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03/24/94 PEOPLE STATE ILLINOIS v. R.L.

March 24, 1994

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, APPELLANT,
v.
R.L., A MINOR, APPELLEE. -- THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, APPELLANT, V. D.W., A MINOR, APPELLEE.



Freeman

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Freeman

JUSTICE FREEMAN delivered the opinion of the court:

Section 5-4(7)(a) of the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 provides, under various circumstances, for the automatic transfer of cases of 15- and 16-year-old minors charged with drug offenses from the juvenile division of a circuit court to that court's criminal division. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1991, ch. 37, par. 805-4(7)(a).) The question presented for review is whether this section, as applied to such minors charged with committing drug offenses on or near public housing property, denies such minors the equal protection of the laws. We hold that it does not.

BACKGROUND

On April 6, 1992, defendant D.W. was 16 years old. On that date, he was arrested and subsequently charged with delivering less than one gram of cocaine, which is a Class 2 felony. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1991, ch. 56 1/2, par. 1401(d).) He was also charged with performing this act on a public way within 1,000 feet of Chicago Housing Authority property. This charge enhanced the penalty to a Class 1 felony (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1991, ch. 56 1/2, par. 1407(b)(2)) and made the penalty nonprobationable (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1991, ch. 38, par. 1005-5-3(c)(2)(D)).

On December 22, 1991, defendant R.L. was 16 years old. On that date, he was arrested and subsequently charged with, inter alia, possessing 15.6 grams of cocaine with the intent to deliver, which is, by itself, a Class X felony (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1991, ch. 56 1/2, par. 1401(a)(2)(A)) and nonprobationable (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1991, ch. 38, par. 1005-5-3(c)(2)(C)). He was charged with performing this act on Chicago Housing Authority property.

Since D.W. and R.L. were under 17 years of age at the time of these alleged offenses, they normally could not be prosecuted in the criminal division of a circuit court. However, section 5-4 of the Juvenile Court Act of 1987, sometimes referred to as the juvenile transfer statute, provides exceptions to this rule. Ill. Rev. Stat. 1991, ch. 37, par. 805-4(1).

One such exception in the juvenile transfer statute provides, in pertinent part, that juvenile court administration does not extend to a minor who was at least 15 years old at the time of the alleged offense, and who was charged with violating section 401 of the Illinois Controlled Substances Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1991, ch. 56 1/2, par. 1401) while on residential property owned, operated, and managed by a public housing agency, or on a public way within 1,000 feet of such property. "These charges and all other charges arising out of the same incident shall be prosecuted under the Illinois Controlled SubstancesAct." Ill. Rev. Stat. 1991, ch. 37, par. 805-4(7)(a).

Based on this provision, D.W. and R.L. were each arraigned in the criminal division of the circuit court of Cook County. Each defendant asked the trial court to dismiss the charge against him and declare both section 407 of the Illinois Controlled Substances Act and section 5-4(7)(a) of the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 unconstitutional.

The trial court ruled that section 5-4(7)(a), as applied to 15- and 16-year-old minors charged with drug offenses committed within 1,000 feet of public housing, denied such minors the equal protection of the laws. U.S. Const., amend. XIV; Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, § 2.

The State appeals directly to this court. (134 Ill. 2d R. 603.) We reverse.

Discussion

This court has repeatedly noted the presumption that all statutes are constitutional. The party challenging a statute has the burden of clearly establishing the alleged constitutional violations. A court must construe a statute so as to uphold the statute's constitutionality and validity if reasonably possible. If the statute's construction is doubtful, a court will resolve the doubt in favor of the statute's validity. People v. Shephard (1992), 152 Ill. 2d 489, 499, 178 Ill. Dec. 724, 605 N.E.2d 518.

Under both the Federal and Illinois Constitutions, the guarantee of equal protection requires that the government treat similarly situated individuals in a similar manner. Equal protection prohibits the State from according unequal treatment to persons placed by a statute into different classes for reasons wholly unrelated to the purpose of the legislation. ( Shephard, 152 Ill. 2d at 499.) However, equal protection does not preclude different treatment for like persons where there is a rational basis for so doing. People v. P.H. ...


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