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People v. Leach

JANUARY 25, 1972.

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

MELINDA LEACH, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. IRVING KIPNIS, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE LEIGHTON DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

In two separate complaints, Melinda Leach was charged with mob action and with resisting or obstructing a peace officer. *fn1 She was tried by a jury that returned verdicts finding her guilty of both charges. The court sentenced her to serve 30 days and pay a fine of $500 for the charge of resisting or obstructing a peace officer; 30 days and a fine of $250 for the charge of mob action, both imprisonment sentences to run concurrently.

Defendant appeals. She presents eight issues which concern the adequacy of the charges, the propriety of the instructions, the correctness of rulings pertaining to cross-examination of witnesses and the conformity of both prosecutions to guarantees under State and Federal constitutions. These issues have been well briefed by able counsel on both sides of this controversy. The oral arguments were helpful to the court and ably presented. Indeed, the oral presentation of counsel for both parties was so impressive that at its conclusion our distinguished and most experienced colleague, Mr. Justice Schwartz, complimented the lawyers in the case.

We have concluded, however, that despite the able manner with which they have been pressed in briefs and oral arguments, we will not resolve all the issues presented. In our judgment, resolution of two of them (preserved for our review by appropriate motions) will decide this appeal. They are issues which question the adequacy of the two complaints to support the convictions. These issues raise only legal questions. Therefore, it is unnecessary to recite the facts which gave rise to the prosecutions.

I.

The Mob Action Complaint.

The complaint which purported to charge defendant with mob action alleged that,

"Melinda S. Leach has, on or about 11 Oct. 69 at Madison & La Salle Sts. Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, committed the offense of Mob Action in that he without authority of law and acting together with others did by the use of force and violence disturb the public peace, in violation of Chapter 38, Section 25-1 (a) (1), Illinois Revised Statutes * * *." (sic.)

As to this charge, the issue is whether the complaint stated an offense when there was no allegation that defendant acted with intent, knowledge, recklessness or negligence.

• 1-3 A cursory examination of this complaint discloses that it does not allege a mental state; that is, defendant is not charged with having acted with intent, knowledge, recklessness or negligence. The mob action statute does not in express terms require a mental state. (See Ill. Rev. Stat. 1969, ch. 38, par. 25-1.) Our law, however, provides that a person is not guilty of an offense, other than an offense which involves absolute liability, unless, with respect to each element described by the statute defining the offense, he acts while having one of the mental states described in our criminal code; that is, intent, knowledge, recklessness or negligence. (See Ill. Rev. Stat. 1969, ch. 38, pars. 4-3, 4-4, 4-5, 4-6, 4-7.) Our law also provides that a person may be guilty of an offense without having, as to each element, one of these mental states, "[i]f the offense is a misdemeanor which is not punishable by incarceration or a fine exceeding $500, or the statute defining the offense clearly indicates a legislative purpose to impose absolute liability for the conduct described." (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1969, ch. 38, par. 4-9.) Mob action, the crime which the complaint sought to charge, is punishable by incarceration. The mob action statute contains no indication, clear or otherwise, of a legislative purpose to make it an absolute liability crime. From this it follows that "[a] person cannot be guilty of the conduct proscribed by the Mob Action statute unless he intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly engages in such conduct." (Landry v. Daley (N.D. Ill., E.D., 1968), 280 F. Supp. 938, 957.) Therefore, one of the mental states defined in our criminal code: intent, knowledge, recklessness or negligence is an essential element of mob action, the crime with which defendant was charged. The complaint, as we have pointed out, does not allege this element.

• 4-7 It is a general rule of criminal pleading that a complaint, information or indictment which does not set forth the nature and elements of the crime sought to be charged fails to state an offense and is subject to dismissal. (People v. Billingsley, 67 Ill. App.2d 292, 299, 213 N.E.2d 765.) A charge which fails to state an offense does not give a defendant notice of why he is being tried; it will not support a judgment and prosecution by it will deny due process. (People v. Heard, 47 Ill.2d 501, 266 N.E.2d 340; compare People v. Abrams, 48 Ill.2d 446, 271 N.E.2d 37.) By these authorities, then, a complaint, like the one before us, which does not set forth all of the essential elements of the crime charged, fails to state an offense. It is fatally defective and cannot support a conviction. (People v. Billingsley, supra.) Where a conviction rests on such a complaint, we will reverse without remand. People v. Tucker, (Ill. App.3d), 268 N.E.2d 191.

II.

The Resisting or Obstructing Complaint

The complaint which purported to charge defendant with resisting or obstructing a peace ...


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