A)(i) (West 2012)) as applied to the court-ordered forfeiture of the claimant's 2010 Harley-Davidson motorcycle. The claimant specifically alleges that the trial court's application of the civil forfeiture statute to her motorcycle under the facts of this case violates the excessive fines clause of the eighth amendment of the federal constitution (U.S. Const., amend. VIII). The claimant makes it clear that she is bringing only an as-applied constitutional challenge to the statute, not a facial one. The distinction is crucial.

         ¶ 12 While a successful facial challenge faces the heavy burden of establishing that a statute is unconstitutional under any possible set of facts, an as-applied challenge has the burden of showing that a constitutional violation arises from the application of the statute to a specific set of facts and circumstances. People v. Holman, 2017 IL 120655, ¶ 29. For that reason, the facts necessarily play a critical role in the resolution of an as-applied constitutional challenge. Both facial and as-applied challenges face the same considerable burden of clearly overcoming the strong judicial presumption that the statute in question is constitutional. McElwain v. Office of the Illinois Secretary of State, 2015 IL 117170, ¶ 14 (stating the presumption in the context of an as-applied constitutional challenge); People v. Kitch, 239 Ill.2d 452, 466 (2011) (stating the presumption in the context of a facial constitutional challenge). In fact, our courts are obliged to construe all statutes so that they comport with the applicable constitutional provisions whenever reasonably possible. People v. Minnis, 2016 IL 119563, ¶ 21.

         ¶ 13 Because the constitutionality of a statute presents a legal question, we review the present as-applied challenge to the civil forfeiture statute de novo. People v. One 1998 GMC, 2011 IL 110236, ¶ 20. We will, of course, continue to give deference to the trial court's underlying credibility and factual findings, reversing them only if they are against the manifest weight of the evidence. Kalata v. Anheuser-Busch Cos., 144 Ill.2d 425, 433 (1991).

         ¶ 14 We note that the focus of the claimant's arguments has changed significantly since the forfeiture proceedings began in the trial court. In that court as well as the appellate court, the claimant relied heavily on her status as an "innocent owner, " insisting that she did not knowingly consent to her husband driving the motorcycle on the night of his arrest. Both courts rejected that argument, with the appellate court concluding the manifest weight of the evidence supported the trial court's factual finding that the claimant permitted her husband to drive prior to his arrest despite knowing that he was intoxicated and did not have a driver's license. The appellate court also upheld the trial court's determination that the claimant's contrary exculpatory testimony was not credible. 2016 IL App (5th) 150035, ¶ 25. Before this court, however, the claimant has completely abandoned her prior legal argument, now openly conceding that she knowingly consented to her husband driving the motorcycle that night. After reviewing the trial record, we agree with the appellate court that the trial court's factual and credibility findings were not against the manifest weight of the evidence. Therefore, we will rely on those findings throughout the remainder of our as-applied constitutional analysis.

         ¶ 15 The standard for whether a forfeiture violates the federal excessive fines clause was first broadly set out by the United States Supreme Court in United States v. Bajakajian, 524 U.S. 321 (1998). In that case, the Court addressed the constitutionality of requiring Hosep Bajakajian to forfeit over $357, 000 in cash that he willfully attempted to take out of the country without informing the United States government, in violation of a federal reporting statute. The district court found that the forfeiture of the entire sum Bajakajian failed to report, as requested by the government, would create an "extraordinarily harsh" and "grossly disproportionate" penalty when compared to his offense, thereby violating the excessive fines clause of the eighth amendment. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. Bajakajian, 524 U.S. at 325-26.

         ¶ 16 The Supreme Court agreed, holding that the forfeiture of the full amount of the cash undisclosed by Bajakajian would create an eighth amendment violation. In reaching that conclusion, the Court established the first broad analytical framework for reviewing constitutional claims brought under the excessive fines clause. After initially having "little trouble" concluding the forfeiture of the statutory amount was a "fine" for purposes of an eighth amendment analysis, the Supreme Court discussed the historical development of in rem and in personam forfeitures, as well as their differences, and concluded the federal forfeiture statute was derived from the in personam criminal forfeiture tradition. Bajakajian, 524 U.S. at 328-33. The Court then addressed what it deemed to be the "touchstone" of the excessive fines clause: proportionality. Proportionality had long required "some relationship" between the amount of the forfeiture and the gravity of the offense. Until that case, however, the Court had not "articulated a standard for determining whether a punitive forfeiture is constitutionally excessive." Bajakajian, 524 U.S. at 334.

