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Rawlings v. Dept. of Law Enforcement

OPINION FILED JUNE 5, 1979.

CHRISTINE RAWLINGS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

THE DEPARTMENT OF LAW ENFORCEMENT ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Rock Island County; the Hon. JOHN DONALD O'SHEA, Judge, presiding.

MR. PRESIDING JUSTICE ALLOY DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Plaintiff Christine Rawlings appeals from an order affirming the administrative decision of the Illinois Department of Law Enforcement which denied plaintiff's application for a firearm owner's identification card. The appeal is brought pursuant to section 13 of the Administrative Review Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 110, par. 276).

Applicant Rawlings asserts she was denied an identification card because she had been a patient in a mental institution within 5 years of her application for an ID card. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 38, pars. 83-4, 83-8.) On this appeal, Rawlings challenges the action of the Department in denying her an ID card and also challenges the authority upon which that action was based, being sections 4 and 8 of "An Act relating to the acquisition * * * of firearms * * *" (hereinafter Firearms Act) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 38, pars. 83-4, 83-8). These sections are challenged on Federal and State due process and equal protection grounds. An additional issue is raised with respect to the taxing of costs to the applicant in the circuit court.

The facts in the record are clear and uncontroverted. On December 13, 1977, Christine Rawlings applied to the Department for an ID card. Section 2 of the Firearms Act mandates that an individual must have a card issued by the Department in order to legally possess a firearm or firearm ammunition within the State of Illinois. Possession of a firearm or ammunition without a card can result in conviction for a Class A misdemeanor under the Act's provisions. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 38, par. 83-14.) At the time of her application to the Department, Christine Rawlings had recently moved to Illinois from Missouri. Also, in October 1977, she had voluntarily committed herself to a Rock Island mental institution for an undisclosed reason. On her ID card application, applicant Rawlings answered affirmatively to the question of whether she had been a patient in a mental institution within the past five years. The Department responded by letter indicating that it would deny her application if the stay was confirmed. That letter also advised Rawlings that she could submit further information for the Department's consideration which would be reviewed before a final decision on her application was rendered. She wrote back indicating only that her stay, of 10 days, was due to unusual and extreme circumstances and that it was on a voluntary basis. She asked for reconsideration of their decision. On January 20, 1978, the Department denied applicant Rawlings' application for an ID card, the denial based upon her 10-day hospitalization in the Rock Island mental hospital. If plaintiff Rawlings had indicated that she was in the institution for a reason not showing any continuing problem, the director may have conducted a hearing, if requested by plaintiff, to allow her to show fitness. He could have granted plaintiff's request. Rawlings did not appeal the denial to the director, as provided for in section 10 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 38, par. 83-10) of the Act. Instead she prosecuted an appeal to the circuit court, via the Administrative Review Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 110, par. 264 et seq.), seeking reversal of the administrative decision made by the Department in her case. She was allowed to file her action as a poor person after filing the appropriate motion and affidavit. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 33, par. 5.) The circuit court rejected the constitutional arguments raised by the applicant Rawlings and entered its order upholding the decision of the Department. It also, after an examination of the affidavit to file as a poor person, ordered that Rawlings pay costs within 60 days.

On appeal, appellant Rawlings raises a number of issues as to the constitutionality of the statutory provisions requiring a denial of an ID card to persons who have been patients in mental institutions within 5 years of their applications for such cards. Her arguments are based on the due process and equal protection guarantees of the Federal and State constitutions. A final issue is also raised with respect to the taxation of costs. We turn first to the more substantial issues raised.

Plaintiff-appellant argues that the statutory scheme denying ID cards to persons who have been patients in mental institutions within five years of their applications is invalid (1) because it fails to provide a hearing whereby such persons could present evidence of their fitness to possess a gun; (2) because it contains an irrebuttable presumption impermissible under the due process clause; and (3) because the classification violates the equal protection guarantees of both the Federal Constitution and the Constitution of the State of Illinois in treating persons, similarly situated, differently without adequate justification. A careful look at the provisions involved is necessary before addressing the issues raised.

Section 24-3.1 of the Criminal Code of 1961 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 38, par. 24-3.1) states that a person commits the offense of unlawful possession of a firearm, a Class A misdemeanor, when:

"(1) He is under 18 years of age and has in his possession any firearm of a size which may be concealed upon the person.

(2) He is under 21 years of age, has been convicted of a misdemeanor other than a traffic offense or adjudged delinquent and has any firearms or firearm ammunition in his possession; or

(3) He has been convicted of a felony under the laws of this or any other jurisdiction within 5 years from release from the penitentiary or within 5 years of conviction if penitentiary sentence has not been imposed, and has any firearms or firearm ammunition in his possession; or

(4) He is a narcotic addict and has any firearms or firearm ammunition in his possession; or

(5) He has been a patient in a mental hospital within the past 5 years and has any firearms or firearm ammunition in his possession; or

(6) He is mentally retarded and has any firearms or firearm ammunition in his possession."

Sections 1 through 14 of the Firearms Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 38, pars. 83-1 through 83-14), establishing the requirement for ID cards and the procedure to obtain them, were created and adopted to aid in the enforcement of section 24-3.1 of the Criminal Code of 1961. Section 1 of the Firearms Act, being the legislative declaration concerning the provisions for firearm ID cards, so states. Section 4 of the Firearms Act then requires applicants for an ID card to submit evidence that they are not members of the enumerated classes of persons who are prohibited by section 24-3.1 from acquiring or possessing firearms or firearm ammunition. The Department is required to approve or deny such applications within 30 days of their receipt. Section 8 of the Firearms Act grants the Department the authority to deny or revoke an application or a previously issued ID card when it finds that the person applying for, or possessing, such card belongs to one of the five classes of persons specified in section 4, those being classes (2) through (6) of section 24-3.1 of the Criminal Code of 1961. (Ill. Rev. ...


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