Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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A Robinson police officer heard a motorcycle “revving” before observing it making a “very wide” turn, nearly hitting a telephone pole. The officer followed, turned on his emergency lights, and activated his siren, but the motorcycle continued to weave across the road for about 12 blocks before turning into a driveway. The motorcycle was driven by Mark, whose wife, Petra, was a passenger on the back. Mark got off the motorcycle, exhibiting “a strong odor of alcohol,” slurred speech, and poor balance. A breath test revealed his blood alcohol concentration was 0.161, over twice the legal limit. Mark was charged with aggravated DUI and driving without a valid driver’s license. Since 1996, his license had been summarily suspended multiple times; it was revoked following his 2008 DUI conviction. That revocation was extended after he was convicted of driving with a revoked license. Police seized the 2010 Harley-Davidson. The state sought forfeiture (720 ILCS 5/36-1(a)(6)(A)(i)). Petra was shown to be the vehicle’s title owner, although Mark maintained it and had the key. The court entered an order of civil forfeiture, finding Petra’s testimony not credible, and that she consented to Mark driving, knowing he was intoxicated and did not have a valid license. The court rejected her claim that forfeiture constituted an as-applied violation of the Eighth Amendment's excessive fines clause. The Illinois Supreme Court agreed. Petra’s culpability in Mark’s aggravated DUI was far more than negligible and she did not establish the motorcycle’s value for purposes of showing disproportionality. View "Hartrich v. 2010 Harley-Davidson" on Justia Law

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Chairez pled guilty to possessing a firearm within 1000 feet of a park in Aurora, Illinois. He filed a post-conviction petition, arguing that the statute was unconstitutional under the Second Amendment because an individual who is barred from carrying a firearm within 1000 feet of the locations listed in the statute (schools, public parks, public transportation facilities, residential properties owned, operated or managed by a public housing agency) is essentially barred from carrying a firearm in public. The circuit court declared section 24-1(a)(4)(c)(1.5) unconstitutional. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed, vacating Chairez’s conviction, without addressing other provisions of the statute. With respect to the provision concerning public parks, which is severable, the state provided no evidentiary support for its claims that prohibiting firearms within 1000 feet of a public park would reduce the risks posed to the police and public from dangerous weapons. The state merely speculates that the proximity of firearms threatens the health and safety of those in the public park. The lack of a valid explanation for how the law actually achieves its goal of protecting children and vulnerable populations from gun violence amounts to a failure by the state to justify the restriction on gun possession within 1000 feet of a public park. View "People v. Chairez" on Justia Law

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Brooks was charged with driving under the influence (625 ILCS 5/11-501(a)(2) following a single-vehicle motorcycle accident. The state subpoenaed blood test results from the hospital where Brooks was taken after the accident. He moved to suppress the results on the ground that the blood draw was a governmental search conducted in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Brooks alleged that, after the accident, police officers forcibly “placed him in an ambulance and sent him to the hospital,” even though he had refused medical treatment. The circuit court granted defendant’s motion. The appellate court affirmed. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed. Brooks presented no evidence that his blood was actually drawn at the hospital. Although this matter was within his personal knowledge, Brooks never testified that he was subjected to a blood draw but stated only that he refused to consent to having his blood drawn. In addition there was no evidence that any police officer sought or encouraged a blood draw or was even aware that one had been done. Even assuming blood was drawn at the hospital, it was a private search that did not implicate the Fourth Amendment. View "People v. Brooks" on Justia Law

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Defendant had worked as an intern at the radio station Blakey managed but was rejected for employment. After he repeatedly tried to contact station employees, defendant was informed that he was not welcome at the station and should stop making contact. He continued his behavior. Defendant was convicted of stalking (720 ILCS 5/12-7.3(a)(1), (a)(2)) and cyberstalking (720 ILCS 5/12-7.5(a)(1), (a)(2)), based on allegations that he called Blakey, sent her e-mails, stood outside of her place of employment, entered her place of employment, used electronic communication to make Facebook postings expressing his desire to have sex with Blakey and threatening her coworkers and employer and that he knew or should have known that his conduct would cause a reasonable person to fear for her safety and to suffer emotional distress. The appellate court vacated the convictions, finding subsection (a) of the statutes invalid. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the speech restrictions imposed by subsection (a) do not fit within any of the “historic and traditional” categories of unprotected speech under the First Amendment. Subsection (a) does not require that the prohibited communications be in furtherance of an unlawful purpose. Given the wide range of constitutionally protected activity covered by subsection (a), a substantial number of its applications are unconstitutional when judged in relation to its legitimate sweep. The portion of subsection (a) that makes it criminal to negligently “communicate[ ] to or about” a person, where the speaker knows or should know the communication would cause a reasonable person to suffer emotional distress, is facially unconstitutional. View "People v. Relerford" on Justia Law

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The Cook County circuit court found sections of the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 (705 ILCS 405/5-101(3), 5-605(1) unconstitutional as applied to Destiny who was 14 years old when she was charged with four counts of first-degree murder, one count of attempted murder, one count of aggravated battery with a firearm, three counts of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, and one count of unlawful possession of a weapon. The court held that these sections, which do not provide jury trials for first-time juvenile offenders charged with first-degree murder, violated the equal protection clauses of the U.S. and Illinois Constitutions, but rejected the defense argument that these sections were unconstitutional on due process grounds. On direct appeal, the Illinois Supreme Court affirmed with respect to the due process challenge but reversed with respect to equal protection. Destiny cannot show that she is similarly situated to the comparison groups: recidivist juvenile offenders charged with different crimes and tried under one of two recidivist statutes. These are the only classes of juvenile offenders who face mandatory incarceration if adjudicated delinquent and the legislature has denied a jury trial only to the former. The two classes are charged with different crimes, arrive in court with different criminal backgrounds, and are tried and sentenced under different statutes with distinct legislative purposes. Due process does not mandate jury trials for juveniles. View "In re Destiny P." on Justia Law