         ¶ 17 To fill that analytical void, the Court borrowed from its own case law on the cruel and unusual punishments clause. In recognition of the " 'substantial deference to the broad authority that legislatures necessarily possess in determining the types and limits of punishments for crimes, ' " the Court expressly declined to require strict proportionality between the forfeiture and the misconduct. Bajakajian, 524 U.S. at 336 (quoting Solem v. Helm, 463 U.S. 277, 290 (1983)). Instead, it held that the proper standard for deciding if a specific punitive forfeiture was constitutionally excessive, thereby violating the eighth amendment's excessive fines clause, was if the forfeiture was "grossly disproportional to the gravity" of that misconduct. Bajakajian, 524 U.S. at 336-37. While continuing to recognize the traditional distinctions between an in personam forfeiture and the in rem forfeiture at issue here, the court explained that the same "grossly disproportionate" standard applies whenever a forfeiture is intended, at least in part, to impose punishment. Bajakajian, 524 U.S. at 332-34; Von Hofe v. United States, 492 F.3d 175, 184 (2d Cir. 2007).

         ¶ 18 Although this court has not reviewed an issue involving the excessive fines clause since the Supreme Court decided Bajakajian, in Waller, 162 Ill.2d at 90, we relied on then-emerging federal case law to conclude that an excessive fine clause challenge required a fact-intensive, case-by-case approach. We also adopted a three-part test from the federal courts. That test required courts to weigh (1) the gravity of the offense against the harshness of the penalty, (2) how integral the property was in the commission of the offense, and (3) whether the criminal conduct " 'involving the defendant property was extensive in terms of time and/or spatial use.' " Waller, 162 Ill.2d at 89-90 (quoting United States v. Real Property Located at 6625 Zumirez Drive, 845 F.Supp. 725, 732 (C.D. Cal. 1994)). While those factors are not exclusive, they provide the starting point for judicial review. Waller, 162 Ill.2d at 90. Despite preceding the Supreme Court's decision in Bajakajian, the three-prong test in Waller largely foreshadowed both the general standard announced in that case and the factors later defined by federal case law (see, e.g., Von Hofe, 492 F.3d at 186).

         ¶ 19 Here, the parties' focus is largely on the first factor, comparing the gravity of the offense to the harshness of the forfeiture. The State argues that the motorcycle's forfeiture was proportionate to the inherent dangers presented by Mark's aggravated DUI. This court has previously recognized the seriousness of the public safety threat created by the commission of a DUI, especially when the driver's license was already revoked due to a prior DUI. The legislature has also undoubtedly deemed aggravated DUI to be a serious criminal offense. See, e.g., People ex rel. Glasgow v. Carlson, 2016 IL 120544, ¶ 28 (acknowledging the seriousness of successive DUI convictions). It is a Class 4 felony and carries a prison sentence of one to three years, with a fine of up to $25, 000. 625 ILCS 5/11-501(d)(2)(A) (West 2014); 730 ILCS 5/5-4.5-45(a), 5-4.5-50(b) (West 2014). The State asserts that the claimant's culpability in this case is high because she knew her husband was intoxicated and had no license but permitted him to drive the motorcycle anyway, making her legally accountable for his criminal conduct.

         ¶ 20 The claimant, on the other hand, maintains that her conduct was merely negligent. She points out that she was not personally prosecuted for any offense that would have subjected the motorcycle to forfeiture.[2] According to her, an unconstitutional imbalance exists between her minimal culpability and her monetary loss due to the forfeiture. She notes that forfeiture is generally disfavored. People v. 1991 Chevrolet Camaro, 251 Ill.App.3d 382, 388 (1993). She also attempts to distinguish this case from the $28, 000 vehicle forfeiture approved in People v. One 2000 GMC, 357 Ill.App.3d 873 (2005), by arguing that the claimant in One 2000 GMC pled guilty to DUI and driving on a suspended license, while here she was not prosecuted or convicted of any offense. She asserts that the case most similar to this one is a Pennsylvania decision, Commonwealth v. 1997 Chevrolet, 106 A.3d 836 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2014) (en banc). There, the appellate court reversed an order forfeiting the homeowner's residence and minivan because they were used to facilitate $90 in controlled marijuana sales transacted by her son, who lived with her, and remanded the cause for a new forfeiture proceeding applying the proper test.

