Articles Posted in Criminal Law

by
Petitioner, charged with six counts of violating an order of protection and two related counts of witness harassment, pleaded guilty to two charges with the understanding that the others would be dropped and his sentences would be served concurrently. On witness harassment, a Class 2 felony, he was sentenced to five years in prison plus two years of mandatory supervised release (MSR). For violation of an order of protection, a Class 4 felony, he was sentenced to three years in prison. A sentence for violating an order of protection must include a four-year MSR term, 730 ILCS 5/5-8-1(d)(6), but no term of MSR connected to that conviction was mentioned during plea negotiations, the sentencing hearing, or in the sentencing order. Petitioner completed his prison sentences on September 23, 2015. He was “violated at the door” for failure to identify a suitable host site for electronic monitoring. He had accrued day-for-day credit for serving MSR while incarcerated. His two-year MSR term was to end on December 23, 2016, but the government asserted that his sentence included a four-year MSR term by law that did not start until after the five-year prison sentence, giving him a discharge date of December 23, 2017. The Illinois Supreme Court held that the MSR term is included in the sentence as a matter of law and that the failure to include it in the sentencing order does not invalidate the sentence. Although neither the prosecutor nor the court could allow petitioner to avoid the MSR term, the parties believed petitioner was pleading guilty in exchange for a sentence of seven years in custody and two years of MSR. However, petitioner declined an opportunity to withdraw his guilty plea and has not proven a right to have his sentence reconfigured. View "Round v. Lamb" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
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

by
Gaither, a La Salle County State’s Attorney special investigator and part of a team (SAFE) intended for “drug interdiction team primarily on Interstate 80,” conducted a traffic stop against each defendant on I-80; each stop resulted in the discovery of a controlled substance. Each defendant moved to suppress evidence contending that Gaither lacked the authority to conduct traffic stops because State’s Attorney Towne failed to comply with 55 ILCS 3-9005(b)’s mandatory procedures in hiring Gaither or that section 3-9005(b) did not authorize Gaither to conduct traffic stops. The statute provides: “The State’s Attorney of each county shall have authority to appoint one or more special investigators to serve subpoenas, make return of process and conduct investigations which assist the State’s Attorney in the performance of his duties.” The circuit court granted each defendant’s motion to suppress, holding that section 3-9005(b) required strict compliance with its background verification procedures before Gaither’s appointment and that the requirements were not met. The appellate court found that the conduct of the SAFE unit and Gaither exceeded the scope of section 3-9005(b). The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed. To construe section 3-9005(b) as the state urges would promote confusion between the functions of general law enforcement and assisting a State’s Attorney in the performance of his duties. The State’s Attorney’s common-law duty to investigate suspected illegal activity did not apply because Towne made no showing that law enforcement agencies inadequately dealt with such investigation or that any law enforcement agency asked him for assistance. View "People v. Ringland" on Justia Law

by
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

by
Sebby was involved in a confrontation with deputies who had come to his home to take custody of Sebby’s niece. Sebby was convicted by a jury of resisting a peace officer, a Class 4 felony, 720 ILCS 5/31-1(a-7), and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment. On appeal, the defendant argued that the trial court committed erred in admonishing prospective jurors under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 431(b), which concerns the defendant’s presumption of innocence and the state’s burden of proof, and that, despite his failure to object to that error, he was entitled to a new trial because the evidence was closely balanced. The appellate court affirmed. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed, concluding that the evidence was closely balanced. The deputies’ testimony was largely consistent, but so was the testimony of Sebby and his witnesses. Neither account of that morning’s events was fanciful. Prejudice rests not upon the seriousness of the error but upon the closeness of the evidence. View "People v. Sebby" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
Appellate court erroneously declined to consider ineffective assistance of counsel claim on direct review where record was sufficient for consideration of that claim. A Coles County jury found Veach guilty of two counts of attempted murder, rejecting his theory that someone else committed the crimes. On direct review, defendant argued that his trial counsel was ineffective for stipulating to the admission of recorded statements of the state’s witnesses. The appellate court affirmed, finding the record inadequate to resolve the issue. The majority encouraged defendant to raise the issue in a postconviction petition. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed, holding that the record was sufficient for the appellate court to consider defendant’s ineffective assistance of counsel claim on direct review. The state had conceded that the appellate court should have addressed the claim, but argued that counsel’s decision to stipulate to the witnesses’ recorded statements was not prejudicial nor was it deficient performance. In Illinois, a defendant must generally raise a constitutional claim alleging ineffective assistance of counsel on direct review or risk forfeiting the claim; issues that could have been raised and considered on direct review are deemed procedurally defaulted. View "People v. Veach" on Justia Law