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Gray and Carthon spent an evening drinking. The two had been friends for 20 years and had dated each other exclusively for two years, 15 years ago. The two regularly spent the night together and, on the night in question, had sex. In the morning, Gray began strangling Carthon and stabbed her with a knife. Gray was convicted of aggravated domestic battery (720 ILCS 5/12-3.3), after arguing that he wounded Carthon in self-defense. The appellate court held that the statutory definition of “family or household members,” as including “persons who have or have had a dating or engagement relationship. ... For purposes of this Article, neither a casual acquaintanceship nor ordinary fraternization between individuals in business or social contexts shall be deemed to constitute a dating relationship,” violated substantive due process as applied to defendant. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed the appellate court, first rejecting Gray’s challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence. The court applied the rational basis test, reasoning that the statutory definition does not deprive Gray of a fundamental right. The absence of a time limit on former dating relationships, as applied to the instant case, was reasonable and rationally related to the statutory purpose of curbing domestic violence. View "People v. Gray" on Justia Law

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Holman, then age 17, was convicted of the 1979 murder of an 83-year-old woman. Holman had a criminal history as a juvenile and confessed to his involvement in a crime spree that involved other murders. He had been diagnosed as mildly mentally retarded.Holman’s attorney told the court that Holman did not want to offer any mitigating evidence and that Holman’s mother did not want to testify on his behalf. Holman received a sentence of life without parole. His appeal and post-conviction petitions were unsuccessful. In 2010, Holman filed a pro se petition for leave to file a successive postconviction petition, arguing that his life sentence was unconstitutional under Supreme Court precedent. The appellate court rejected that argument because it was not raised before the trial court and noted that the sentence was not unconstitutional under Miller v. Alabama (2012) because Holman was “afforded a ‘sentencing hearing where natural life imprisonment [was] not the only available sentence.’ ” The Illinois Supreme Court held that Miller announced a new substantive rule of constitutional law that applied retroactively. On remand, the appellate court reached the merits, recognized that Supreme Court precedent requires trial courts to consider youth and its attendant characteristics before imposing life sentences on juveniles, and concluded that the trial court in this case did so. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed the denial of relief. The trial court looked at the evidence and concluded that Holman’s conduct placed him beyond rehabilitation; his sentence passes constitutional muster. View "People v. Holman" on Justia Law

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Defendant was arrested when a Chicago police officer observed a revolver in defendant’s waistband. Police discovered that defendant lacked a Firearm Owner’s Identification (FOID) card. Defendant was charged: Counts I and III alleged that defendant carried a loaded, uncased, immediately accessible firearm (720 ILCS 5/24-1.6(a)(1), (a)(3)(A); (a)(2), (a)(3)(A)), and counts II and IV alleged that he did so without a FOID card (720 ILCS 5/24-1.6(a)(1), (a)(3)(C); (a)(2), (a)(3)(C)). After defendant’s arrest, the Illinois Supreme Court issued its 2013 “Aguilar” decision, holding that section 24-1.6(a)(1), (a)(3)(A), (d)(1) was facially unconstitutional because it violated the right to keep and bear arms, as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. The state entered a nolle prosequi on counts I and III. The circuit court granted defendant's to quash his arrest and suppress evidence with respect to counts II and IV on the ground that the officer only had probable cause to believe defendant was violating the statutory sections that were declared unconstitutional, so that probable cause was retroactively invalidated. The appellate court affirmed. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed. The void ab initio doctrine did not retroactively invalidate probable cause for defendant’s arrest because probable cause was predicated on a statute that was subsequently declared unconstitutional on federal grounds. Federal case law holds that probable cause for arrest would not be retroactively invalidated by subsequent declaration of a statute’s unconstitutionality on federal grounds. To hold that the void ab initio doctrine requires retroactive invalidation of probable cause would be tantamount to a repeal of the statute, which would violate separation of powers. View "People v. Holmes" on Justia Law

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The City of Chicago, charged defendants, members of the “Occupy Chicago” movement, with violating the Chicago Park District Code, which closes all Chicago public parks between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. and prohibits people from being inside any park during these hours. The circuit court of Cook County dismissed the charges, finding the ordinance unconstitutional on its face and as applied to the defendants. The appellate court reversed, holding that the ordinance did not violate the defendants’ First Amendment right to assembly. On remand for review under the state constitution, the appellate court again reversed. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed, first holding that the Illinois Constitution of 1970 is to be interpreted and applied in lockstep with the federal precedents interpreting and applying the assembly clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. In arguing that the state constitution provided greater protection, the defendants forfeited any claim that the appellate court failed to properly conduct intermediate review under the applicable First Amendment jurisprudence. View "People v. Alexander" on Justia Law

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Nelson, and her codefendants, Hall, Cox, and Ball, were tried simultaneously but in severed bench trials for the armed robbery and stabbing death of Wilson. The prosecution produced five eyewitnesses, who gave generally consistent testimony. Police had followed a blood trail to the four defendants. There was DNA evidence linking defendants to the crime. All were found guilty. The appellate court rejected Nelson's argument that she was denied her sixth amendment right to conflict-free counsel where attorneys from the same law firm represented her and codefendant Hall and that the attorneys, in making their choice of defenses, decided to forgo asserting an innocence defense in favor of pursuing a joint defense of self-defense. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed, finding that Nelson had not demonstrated an actual conflict. In light of the evidence, Nelson could not show that an innocence defense based on a lack of accountability was a plausible alternative defense. View "People v. Nelson" on Justia Law