         ¶ 21 In our view, the Pennsylvania court's 1997 Chevrolet decision does not help this claimant. To the contrary, that decision undermines her argument for a number of reasons. First, the degree of knowledge the two property owners had about the underlying offenses varied considerably. The homeowner in 1997 Chevrolet consistently alleged she did not know her son was selling drugs out of her home. 1997 Chevrolet, 106 A.3d at 844-45. In contrast, here the claimant has now abandoned the "innocent owner" defense that she maintained throughout the proceedings in the trial and appellate courts, openly admitting to this court that she knowingly consented to her husband driving the motorcycle even though she knew he was intoxicated and did not have a driver's license.

         ¶ 22 Second, the Pennsylvania court emphasized the unique position that personal residences hold in eighth amendment forfeiture analysis. The evidence in that case showed the homeowner had resided in her house for over 30 years. 1997 Chevrolet, 106 A.3d at 848. The court noted that the forfeiture of a home is "not readily granted" and explained that courts have " 'traditionally drawn a distinction between one's personal property and one's home, according the latter far greater protection under the law.' " 1997 Chevrolet, 106 A.3d at 859 (quoting United States v. Certain Lots in Virginia Beach, 657 F.Supp. 1062, 1065 (E.D. Va. 1987)). Here, the claimant has not attempted to argue that her motorcycle warrants the same degree of heightened protection provided to personal residences, and we have found no case law to support that position.

         ¶ 23 Third, the Pennsylvania court expressly adopted the Second Circuit Court of Appeals' analytical framework in Von Hofe, 492 F.3d 175, to determine "the culpability of a property owner who is not the perpetrator of the criminal conduct that prompts the forfeiture." 1997 Chevrolet, 106 A.3d at 860. The analysis in Von Hofe largely undercuts the claimant's arguments before this court. As the Second Circuit explained, in an in rem forfeiture such as this one, the legal fiction of the property's purported "guilt" is measured by examining "the relationship between the property and the criminal offense." Von Hofe, 492 F.3d at 185. Here, the relationship between Mark's aggravated DUI and the motorcycle is very close indeed; he would not have committed that offense if he had not been driving the claimant's motorcycle that night.

         ¶ 24 The Von Hofe decision also addressed the traditional distinction between in rem and in personam forfeitures. Unlike in in personam forfeitures, the absence of criminal charges against the claimant is not a hindrance in an in rem forfeiture case. An in rem forfeiture may withstand constitutional scrutiny even if the property owner has never been criminally charged. "Neither conviction nor even the commencement of criminal proceedings is a necessary precondition to an in rem forfeiture. *** Nonetheless, the culpability of a claimant is relevant to our excessiveness determination." Von Hofe, 492 F.3d at 185.

         ¶ 25 In reviewing a property owner's degree of culpability, a court must consider any "criminal conduct he or she let transpire on the property." Von Hofe, 492 F.3d at 185. The Pennsylvania case relied on by the claimant expressly agreed with the Second Circuit's decision to look beyond any criminal charges in considering the claimant's culpability, stating that "the property owner's culpability must be evaluated by his own knowledge and actions, not the knowledge and actions of the wrongdoer." 1997 Chevrolet, 106 A.3d at 862. That position is, however, completely contrary to the one taken by the claimant at oral argument before this court. During oral argument, counsel for the claimant alternatively argued that Mark's criminal offense was the only relevant consideration and, after further questioning by the court, that we must look at the misconduct of both the claimant and her husband in deciding whether the forfeiture was justified.

         ¶ 26 Applying the Von Hofe analysis, we conclude that the claimant's culpability in her husband's aggravated DUI was far more than negligible. Although the claimant was not criminally prosecuted, she candidly admitted to this court that she consented to her husband driving the motorcycle on the night of his arrest despite knowing about his intoxication and revoked license. Even in the absence of that admission, however, we would have reached the same conclusion. First, the trial court determined that the claimant's exculpatory testimony during the forfeiture hearing was not credible. We afford great deference to that finding because that court was in a superior position to evaluate the testimony and credibility of the witnesses than is this court, with our review limited to a cold, written record. People ex rel. Madigan v. J.T. Einoder, Inc., 2015 IL 117193, ¶ 40. We cannot say that the trial court erred in making its credibility determination.

         ¶ 27 Next, the forfeiture statute requires the State to establish by a preponderance of the evidence that the vehicle to be forfeited was "used with the knowledge and consent of the owner in the commission of" one of the specified offenses, in this case an aggravated DUI, after the driver's license had been revoked for a prior DUI. 720 ILCS 5/36-1(a)(6)(A)(i), 36-2 (West 2012). At the time of Mark's arrest, he undoubtedly had been driving the claimant's motorcycle despite having a revoked driver's license for the second time and a blood alcohol concentration of over twice the legal limit in Illinois.

