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In Re J.r.





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Montgomery County; the Hon. DON E. BEANE, Judge, presiding.


Pursuant to the Juvenile Court Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 37, par. 701-1 et seq.), the circuit court of Montgomery County found J.R., a minor, to be delinquent and adjudged her a ward of the court. As a disposition, the court placed her on conditional discharge for a period of one year, one condition of which was that she pay $852.88 as restitution. Following the denial of her motion in arrest of judgment, J.R. pursued this appeal which raises the following issues: (1) whether the State proved her delinquency beyond a reasonable doubt; (2) whether the trial court abused its discretion in adjudging J.R. a ward of the court; and (3) whether the trial court abused its discretion by ordering the minor to pay restitution as a condition of her conditional discharge. We affirm.

The Act provides that "[t]hose who are delinquent include any minor who prior to his 17th birthday has violated or attempted to violate * * * any federal or state law * * *." (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 37, par. 702-2.) The petition for adjudication of wardship in this case alleged that J.R. was delinquent in that she violated section 4-102(b) of the Illinois Vehicle Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 95 1/2, par. 4-102(b)) by setting in motion, without authority to do so, a certain motor vehicle belonging to William McDaniel. The petition indicated that J.R. was 15 years old at the time she allegedly committed the offense.

The evidence presented at the adjudication hearing reveals the following facts.

On the night of March 4, 1977, J.R. left her home ostensibly for the purpose of attending a slumber party at the high school in Litchfield. Instead of going to the high school, she went to the home of a girlfriend named Dee Dee, arriving around 8:30 p.m. When J.R. arrived at Dee Dee's house, another girlfriend by the name of Jamie McDaniel was already present. Dee Dee's parents were out but when they returned, Dee Dee's father took her, J.R. and Jamie to Jamie's father's house and left them there for the purpose of staying overnight. Although Jamie's parents were divorced, she was apparently visiting in the home of her father, William McDaniel, who was paralyzed from the waist down and consequently confined to a wheelchair.

Sometime later, two boys and a girl named Lavena stopped by McDaniel's house and asked the girls to go for a ride. J.R. and Dee Dee accepted. Around 10:30 p.m., William McDaniel went to bed. Sometime before midnight, J.R. and Dee Dee returned to Jamie's house with Lavena and a girl named Sandy. They sat around and talked until about 2:30 a.m. when it was decided that they should go get some cigarettes. According to Jamie, J.R. asked her if the girls could drive her father's van to a gas station to purchase them. Although Jamie's testimony leaves the precise content of her responses in some doubt, her overall response was negative. She, however, gave the keys to J.R. after the girls persisted in pressing the idea. Jamie testified that she had never driven the van, which was specially equipped with hand controls for the accelerator and brake, and had no authority to allow anyone else to drive it.

After obtaining the keys, J.R., Sandy and Lavena left in the van with J.R. driving. Shortly thereafter, Officer John Thull observed the van travelling with no lights on. In order to stop the vehicle and advise its driver of this fact, Thull turned on his squad car's flashing red lights. At this point, J.R. panicked and abandoned the van's controls. The van began weaving, and Sandy took over the wheel. She attempted to make a left turn, but the van went out of control and struck a car parked in a driveway, propelling it through a garage door. All three girls jumped out of the van before it had stopped moving and fled from the scene, going immediately back to the McDaniel residence.

When the girls arrived, Lavena told Jamie that they had wrecked the van. The three then asked Jamie to tell her father that someone had stolen his van and that the three girls had chased it down the street to see who stole it. She did this, but before Mr. McDaniel could call the police, Officer Daniel Webster arrived, having heard over the radio that the wrecked van belonged to McDaniel.

McDaniel informed the officer that his daughter had just told him that the van was missing. McDaniel also informed the officer that no one had permission to take the van without his knowledge. The girls initially told the officer that someone had driven the van off and that they had given chase on foot. However, because Sandy matched the description of one of the girls whom Thull observed fleeing the scene of the accident and the story sounded suspicious, all of the girls were taken to the police station. The girls persisted in their original story until Officer Webster started to phone J.R.'s parents. At that point, J.R. said she would tell the truth, and she thereafter gave a written statement about the incident which is generally consistent with the above stated facts.

J.R.'s first contention on appeal is that she was not proved delinquent beyond a reasonable doubt. Starting from the assumption that it is necessary to prove a general intent to commit the instant offense, J.R. argues that the State's proof was insufficient to do so since it failed to establish that she intended to take the van without authority.

• 1 We believe that the seminal question for determination is whether the offense of setting a motor vehicle in motion without authority (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 95 1/2, par. 4-102(b)) actually requires proof of criminal knowledge or intent. The State asserts that it does not and argues that this offense is one for which the legislature has imposed absolute liability. After due consideration, we must agree.

We note that the instant offense is a violation of the Illinois Vehicle Code and that in numerous cases the courts> of this State have construed violations of that code to be absolute liability offenses (see, e.g., People v. Billardello (1925), 319 Ill. 124, 149 N.E. 781; People v. Turner (1976), 64 Ill.2d 183, 354 N.E.2d 897; People v. Strode (1973), 13 Ill. App.3d 697, 300 N.E.2d 323; People v. Van Cura (1977), 49 Ill. App.3d 157, 364 N.E.2d 564, cert. denied (1978), 434 U.S. 1034, 54 L.Ed.2d 782, 98 S.Ct. 767; People v. White Brothers Equipment Co. (1978), 63 Ill. App.3d 445, 380 N.E.2d 396). In fact, it has been broadly stated that:

"The only intention necessary to render a person liable to a penalty for a violation of the automobile law is the doing of the act prohibited." People v. Espenscheid (1969), 109 Ill. App.2d 107, 111, 249 N.E.2d 866, 868.

In reaching such conclusions, the courts> have generally started from the proposition that one may be guilty of an offense without having knowledge or intent if the statute defining the offense clearly indicates a legislative purpose to impose absolute liability for the conduct described (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 38, par. 4-9). (E.g., People v. Van Cura.) Using such standard, the Illinois Appellate Court, Third District, recently held in People v. Ruberg (1979), 76 Ill. App.3d 671, 674, 395 N.E.2d 205, 208, that the legislative history of section 4-102(b) of the Illinois Vehicle Code reveals a legislative intent to impose absolute liability for the violation of the section without requiring proof of criminal knowledge or intent. Although Ruberg involved a different violation of the section than that involved here (entering a motor vehicle without authority), we find it to be persuasive authority for the proposition that the instant violation is also an absolute liability offense. Of particular significance is ...

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