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People v. Kerans

OPINION FILED JANUARY 29, 1982.

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

v.

RONALD D. KERANS, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Fulton County; the Hon. CHARLES WILHELM, Judge, presiding.

PRESIDING JUSTICE SCOTT DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

The defendant, Ronald D. Kerans, was found guilty following a jury trial of four counts of armed violence, two counts of aggravated battery, two counts of aggravated assault and one count of unlawful use of weapons. Judgments of conviction and concurrent nine-year sentences of imprisonment were imposed on each of the four counts of armed violence, two counts involving criminal damage to property in excess of $150, while armed with a dangerous weapon, and two counts of aggravated battery (great bodily harm) while armed with a dangerous weapon.

The defendant raises several issues on appeal. Prior to reviewing each of the issues presented for review, it is necessary to briefly summarize the factual context from which the defendant's convictions occurred and this appeal is taken.

On September 19, 1980, the defendant and his girlfriend, Becky Willard, attended a party held at the residence of Harry Stufflebeam. Later in the evening, after extensive drinking, the defendant discovered his girlfriend in the arms of his best friend, Stufflebeam, as they embraced in the bathroom with the lights turned out. The defendant retrieved a revolver from his automobile, entered the bathroom and proceeded to strike the startled couple with the weapon. Stufflebeam was knocked into the bathtub, and Willard fell behind the toilet. A scuffle ensued in which several shots were fired. As the fight between the defendant and Stufflebeam continued, the defendant managed to grab his girlfriend by the hair, knock her to the floor and kick her in the stomach. The defendant then reloaded his weapon and shot up the living room, its furnishings, including a television set, before he left for home on his motorcycle. When the defendant arrived at his residence he reloaded his gun a third time, drove his girlfriend's car into the country and proceeded to shoot it full of holes.

Testimony was presented which established that the gunshot damage to Stufflebeam's residence and contents was in excess of $1,100 and the cost of repairing Becky Willard's car exceeded $700.

Defendant contends his two convictions for armed violence based on the offense of criminal damage to property over $150 must be reversed because the legislature did not intend armed violence to include such a felony. Defendant also argues in the alternative that the penalty is unconstitutional.

• 1 The primary rule in the interpretation and construction of statutes is that the intention of the legislature should be ascertained and given effect. Legislative intent is derived primarily from the language used in the statute. (Certain Taxpayers v. Sheahen (1970), 45 Ill.2d 75, 256 N.E.2d 758.) Where the language is certain and unambiguous, there is no need for judicial interpretation or construction (Illinois Racing Board v. Arlington Park Thoroughbred Race Track Corp. (1979), 76 Ill. App.3d 289, 395 N.E.2d 93), and the only legitimate function of the courts is to enforce the law as enacted (Certain Taxpayers v. Sheahen (1970), 45 Ill.2d 75, 84, 256 N.E.2d 758, 764.) As the supreme court has recently stated in People v. Haron (1981), 85 Ill.2d 261, 268, 422 N.E.2d 627, 630:

"* * * it is not our function to declare that the General Assembly did not mean what the plain language of the statute imports * * *."

It is a reviewing court's duty to interpret the statute as it is, regardless of the court's own opinion as to the desirability of the result from that interpretation. People v. McCoy (1975), 29 Ill. App.3d 601, 332 N.E.2d 690.

The legislature has defined armed violence as follows:

"A person commits armed violence when, while armed with a dangerous weapon, he commits any felony defined by Illinois law." Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 38, par. 33A-2.

• 2 The language of the armed violence statute is clear and unambiguous. It applies to "any felony." Since criminal damage to property in excess of $150 is plainly a felony, it can serve as a predicate felony for armed violence.

This court pointed out in People v. Lenhart (1980), 90 Ill. App.3d 502, 506, 413 N.E.2d 220, 223-24, appeal denied (1981), 85 Ill.2d 56.

"It is clearly within the State's power to maintain a distinction between misdemeanors and felonies [citation], and such a distinction may be based upon monetary value [citation]. The legislature's decision to severely punish an armed individual who shows his disrespect for the law by committing a felony is not rendered irrational by its declining to similarly punish an armed misdemeanant."

• 3 Defendant's alternative argument is that the minimum penalty of six years' imprisonment for armed violence based on the use of a dangerous weapon during the commission of criminal damage to property in excess of $150 is unconstitutional.

The supreme court in People v. Haron (1981), 85 Ill.2d 261, 279-80, 422 N.E.2d 627, 635, citing People v. Bradley (1980), 79 Ill.2d 410, 403 N.E.2d 1029, recently restated the applicable standard in this regard:

"`It is the general rule that the legislature, under the State's policy power, has wide discretion to prescribe penalties for defined offenses. (People v. Dixon (1948), 400 Ill. 449, 453.) * * *

"We have consistently stated that the standard of a proper exercise of the police power is whether the statute is reasonably designed to remedy the evils which the legislature has determined to be a threat to the public health, safety and general welfare." (Heimgaertner v. Benjamin Electric Manufacturing Co. (1955), 6 Ill.2d 152, 159, 128 N.E.2d 691.)

The test, thus, focuses on the purposes and objectives of the enactment in question.'"

In light of the purposes and objectives of the legislature in enacting the armed-violence statute, as already discussed, it cannot be said that the application of the statute to criminal damage to property over $150 is not reasonably designed to correct the danger to people due to the existence of dangerous ...


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