         ¶ 28 The record also shows, and the claimant now admits, that she knew of those conditions at the time she consented to her husband driving the couple home. A reasonable trier of fact could conclude that, under the facts and circumstances of this case, the claimant's conduct in knowingly granting her husband consent to drive her motorcycle was more than merely negligent. Based on the record and the deference we necessarily give to the trier of fact, we cannot say that the trial court's finding that the statutory perquisites for civil forfeiture were satisfied was against the manifest weight of the evidence. See Kalata, 144 Ill.2d at 433 (specifying the standard of review for findings made by the trier of fact). The trial court's findings adequately support the conclusion that the claimant bore more than marginal culpability for both her husband's subsequent aggravated DUI and the inherent public danger it created. Accordingly, we reject the claimant's contention that she lacked sufficient culpability for her husband's criminal conduct to warrant the forfeiture of her motorcycle.

         ¶ 29 Nonetheless, the claimant maintains that the forfeiture of her 2010 Harley-Davidson trike motorcycle was constitutionally excessive because her financial loss from the forfeiture was disproportionately large when compared to her degree of culpability. Because we have already concluded that the evidence supports the conclusion that the claimant bore more than minimal culpability, we turn to the matter of the financial loss incurred by the claimant when her motorcycle was forfeited. The resolution of that question necessarily requires evidence about the value of the motorcycle. On that point, however, the record is woefully lacking. It shows only that the claimant originally acquired the motorcycle in May 2010 for the purchase price of $35, 000 and has continued to make payments of $160 every two weeks since that time. The remaining balance due at the time of the forfeiture hearing was approximately $6000. Critically, the claimant failed to present any evidence on the value of the motorcycle at or around the time of the forfeiture hearing.

         ¶ 30 Even though the claimant did not raise her as-applied eighth amendment excessive fines clause challenge until after the trial court had entered its forfeiture order, it undoubtedly remains incumbent on her, as the party challenging the constitutionality of the forfeiture statute, to shoulder the heavy burden of rebutting the strong judicial presumption of the statute's validity and establishing the alleged as-applied constitutional violation. People v. Rizzo, 2016 IL 118599, ¶ 23. On that count, the claimant has fallen far short.

         ¶ 31 At oral argument, the claimant's counsel cited only general public knowledge and common experience in speculating that the motorcycle retained a substantial portion of its initial value despite being subject to depreciation during the four years between its purchase and its seizure by the police. Supposition, however, does not suffice to carry the claimant's burden of "clearly establishing" that the application of a particular statute is unconstitutional. (Emphasis in original.) Rizzo, 2016 IL 118599, ¶ 48. All as-applied challenges are, by definition, reliant on the application of the law to the specific facts and circumstances alleged by the challenger. "Therefore, it is paramount that the record be sufficiently developed in terms of those facts and circumstances for purposes of appellate review." People v. Thompson, 2015 IL 118151, ¶ 37. "The challenger cannot shift the burden of proof and research to the circuit court-it is his burden alone to overcome the presumptions of unconstitutionality, which exist for a reason." Rizzo, 2016 IL 118599, ¶ 48.

         ¶ 32 As this court explained in Rizzo, without an evidentiary hearing and sufficient factual findings, a court cannot properly conclude that a statute is unconstitutional as applied. Any finding of a statute's unconstitutionality as applied to a given set of facts would be premature without a sufficient factual predicate. Rizzo, 2016 IL 118599, ¶ 26. In this case, the record is entirely devoid of any evidence on the value of the motorcycle at the time of the forfeiture. Without any evidentiary predicate, this court cannot conclude that the claimant has met her substantial burden of establishing that section 36-1 is unconstitutional as applied to the specific facts and circumstances of this case. Our abeyance is further warranted by our duty to construe legislative enactments as constitutional whenever possible. Minnis, 2016 IL 119563, ¶ 21. We cannot shirk that duty here by intentionally overlooking the challenger's complete failure to shoulder her burden of establishing that the forfeiture ordered by the trial court under the specific facts of this case is grossly disproportionate to the property owner's culpability for her personal misconduct. The claimant has simply not met her burden of proof in mounting an as-applied constitutional challenge to the forfeiture statute at issue.

