from the Circuit Court of Peoria County, No. 16-MR-190; the
Hon. Katherine Gorman Hubler, Judge, presiding.
F. Sullivan, of Peoria, for appellant.
Brady, State's Attorney, of Peoria (Patrick Delfino,
Lawrence M. Bauer, and Dawn Duffy, of State's Attorneys
Appellate Prosecutor's Office, of counsel), for the
PRESIDING JUSTICE CARTER delivered the judgment of the court,
with opinion. Justices O'Brien and Schmidt concurred in
the judgment and opinion.
CARTER, PRESIDING JUSTICE
1 Three months after a vehicle titled in his name was
forfeited under the Illinois drug laws, claimant, Michael
Sheland, filed a petition for relief from judgment, seeking
the return of the vehicle. Following a hearing, the trial
court denied the petition. Sheland appeals, arguing that the
trial court erred in finding that (1) the vehicle had been
used to facilitate the receipt or possession of heroin and
was subject to forfeiture under the drug laws, (2) Sheland
was not an innocent owner of the vehicle and was not
protected from forfeiture under the innocent-owner exemption,
and (3) the forfeiture of the vehicle under the facts of the
present case did not constitute an excessive fine under the
eighth amendment. We affirm the trial court's judgment.
3 On February 29, 2016, John Folder and Wendell Stephens were
found unconscious in the front seat of a 2014 GMC Sierra
truck at the intersection of Griswold Street and Lincoln
Avenue in Peoria, Illinois. The engine of the vehicle was
running, and the vehicle was in gear. Folder was in the
driver's seat, and Stephens was in the passenger seat.
Syringes and traces of heroin were found in the vehicle. The
title to the vehicle was in the name of the claimant, Michael
4 Folder and Stephens were transported to the hospital. At
the hospital, Folder was questioned by police. Folder told
police that he and Stephens had been at a bar in Pekin,
Illinois, when they decided to go to a location in Peoria to
get some heroin. After obtaining the heroin, Folder and
Stephens used the heroin inside the vehicle. Folder provided
a urine sample at the hospital, which showed the presence of
a heroin metabolite in his system. Folder was later arrested
for driving under the influence of drugs (DUI). He was not
charged with possession of a controlled substance.
5 In May 2016, the State filed a complaint for forfeiture of
the vehicle pursuant to section 505(a)(3) of the Illinois
Controlled Substances Act (Substances Act) (720 ILCS
570/505(a)(3) (West 2016)) and section 9 of the Drug Asset
Forfeiture Procedure Act (Forfeiture Act) (725 ILCS 150/9
(West 2016)). In the complaint, the State alleged that the
vehicle was used or was intended to be used to facilitate the
receipt or possession of heroin in violation of the
6 Sheland filed a verified claim in the trial court, stating
that he was the owner of the vehicle, disputing the
State's attempt to obtain a forfeiture judgment, and
seeking the return of the vehicle. Sheland later filed a
verified answer and affirmative defense (collectively
referred to as the answer) to the complaint. In the answer,
Sheland asserted that the vehicle was not subject to
forfeiture because it had not been used to facilitate the
possession or consumption of heroin and that he was exempt
from forfeiture because he was an innocent owner of the
vehicle. As required by statute (id. §
6(C)(2)), bail in the amount of $2000 cash was posted. The
bail money was posted by Folder.
7 In August 2016, a bench trial was held on the complaint for
forfeiture. At the beginning of the trial, the parties
submitted a written stipulation, which stated as follows:
"On February 29, 2016, John Folder drove the vehicle at
issue, the 2014 GMC VIN# 3GTU2VEC7EG363426, to the
Menard's in Pekin, Illinois to pick up fencing materials.
He purchased the materials and they were placed in the bed of
Later in the day, Folder and Wendell Stephens drove to a bar
in Pekin, Illinois. After leaving the bar, Folder drove them
in the 2014 GMC to a location in south Peoria, Illinois with
the purpose of purchasing heroin. Stephens purchased heroin,
and the two used the heroin while they were inside the 2014
Around 5:15pm on February 29, 2016 Peoria Police Officer
Roger Martin responded to the intersection of S. Griswold St.
and W. Lincoln Ave. in Peoria, Illinois on the report of a
male slumped behind the wheel. Officer Martin found the 2014
GMC in the intersection with Folder unconscious in the
driver's seat and Stephens unconscious in the passenger
8 After the stipulation was admitted, the State rested its
case-in-chief. Sheland moved for a directed finding, and the
trial court reserved its ruling on that issue. The bench
trial went forward and Sheland presented his case-in-chief.
9 John Folder testified that he lived in Havana, Illinois,
and that Sheland lived with him. Sheland was the son of
Folder's ex-girlfriend. According to Folder, Sheland was
the owner of the subject vehicle (also referred to as the
truck). On the day in question, Folder used Sheland's
truck so that he could pick up some fencing materials at
Menards. Folder drove the truck from Havana to the Menards
store in Pekin, Illinois. Wendell Stephens went with him.
Folder did not plan to use heroin that day and did not tell
Sheland that he was going to use the truck to violate any
law. After arriving at the store, Folder purchased the
fencing materials, and the materials were loaded into the
back of the truck.
10 After Folder and Stephens left Menards, they went to a
tavern in Manito, Illinois, and had lunch. From there, they
traveled to Peoria at Stephens's request. Folder did not
know why Stephens wanted to go to Peoria. In Peoria, Folder
and Stephens stopped at a person's house, and Stephens
went inside. Folder did not know that Stephens was going to
buy heroin inside the house. Folder did not remember anything
after that point and testified that he had never used heroin
before. Folder acknowledged, however, that he used ...