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People v. $940 United States Currency

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Third District

November 15, 2019

$940 UNITED STATES CURRENCY, Defendant Anthony Alexander, Claimant-Appellee.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 12th Judicial Circuit, Will County, Illinois. Circuit No. 17-MR-2714 The Honorable Carmen Goodman, Judge, presiding.

          Attorneys for Appellant: James W. Glasgow, State's Attorney, of Joliet (Patrick Delfino, David J. Robinson, and Nicholas A. Atwood, of State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor's Office, of counsel), for the People.

         Attorneys for Appellee: No brief filed for appellee.

          JUSTICE McDADE delivered the judgment of the court. Justice Wright specially concurred, with opinion. Presiding Justice Schmidt dissented, with opinion.


          McDADE JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 The State filed a complaint for forfeiture of $940 in United States currency after the police recovered the currency, along with 4.5 grams of cannabis, while executing an arrest warrant. Claimant asserted that he owned the currency, that it derived from a title loan, and that he borrowed it to pay bills. Subsequently, claimant filed a motion to dismiss the State's complaint, alleging that the State incorrectly asserted that he was involved in a felony transaction, entitling it to seek forfeiture of the $940. The State filed a motion to strike arguing that claimant improperly brought the motion to dismiss under section 2-619 of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/2-619 (West 2016)). The State later filed an amended complaint that was identical to the first but for its excision of the word "felony". A hearing was held on the motions, and the trial court granted claimant's motion to dismiss. The State orally moved for reconsideration of the ruling, which the court denied. The State appealed. We affirm.

         ¶ 2 I. BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 In October 2017, the State filed a complaint for forfeiture pursuant to sections 12(a)(4) and 12(a)(5) of the Cannabis Control Act (Act) (720 ILCS 550/12(a)(4), (5) (West 2016)). In the complaint, the State alleged that, on July 25, 2017, the narcotics unit of the Joliet Police Department executed an arrest warrant for claimant, Anthony Alexander, at a residence in Joliet, Illinois. The officers observed, in plain view, four clear plastic bags containing a plant-like substance. The substance tested positive for the presence of cannabis and weighed about 4.5 grams. The officers also observed and seized $940 in United States currency. The State alleged that the $940 was used to facilitate a felony violation under the Act, that the money was subject to forfeiture, and that it should be released to the director of the Illinois State Police for distribution as directed by statute. Alexander filed a verified claim asserting his interest in the $940.

         ¶ 4 In December 2017, Alexander filed a pro se motion to dismiss the complaint pursuant to section 2-619 of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/2-619 (West 2016)), arguing that the complaint could not be sustained because the sections of the Act pursuant to which he had been charged required a felony violation, that he had neither been involved in nor charged with a felony violation, that the complaint was defective on its face, and that plaintiff lacked the statutory ability to "sue Defendant property under the Cannabis Control Act." Alexander further asserted in the motion to dismiss that he had been issued compliance ticket No. 50717 by the City of Joliet charging him with an ordinance violation for possession of the cannabis. He asked the court to take judicial notice of the ticket. The State filed a motion to strike the motion to dismiss because Alexander failed to allege any of the nine enumerated grounds for dismissal under section 2-619.

         ¶ 5 Thereafter, the State filed an amended complaint in which the sole change was the removal of the word "felony." Alexander responded, arguing that he received the $940 from a title loan he took out on his vehicle to pay his bills. In February 2018, a hearing was held on the motions. The State acknowledged at the motion hearing and has also confirmed in its brief in this appeal that Alexander was indeed charged with an ordinance violation. The trial court granted the motion to dismiss, stating:

"My viewpoint of the cannabis [Act] or my reading of the cannabis [Act] and the way that I was trained that it has to be a felony amount. I mean we just-in fact the new law is trying to eliminate these little small amounts that we take from people.
Motion to dismiss is granted. You are to return the $940.00.
It's an ordinance violation. It's an ordinance violation. It's an ordinance violation. I understand that you first alleged that it was a felony amount, then you changed it, but it doesn't change the law in and of itself. I know that there is a reading by some judges and there is a reading by the State that it's any small amount, but if that was the case, we wouldn't go through the scales and the this and the delivery and that. We can just say that they had, you know, residue and take people's property. I don't think that that was the intent of the forfeiture law at all. Motion to dismiss is granted under these particular circumstances. He's saying that it doesn't allege an offense, period, and that's as clear as it can be whether he said the eight different ways of a motion to dismiss in terms of criminal or in terms of the civil proceedings."

         ¶ 6 The State orally requested the court to reconsider its ruling, arguing that a felony violation is not required to prove it is entitled to forfeit the $940. The trial court denied the request, stating "[there] still had to be some type of exchange here. There was nothing here to indicate that was-would have brought it up. It had to be some intent. Given that the motion to reconsider is denied." Although the circuit court's docket entry reflects the dismissal was without prejudice, the file was closed after the order of dismissal ...

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