         ¶ 33 Nonetheless, the claimant cites our legislature's recently enacted reforms to the civil asset forfeiture scheme in Illinois to support her constitutional challenge. The new measures adopted include requiring law enforcement to provide additional public disclosures as well as mandating judicial proportionality review hearings in all forfeiture cases. At those review hearings, the State must support its forfeiture request with clear and convincing evidence, not just a preponderance of the evidence. Critically, the effective date of that legislation is July 1, 2018. Because the proceedings in this case long preceded that future date, the new requirements do not apply here. Consequently, we leave any questions addressing the interaction between the newly amended forfeiture provisions and the eighth amendment for another day and the appropriate case.

         ¶ 34 III. CONCLUSION

         ¶ 35 Here, the trial court properly concluded that the State provided enough proof to establish the statutory prerequisites for civil forfeiture of the claimant's motorcycle by a preponderance of the evidence. 720 ILCS 5/36-1 (West 2012). The evidence showed, and the claimant now admits, that she knowingly gave her husband consent to drive her 2010 Harley-Davidson trike motorcycle even though she knew he was intoxicated and his driver's license had been revoked. That revocation was an extension of an initial revocation entered after her husband was convicted of driving with a revoked license following multiple DUI convictions and statutory summary suspensions. For the reasons previously discussed, the claimant's culpability was sufficient to subject the motorcycle to forfeiture. Moreover, because the claimant did not present sufficient evidence of the value of her 2010 Harley-Davidson trike motorcycle to enable this court to determine whether its forfeiture constituted an unconstitutionally excessive penalty, she has failed to meet her substantial burden of proof in challenging the constitutionality of the forfeiture statute as applied here.

         ¶ 36 For those reasons, we must reject her claim that section 36-1 of the Illinois forfeiture statute (720 ILCS 5/36-1 (West 2012)) violates the excessive fines clause of the eighth amendment of the United States Constitution (U.S. Const., amend. VIII) as applied to the facts in this case. Due to our resolution of this matter, we need not address the remainder of the eighth amendment excessive fines clause test set out in Waller, 162 Ill.2d at 89-90. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the appellate court that overturned the trial court's forfeiture order because the application of section 36-1 violated the eighth amendment. We reinstate the trial court's order of forfeiture.

         ¶ 37 Appellate court judgment reversed.

         ¶ 38 Circuit court judgment affirmed.

          ¶ 39 CHIEF JUSTICE KARMEIER, dissenting:

         ¶ 40 Standing alone outside the Corner Place sports bar in the middle of the night along an empty street in her small, rural town, Petra Henderson had to make a difficult choice, and she had to make it fast. Her husband, who had no driver's license and was drunk again, had stepped out ahead of her as they left the bar near closing time, jumped on her $35, 000 Harley-Davidson "trike" motorcycle, and insisted, over her protests, that he be allowed to drive it home. Petra was powerless to physically stop him, and they both knew it.

         ¶ 41 With the resigned pragmatism one might develop from being married to a 59-year-old chronic drunk, Petra figured she had only two options. Neither one was good. If she got on her trike with her husband at the controls, she risked injury but could at least exercise some oversight to make sure he drove straight to their house, six-tenths of a mile away, without hurting the trike or anyone they might encounter along the way. If, on the other hand, she let him drive off without her, it might be safer for her (although, of course, there was still danger in her walking home alone after midnight), but her husband would be left with unsupervised control over her expensive vehicle and might simply decide to head off into the night to "who knows where, " putting him, the public, and her trike at considerable risk. Revving the engine for effect, Petra's husband insisted she either get on now or she would be walking.

         ¶ 42 She got on. They made it safely home after a drive that could have taken no more than a couple of minutes and parked the vehicle in the driveway of their house, but it proved to be a costly decision. While the husband's engine revving was intended to pressure Petra, it also attracted the attention of local police, who followed the couple home with lights flashing and siren blaring and placed the husband under arrest.

         ¶ 43 Had Petra not been married to her husband, she could have been prosecuted for a Class A misdemeanor for allowing him to drive while under the influence of alcohol, an offense for which the maximum statutory fine is $2500. Because she was his spouse, however, she was not, as a matter of law, subject even to that minor offense. In the eyes of the law, she was guilty of nothing. That was not true of her husband. He was charged with multiple offenses and ultimately pled guilty to aggravated driving under the influence (DUI), for which he was fined and given probation.