by
Defendant drove over the center line of a road and struck head-on a truck driven by Wood, causing Wood, who was pregnant, great bodily harm and permanent disability, and great bodily harm to defendant’s passenger, her 14-year-old son. Defendant consented to blood and urine samples on the day of the accident. The urine test revealed the presence of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) metabolite, which results from cannabis use. Before trial, defendant acknowledged that the state was not required to show impairment, but argued that she should be allowed to rebut the presumption of impairment and present an alternative basis for the cause of the accident. No medical records were presented. The defense later asserted that it would have presented evidence that defendant’s low blood pressure might have caused her to lose consciousness. The court rejected defendant’s claim, finding that the Vehicle Code indicated a legislative intent to require “strict liability as to the accident.” Defendant was convicted of aggravated driving under the influence (625 ILCS 5/11-501(a)(6), (d)(1)(C)). After reversal by the appellate court, the Illinois Supreme Court reinstated the trial court holding. The trial court erred in finding that defendant was barred, as a matter of law, from raising as an affirmative defense that the accident was caused solely and exclusively by a sudden unforeseeable medical condition that rendered defendant incapable of controlling her car. Defendant, however, failed to make an adequate offer of proof to support this affirmative defense View "People v. Way" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
Officer Lenover was patrolling near Irving Elementary School when he noticed a car parked “partially in” a T-intersection, about 15 feet from school property. It was a weekday. There were 80-100 children playing in the school yard. Lenover ran the license plate and discovered that the car was owned by defendant, a registered child sex offender. Lenover approached and verified that the driver was defendant. According to Lenover, defendant admitted that he knew he was not supposed to be around the school. Lenover arrested him. Defendant later testified that he had driven a friend to the school, to deliver lunches to the friend’s grandchildren while defendant waited in the car. The friend stated that she had been inside the school for four to five minutes. Defendant denied telling Lenover that he knew he was not supposed to be near the school. The court found defendant had violated 720 ILCS 5/11-9.3(b), which makes it unlawful for a child sex offender to knowingly loiter within 500 feet of a school while persons under the age of 18 are present, and sentenced him to 30 months’ probation. The appellate court affirmed, holding that a child sex offender who is neither a parent nor a guardian of a school child “loiters” if he remains within “the restricted school zone for any purpose, lawful or unlawful, while children under age 18 are present,” rejecting defendant’s contention that the statute is unconstitutionally vague. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed, rejecting defendant’s “legitimate purpose” defense. View "People v. Howard" on Justia Law

by
In April 2011, Pearse, a convicted sex offender, registered the address of his Belvidere home under the Sex Offender Registration Act, 730 ILCS 150/3. In October, an officer verified his presence at that address, which had been entered into the state database. In January 2012, a police officer was dispatched to a Forest Park hospital and filled out an “initial” sex offender registration for Pearse, listing the hospital as Pearse’s address and his home as a “secondary” address. While the secondary address is entered on the form, it is not entered into the state database. About two weeks after his release from the hospital, Pearse was arrested at home for failure to register a change of address. The appellate court affirmed his conviction. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed, noting the statute’s lack of clarity, but finding no statutory basis for imposing a duty to “reregister.” The Act requires notification of temporary absence from a registered address, which was accomplished in this case. The court noted that the form used for registration includes several terms that do not appear in the statute. View "People v. Pearse" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
Defendant, then 17 years old, was arrested and charged with eight aggravated unlawful use of a weapon (AUUW) counts and one unlawful possession of a firearm count. On June 2, 2009, defendant, as part of a negotiated plea agreement, pled guilty to count I (720 ILCS 5/24-1.6(a)(1), (a)(3)(A)); the state agreed to a nolle prosequi on the remaining charges. The court accepted the plea and sentenced defendant to 24 months’ probation based on the Class 4 felony offense of AUUW. Defendant completed his sentence. In 2013, defendant brought a petition under 735 ILCS 5/2-1401, seeking to vacate the conviction as void under the Illinois Supreme Court’s 2013 decision, People v. Aguilar, that the Class 4 form of AUUW was facially unconstitutional. Conceding that defendant’s conviction should be vacated, the state moved to reinstate AUUW counts that were previously nol-prossed. The court denied the motion on the basis that reinstatement of the charges would violate the one-act, one-crime doctrine. The appellate court determined it lacked jurisdiction to consider the state’s appeal. The Illinois Supreme Court concluded that the statute of limitations served as an absolute bar to refiling the charges, rejecting an argument that its decision will have a chilling effect on plea bargains. View "People v. Shinaul" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law