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City of Chicago v. Dowdell

MAY 25, 1970.

CITY OF CHICAGO, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

RICHARD DOWDELL, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. MAURICE W. LEE, Judge, presiding. Affirmed.

MR. JUSTICE MURPHY DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT.

In a bench trial defendant Dowdell was found guilty of the offense of failing to register his possession of a firearm in violation of chapter 11.1, section 7, of the Municipal Code of the City of Chicago. He was fined $500. On appeal he contends that (1) the complaint failed to state a violation of the ordinance involved, and (2) the evidence was insufficient to establish the elements of the offense charged.

The complaint was filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County on November 2, 1968. It charged defendant with violation of chapter 11.1, section 7, of the Municipal Code of Chicago, which provides:

"Every person after purchasing or otherwise acquiring a firearm from any person other than a licensed firearms dealer shall, within 10 days of the purchase or other acquisition, provide the City Collector with the information stipulated in Section 11.1-8 of this Chapter on a registration form designed or approved by the City Collector. If the purchase or other acquisition of the firearms precedes the effective date of this ordinance, the person shall register the possession of a firearm with the City Collector on forms designed or approved by the City Collector within 30 days after the effective date of this ordinance."

The complaint alleged:

"Granville Hawkins complainant, now appears before the Circuit Court of Cook County and states that Richard Dowdell has, on or about 2 November, 1968 at 217 E. 47th St., Chgo., Ill. committed the offense of Failure to Register Firearms in that he failed to register his possession of a firearm to wit: 1-.32 cal. NP Arminius Revolver Ser. #65685 and one .32 Cal. Smith and Wesson Blue Steel Revolver, Serial #63319, within 30 days of April 15, 1968 in violation of Chapter 11.1 Section 7 of the Municipal Code of the City of Chicago."

At the hearing of defendant's motion to suppress, which was denied, and at the trial, Chicago Police Officer Brown testified that on November 2, 1968, he and his partner were walking on 47th Street in Chicago when they saw a man come out of a store and change clothes in the back seat of an automobile. As the police officers walked past the car in which three men were seated, defendant Dowdell was sitting behind the driver's wheel. The glove compartment was open, and they could see two pistols there. They identified themselves as police officers and asked the men to step out of the car. A license plate check was run on the car, and it disclosed that it was registered to defendant. The three men were then arrested. It was stipulated that the two weapons might be admitted into evidence.

At the conclusion of Brown's testimony, the trial court denied defendant's motion for a directed verdict and held that a prima facie case had been established "that the weapon has been in the possession of the person charged for more than ten days."

Defendant then testified that on November 2, 1968, he was sitting behind the wheel of an automobile with two other men, when Officer Hawkins ordered him out of the car and recovered two pistols from the closed glove compartment. He had purchased the two guns on October 31, 1968, in a tavern and paid $20 apiece for them. He thought the seller's name was James Dobbs. He did not ask if the weapons were registered, nor did he register them himself. He was the owner of the vehicle and had put the two pistols in the glove compartment when he bought them.

In finding defendant guilty, the court remarked that in a bench trial the court is the determiner of the credibility of the witnesses, that the weapons belonged to defendant Dowdell, and that the court did not believe that he had just purchased them.

Initially, defendant contends that "the complaint fails to state an offense against the ordinance of the City of Chicago described therein as having been violated, or against any ordinance of the City of Chicago, and the judgment based upon that complaint must fall." In substance, defendant asserts that there was no allegation in the complaint that defendant purchased or acquired the firearm in question prior to April 15, 1968, nor is there an allegation that if it was purchased after that date that ten days had elapsed without him registering it. From this, defendant argues that "the trial court was, therefore, without any jurisdiction to enter the judgment against the Defendant and this absence of jurisdiction could not be waived by the Defendant, nor could jurisdiction in any way be conferred upon the trial court by any action, or inaction, on his part."

Defendant's authorities on this point include People v. Minto, 318 Ill. 293, 149 N.E. 241 (1925), where the court said (p 295):

"An indictment or information charging a crime is a necessary preliminary to a conviction by the court for that crime. No waiver or consent by defendant to a criminal prosecution can confer jurisdiction or authorize his conviction in the absence of an accusation charging him with a violation of the criminal law."

Also, "jurisdiction is ordinarily acquired by an indictment, information, or complaint, and where the accusation is invalid the court is without ...


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