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01/20/94 PEOPLE STATE ILLINOIS v. JANET MEYERS

January 20, 1994

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, APPELLANT,
v.
JANET MEYERS, ET AL., APPELLEES.



Freeman

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Freeman

JUSTICE FREEMAN delivered the opinion of the court:

The State appeals from a judgment of the circuit court of Cook County dismissing the separate misdemeanor complaints against defendants, Janet Meyers, Joanne Barnard and Nancy Barnard (defendants), for their alleged violation of section 235b of the Revenue Act of 1939 (Act)(Ill. Rev. Stat. 1991, ch. 120, par. 716d).

FACTS

In July 1991, defendants participated in a scavenger sale of tax delinquent property located in Cook County. Pursuant to section 235 of the Act, each defendant filed an application for a certificate of purchase with the county clerk for property on which they had successfully bid. Each application included an affirmation that the applicant was not the owner, the party responsible for the payment of delinquent taxes on any property in Cook County, or an agent of any such person. Ill. Rev. Stat. 1991, ch. 120, par. 716b.

Defendants were subsequently charged in separate misdemeanor complaints for tax sale fraud. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1991, ch. 120, par. 716d.) Defendants filed motions to dismiss the complaints. In their motions, defendants alleged, inter alia, that the complaints were legally insufficient and, further, that section 235b of the Act was unconstitutionally vague and violative of the equal protection clause of both the United States and the Illinois Constitutions.

The trial court granted defendants' motions. In its written memorandum, the court held that the complaints were legally insufficient for failure to identify the capacity of each defendant as either an owner or the agent of an owner of tax delinquent property. Further, the court held that section 235b(a)(2) of the Act is unconstitutionally vague. The court, however, rejected defendants' equal protection challenge.

The State appealed directly to this court (134 Ill. 2d R. 603). We granted the State's motion to consolidate the three causes on appeal and now reverse the judgment of the circuit court.

SCAVENGER SALES

Section 235b of the Act provides the process by which interested persons may participate in a scavenger sale of tax delinquent property in Illinois. The statute explicitly provides those persons who are ineligible to participate in such sales. Section 235b(a)(2), the section at issue here, specifically states:

"(a) No person * * * shall be eligible to bid or receive a certificate of purchase at any sale under Section 235a of this Act unless that person shall have completed and delivered to the county clerk a true, accurate and complete application for certificate of purchase which shall affirm:

(2) that such person is not himself, nor is he the agent for, the owner or party responsible for payment of the general taxes on any real property which is located in the same county in which the sale is held and which is tax delinquent or forfeited for all or any part of each of 2 or more years * * * ." (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1991, ch. 120, par. 716b.)

Section 235b further provides that the application for a certificate of purchase must be executed by the purchaser and by any individual bidder acting in the purchaser's behalf. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1991, ch. 120, par. 716b.) Section 235d makes it a Class A misdemeanor for any person to knowingly make a false statement in any application for certificate of purchase or registration under Section 235b of the Act. Ill. Rev. Stat. 1991, ch. 120, par. 716d.

SUFFICIENCY OF THE COMPLAINT

The State contends that the trial court erred in dismissing its complaints against defendants as insufficient. We agree.

A defendant has the fundamental right, under both the Federal (U.S. Const., amend. VI) and the State Constitutions (Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, § 8), to be informed of the "nature and cause" of criminal accusations made against him. In Illinois, this general right is given substance by section 111-3 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1991, ch. 38, par. 111-3(a)). Section 111-3 is "designed to inform the accused of the nature of the offense with which he is charged so that he may prepare a defense and to assure that the charged offense may serve as a bar to subsequent prosecution arising out of the same conduct." People v. Simmons (1982), 93 Ill. 2d 94, 99-100, 442 N.E.2d 891.

When, as here, the sufficiency of the complaint is attacked in a pretrial motion, the standard of review is to determine whether the complaint complies with the stated requirements of sections 111-3. (See People v. Tuczynski (1978), 62 Ill. App. 3d 644, 648, 378 N.E.2d 1200; People v. Young (1991), 220 Ill. App. 3d 488, 494, 581 N.E.2d 241; see also People v. Gilmore (1976), 63 Ill. 2d 23, 29, 344 N.E.2d 456.) Section 111-3(a) demands that the charging instrument be in writing, stating the name of the offense and the relevant statutory provision violated, setting forth the nature and elements of the offense and the date and county in which the offense occurred, and naming the accused if known or a reasonably certain description. (See Ill. Rev. Stat. 1991, ch. 38, par. 111-3(a).) An instrument which charges an offense in the language of the statute "'is deemed sufficient when the words of the statute so far particularize the offense that by their use ...


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