         ¶ 44 Although no evidence was presented that the wife had any knowledge that her husband's conduct might constitute aggravated DUI and although the State never sought to implicate her in commission of that or any crime under an accountability theory, it used the husband's offense as justification to seize and then bring this in rem civil forfeiture proceeding against her $35, 000 trike so that it could keep and then sell the vehicle and use the proceeds to support the Robinson Police Department.[3]

         ¶ 45 The appellate court unanimously and correctly held that seizure and forfeiture of Petra's vehicle under the circumstances of this case were incompatible with the eighth amendment's excessive fines clause (U.S. Const., amend. VIII) and that the circuit court's judgment granting the State's forfeiture complaint must therefore be reversed. 2016 IL App (5th) 150035. A majority of my colleagues now reverses the appellate court's judgment and reinstates the trial court's forfeiture order. For the reasons that follow, the majority's disposition interprets Illinois's seizure and forfeiture statutes incorrectly, applies that law in a way that yields an absurd result the legislature could not have intended, upholds a determination by the trial court that is contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence, employs erroneous presumptions, fails to follow the proper legal framework regarding the excessive fines clause of the United States Constitution, cites erroneous authority, and ultimately reaches a result that is opposite the one commanded by the standards adopted by this court and consistently followed by the courts of Illinois in assessing whether an in rem civil forfeiture contravenes the excessive fines clause. For all of these reasons, I respectfully dissent.

         ¶ 46 BACKGROUND

         ¶ 47 The vehicle at issue in these proceedings is a 2010 Harley-Davidson Tri Glide Ultra Classic three-wheeled (trike) motorcycle owned by Petra (hereinafter the owner), who is employed as a bus driver by "Rides Mass. Transit, " a public transportation system in southeastern Illinois.[4] The owner had purchased the trike new for $35, 000 and was making loan payments of $160 every two weeks.[5] The trike's value was not disputed by the State at trial.

         ¶ 48 The vehicle was titled in the owner's name alone. Although she was married, her husband (age 59 at the time of these events) did not have, had never held, and did not claim any ownership interest in the vehicle. The record showed that the owner possessed a Class M license that permitted her to operate the vehicle lawfully, and she did operate it herself. While the husband maintained the vehicle as a hobby, there was no evidence that he ever drove it, or was allowed to drive it, on public roads. He would work on the vehicle at the couple's house, taking it out of the garage and onto the lawn in front of the house when it needed service.

         ¶ 49 The husband had a history of alcohol abuse reflected in a criminal record dating back to the mid-1990s. At the time of the events giving rise to this action, his driver's license had been revoked for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence. The revocation had been in place many years and predated the owner's acquisition of the vehicle. The record is silent as to whether the couple's marriage came before or after the husband lost his license. While the owner was aware that her husband's driver's license had been revoked and that he was not allowed to drive, no evidence was presented by the State to establish that she had any knowledge that the basis for the revocation was a DUI.

         ¶ 50 On Friday, April 25, 2014, the husband got off work before the owner did and called her to suggest that they go for a pleasure drive when she returned home from work. When she agreed, he took the key fob for the vehicle from the hook where it hung in the kitchen by the back door of the couple's house so he could move the vehicle out of the garage and prepare it for the drive. The vehicle did not need an actual key to operate. The engine could be started with a switch so long as the fob was within a certain distance (8 to 10 feet) of the vehicle. The fob could be carried by either the passenger or the driver. As long as the requisite proximity was maintained, the vehicle would operate.

         ¶ 51 With fob in pocket, the husband checked the vehicle's tire pressure, dusted it off, started the engine, and pulled it out of the garage. As soon as the owner returned home and got ready for the drive, she took control of the vehicle, and the couple began their trip. Their route for the evening was a large (approximately 103-mile) loop beginning at their house in Robinson, then going first to the village of Oblong. From Oblong they proceeded to Lawrenceville. From Lawrenceville they drove to Palestine and from Palestine they returned to Robinson, stopping at a sports bar near their house called the Corner Place. There is no dispute that the owner drove the entire time.

         ¶ 52 The couple left the Corner Place, at approximately 12:30 a.m. on April 26, 2014. As they approached the vehicle, the husband asked the owner to let him drive back home. The husband testified that she said no because he did not have a license and had too much to drink. Disregarding her objections, he jumped on first, got behind the controls and started it up. The owner "told [him] to get off or get in the back rather. [H]e couldn't drive it." He refused, kept revving the engine "to get her to get on, " and told her he intended to take it home. She could "either get on or walk." She got on. When asked if the owner had ever allowed him to operate the trike that night, he replied, "No, she didn't give me her permission. She told me I ...

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