An Illinois appellate court rejected Ivy Jackson’s challenge to Chicago Municipal Code § 7-24-225, which provides that the owner of a vehicle found to contain controlled substances or cannabis is liable for an administrative penalty and permits the taking of their vehicle. Because Chicago Municipal Code still lacks an innocent owner defense, a vehicle owner can lose their car despite a lack of knowledge of the presence of controlled substances or cannabis and despite a lack of participation in the alleged controlled substances or cannabis presence.
While Jackson was elsewhere, her parked car was occupied by two individuals who allegedly possessed a 1.4 gram cigar containing cannabis and a bag with approximately 1.6 grams of cannabis. The individuals were arrested and the automobile was seized by the city.
Jackson argued, among other things, that substantive due process demands the capacity to raise an innocent owner defense and that because her due process rights were violated when she was prevented from raising an innocent owner defense, she therefore suffered from an unreasonable seizure.
Whether due process does demand it, or it merely should, legislators are capable of requiring that an innocent owner defense be afforded to anyone who cares to argue one. They should move quickly to do so.
It is strange and inhumane to permit police departments to acquire your car because someone else, absent your permission or knowledge, allegedly possessed a small amount of cannabis in your vehicle (according to the police department).
Until then, residents of Chicago might want to consider banning passengers from their vehicles as anyone could, unbeknownst to you, potentially possess the passport to your car’s forfeiture. Of course, forbidding passengers might not do enough to prevent the impounding of your vehicle. Chicago’s current code is written so unfairly that you might be eligible to have your vehicle re-taken if someone steals it and is caught with a controlled substance while you are on vacation:
“(a) The owner of record of any motor vehicle that contains
any controlled substance or cannabis, as defined in the Controlled
Substances Act, 720 ILCS 570/100, et seq., and the Cannabis
Control Act, 720 ILCS 550/1, et seq., or that is used in the
purchase, attempt to purchase, sale or attempt to sell such
controlled substances or cannabis shall be liable to the city for an
administrative penalty of $1,000.00 plus any applicable towing and
storage fees. Any such vehicle shall be subject to seizure and
impoundment pursuant to this section. This subsection shall not
apply: (1) if the vehicle used in the violation was stolen at the time
and the theft was reported to the appropriate police authorities
within 24 hours after the theft was discovered ***; (2) if the
vehicle is operating as a common carrier and the violation occurs
without the knowledge of the person in control of the vehicle; or
(3) if the owner proves that the presence of the controlled
substance or cannabis was authorized under the Controlled
Substances Act or the Cannabis Control Act.”