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March 31, 1994


Appeal from Circuit Court of Morgan County. Nos. 92CF106, 92CF114. Honorable J. David Bone, Judge Presiding.

As Corrected May 9, 1994.

Honorable James A. Knecht, J., Honorable Robert W. Cook, J., Honorable Robert J. Steigmann, J., Concurring

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Knecht

JUSTICE KNECHT delivered the opinion of the court:

Defendant, Latonja Hemphill, appeals from three consecutive sentences entered with respect to her convictions of two counts of retail theft (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1991, ch. 38, par. 16A-3(a)) and one count of theft (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1991, ch. 38, par. 16-1(a)(4)). Hemphill alleges her sentences are excessive. We disagree and affirm.

In July 1992, Hemphill, carrying her infant child in a car seat and accompanied by Jack Trumbo, Jr., went to Country Fair, a store in Jacksonville. A store employee observed Trumbo placing three cartons of cigarettes in a shopping cart. However, when Trumbo and Hemphill went through the checkout lane, their purchase consisted of only two bananas. The store employee confronted Trumbo and Hemphill before they exited the store. A police officer arrived and asked Hemphill if he could look in the baby's car seat. Hemphill swung the car seat from side to side, with the baby in it. The police officer was ultimately permitted to examine the car seat and discovered the three cartons of cigarettes hidden under a blanket. Trumbo and Hemphill were arrested for retail theft.

Late in July 1992, Hemphill, carrying her infant in a baby basket and accompanied by Victor Branch, went shopping at Jack's Discount, another store in Jacksonville. This time Hemphill placed an answering machine and a stereo cassette player under a blanket in the baby basket. While Hemphill went to the service counter to return some merchandise, Branch, carrying the baby and baby basket, left the store. Branch was apprehended by a store employee. Branch and Hemphill were ultimately arrested for retail theft.

Again in July 1992, Hemphill approached Janis Williams, who was sitting on the front porch of a residence, and asked her for a glass of water. Williams went inside to get the water, leaving her purse on the porch. Hemphill took the purse and fled. The purse contained $50 cash. The purse was recovered; the cash was not. Hemphill was arrested for theft.

In September 1992, Hemphill pleaded guilty to the two counts of retail theft and one count of theft. The sentencing hearing was held in October 1992. The presentence investigation report submitted to the court reflected Hemphill was 22 years old at the time of the offenses. Hemphill's juvenile record included a finding of delinquency in 1985 as the result of her theft of an automobile. She was placed on six months' supervision, which was successfully completed.

Hemphill also has an adult record. In 1987, Hemphill was convicted of two counts of burglary and sentenced to 120 days' incarceration and 18 months' probation. While on probation, Hemphill committed the offense of retail theft. She was sentenced to 30 days' incarceration. Shortly thereafter, Hemphill was convicted of escape from a penal institution and sentenced to four years' incarceration. In 1991, after her release from prison, Hemphill was convicted of three counts of forgery and sentenced to 2 1/2 years' probation. While on probation, Hemphill was convicted of passing bad checks in excess of $150 and sentenced to two years probation. The three offenses in the present case were committed while Hemphill was on probation with respect to both the forgery and bad checks convictions.

A condition of Hemphill's probation with respect to the bad checks conviction was that she cooperate with the Treatment Alternatives to Street Crimes (TASC) program to obtain treatment for her crack cocaine addiction. TASC located a drug treatment facility in which Hemphill, who was then pregnant, could be placed. In this facility, Hemphill would be able to keep the infant with her after its birth. Hemphill failed to cooperate in completing the paperwork necessary to her admission. As the result, Hemphill did not enter the treatment facility. Hemphill was expelled from the TASC program. Hemphill's probation officer submitted a letter indicating Hemphill had been very uncooperative.

At the sentencing hearing Hemphill testified she committed her crimes in order to obtain money or goods which could be exchanged for drugs. Hemphill acknowledged her addiction to crack cocaine. She testified she wanted to enter treatment for her drug addiction and had telephoned and left several messages for her TASC representative; however, he did not wish to help her get treatment. Hemphill's mother testified she had supplied all of the information and paperwork necessary for Hemphill to enter the drug treatment program.

In rendering sentence, the trial court noted Hemphill had committed felony after felony. The court noted when Hemphill had been before the court for sentencing with respect to the bad checks conviction, the State requested a sentence of imprisonment; however, the court gave her the opportunity to be placed on probation and get treatment for her drug addiction.

The sentence imposed upon a defendant is a matter of judicial discretion. The circuit court is in the best position to view defendant's credibility, demeanor, general moral character, social environment, habits, and age. (See People v. Dukett (1974), 56 Ill. 2d 432, 452, 308 N.E.2d 590, 601.) The trial court is, therefore, better able to fashion a sentence tailored to the particular circumstances and acts of the defendant. (See generally People v. Steppan (1985), 105 Ill. 2d 310, 323, 473 N.E.2d 1300, 1307, 85 Ill. Dec. 495; People v. Perruquet (1977), 68 Ill. 2d 149, 154, 368 N.E.2d 882, 884, 11 ...

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