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09/22/88 the People of the State of v. M.A.

September 22, 1988

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, APPELLANT

v.

M.A., A MINOR, APPELLEE



SUPREME COURT OF ILLINOIS

529 N.E.2d 492, 124 Ill. 2d 135, 124 Ill. Dec. 511 1988.IL.1421

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, the Hon. Fred G. Suria, Jr., Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

JUSTICE RYAN delivered the opinion of the court. JUSTICE STAMOS took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE RYAN

The defendant, M.A., a minor, was arrested and charged with the offense of unlawful use of weapons on school grounds. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 38, par. 24-1(a)(12).) Pursuant to the automatic-transfer provision of the Juvenile Court Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 37, par. 702-7(6)(a) (now Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 37, par. 805-4(6)(a))), the defendant's case was transferred to criminal court so that he could be prosecuted as an adult. Following a hearing, the trial court held that the automatic-transfer provision of the Juvenile Court Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 37, par. 702-7(6)(a)) is unconstitutional as applied to the charge of unlawful use of weapons on school grounds (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 38, par. 24-1(a)(12)). Because the statute was declared unconstitutional as applied, this case is here on direct appeal by the State. (See 107 Ill. 2d R. 603.) The Illinois State Bar Association was granted leave to file an amicus curiae brief.

The defendant asserts that section 2 -- 7(6)(a) of the Juvenile Court Act is invalid because it deprives him of due process and equal protection of the laws. Section 2 -- 7(6)(a) of the Juvenile Court Act provides:

"(a) The definition of delinquent minor under Section 2-2 of this Act shall not apply to any minor who at the time of an offense was at least 15 years of age and who is charged with murder, aggravated criminal sexual assault, armed robbery when the armed robbery was committed with a firearm, or violation of the provisions of subsection 24-1(a)(12) of the Criminal Code of 1961, as amended. These charges and all other charges arising out of the same incident shall be prosecuted pursuant to the Criminal Code of 1961, as amended." (Emphasis added.) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 37, par. 702-7(6)(a).)

The italicized language was added by an amendment in 1985, adding the offense of unlawful use of weapons on school grounds (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 38, par. 24-1(a)(12)) to those offenses required to be transferred automatically to the jurisdiction of the criminal court. (Pub. Act 84-1075, eff. Dec. 2, 1985.) The statute, Unlawful Use of Weapons (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 38, par. 24-1(a)(12)), provides in relevant part:

"(a) A person commits the offense of unlawful use of weapons when he knowingly:

(12) Carries or possesses on or about his person any bludgeon, black-jack, sling-shot, sand-club, sand-bag, metal knuckles, switchblade knife, tear gas gun projector bomb or any object containing noxious liquid gas, pistol or revolver or other firearm, bomb, grenade, bottle or other container containing an explosive substance of over one-quarter ounce, or cartridge while in the building or on the grounds of any elementary or secondary school, community college, college or university. . . ."

The State raises one issue on appeal: whether the trial court erred in holding that it is unconstitutional for the legislature to provide that 15 and 16 year olds charged with unlawful use of weapons on school grounds shall be automatically transferred to the criminal court for Disposition.

The trial court found there was no rational basis for automatically transferring 15 or 16 year olds charged with unlawful use of weapons on school grounds when other 15 or 16 year olds charged with attempted murder or other Class X felonies are entitled to a hearing before the case is transferred. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 37, par. 702-7(3).) The trial court concluded that to automatically transfer juveniles charged with unlawful use of weapons on school grounds without a hearing violates due process and equal protection.

The defendant claims that the trial court correctly found that the inclusion of unlawful use of weapons on school grounds in the class of crimes excluded from the Juvenile Court Act violates equal protection because other similarly situated defendants fall within the scope of the Juvenile Court Act. Additionally, the defendant urges this court to apply the strict scrutiny standard to juveniles because as a class they are uniquely powerless. In support of this assertion, defendant relies on the fact that minors have no right to vote. (See also Stern, The Burger Court and the Diminishing Constitutional Rights of Minors: A Brief Overview, 1985 Ariz. St. L.J. 865, 894.) The defendant asserts that juveniles fall within the definition of a "suspect class" set forth in San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez ...


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