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August 4, 1994


Harrison, Miller, McMORROW

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mcmorrow

JUSTICE HARRISON delivered the opinion of the court:

Before us are two criminal cases we have consolidated for review, People v. Adams, No. 75111, and People v. Valdez, No. 75654. Although these cases involve wholly unrelated facts, they share a common feature. In both cases the appellate court reversed the defendants' convictions on the grounds that the State had failed to prove venue beyond a reasonable doubt.

We granted the State leave to appeal in each case. (134 Ill. 2d R. 315.) For the reasons that follow, we agree with the appellate court's Conclusion that venue is a material allegation that must be proved by the State beyond a reasonable doubt along with the other elements of an offense. We hold, however, that the State did meet its burden of establishing venue in these cases. Accordingly, the judgments of the appellate court are reversed, and the cases are remanded for consideration of the remaining issues which the parties raised, but the appellate court did not reach.

In People v. Adams, the evidence showed that Edward Peterson owned a 1979 Chevrolet, which he allowed his live-in girlfriend to use. Peterson kept the car at the couple's residence, which was located in the City of Chicago. On May 24, 1991, the girlfriend, Valerie Warren, lent the car to her uncle, Melvin Warren. By the next day, the car was gone. Valerie contacted the police to report it stolen.

Peterson next saw the car at the Chicago police pound on May 27. It had been towed there after the defendant, Donald Adams, crashed it on Interstate 290 near the community of Addison. Two days later, Adams flagged down a Chicago police officer and said that he wanted to turn himself in. Adams told the officer that "he had taken Ed Peterson's car, he was mad at somebody." He also stated that "he was left alone in thecar and that he took the car and he crashed it at Addison."

The officer took Adams to the police station. There the officer discovered that a stolen car report listing Adams as the offender had been filed by Peterson. After the police advised Adams of his Miranda rights, he repeated his story about taking the car and crashing it. When the police asked him what had become of the keys, he took them out of his pocket. The Cook County State's Attorney subsequently charged Adams by information with burglary and possession of a stolen vehicle.

At trial Adams did not deny that he had been in possession of Peterson's car. Rather, his defense was that he had permission to use it. Adams claimed that he had a close relationship with Peterson's girlfriend, Valerie, and that the two of them had driven around together in Peterson's car on the night of May 24 and during the early morning hours of May 25. According to Adams, they purchased and used alcohol and cocaine. In Adam's version of the story, they drove to Maywood at 2:30 a.m. to borrow money from Jessie Williams to buy drugs. The pair subsequently drove back to Chicago to buy cocaine. Adams claimed that when the drugs were used up, he left Valerie at a crack house and drove to Williams' home a second time to borrow more money from him. There is no dispute that Maywood is located in Cook County, as, of course, is Chicago.

Disavowing his previous confession, Adams asserted that Valerie had given him permission to take the car on the second trip to Williams' house and that he had intended to drive back to Valerie after he had borrowed the money. As previously noted, however, he ultimately crashed the car on the interstate near Addison, which is several miles and several highway exits northwest of Maywood. He was driving in the opposite direction of Maywood, although he claimed that the crash occurredwhen he was trying to make a u-turn. Adams never explained what he was doing on the highway, going west, except to say that he was trying to burn up some gas he had bought for the car.

Adam's story was contested by the other witnesses at trial. Jessie Williams did confirm that he had loaned money to Adams twice during the early hours of May 25, but testified that he did not see Valerie in Adam's company. Although Valerie admitted that she knew Adams, she denied dating him and denied seeing him on May 24. In addition, both Valerie and Ed Peterson testified that Adams had no authority to use the car.

Based on this evidence, the circuit court of Cook County, sitting without a jury, acquitted Adams of the burglary charge, but found him guilty of possession of a stolen motor vehicle, in violation of section 4-103(a)(1) of the Illinois Vehicle Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1989, ch. 95 1/2, par. 4-103(a)(1)). The court sentenced Adams to 30 months' probation and ordered him to pay restitution in the amount of $150, the cost of repairing the damage to Peterson's car.

In the Valdez case, the record showed that on September 19, 1986, the defendant, Gloria Valdez, boarded an airliner in Miami, along with two males associates, Victor Valdez and Raul Torres. The airliner was bound for Minneapolis-St. Paul, with one scheduled stop in Chicago.

All three individuals were holding one-way tickets. Gloria had purchased her ticket with cash on the day of departure using the name Louise A. Diaz. Victor and Raul had also bought their tickets that day using cash. The tickets bore consecutive serial numbers. Raul's ticket was purchased under the name Guillermo Valdez.

After the three boarded the plane, a flight attendant noticed that Victor and Raul used the restroom separately, about 30 seconds after one another. The attendantregarded this as unusual because people do not usually go to the restroom before takeoff. The attendant did not see any of the other passengers use the restroom before Victor and Raul did.

Before the plane departed, an airline ticket agent informed an airline service manager of the tickets Victor and Raul had purchased. The manager boarded the plane and advised Victor and Raul that they would have to disembark, which they did. The manager and airline security then searched the two and their luggage for weapons. When none were found, Victor and Raul were allowed to return to the plane.

After the plane departed, the flight attendant who had previously observed Victor and Raul searched the restroom they had used. He discovered four sandwich-type plastic bags containing cocaine. The bags were hidden under the liner of a trash receptacle located beneath the sink. The attendant initially locked the restroom door, but reopened it after talking to the captain. Later, during the flight, he saw Victor and Raul each try to use the restroom. The attendant testified that they were unable to do so because the facilities were occupied and that they then used a different lavatory across the aisle.

When the flight landed in Chicago for its one scheduled stop, Chicago police and agents of the Drug Enforcement Agency boarded the plane. The police seized the bags of cocaine from the restroom and they, along with the DEA agents, escorted Gloria, Victor and Raul from the plane.

During questioning by police in a passenger waiting room, Gloria denied that the drugs belonged to her, denied having any knowledge of the drugs, and denied knowing Victor and Raul. She stated that she was travelling to Minneapolis to see her son and to perform witchcraft for the sum of $300.

Gloria consented to a search of her purse. Authorities found six dollars and a cleaning ticket bearing the name Gloria Valdez. In addition, there were miscellaneous items, including material that "looked like bones or something." Gloria explained that these were used in her witchcraft ritual.

After the search was concluded, police took Gloria's photograph and fingerprints and allowed her to leave. They later discovered that her fingerprints matched latent prints on the tape used to seal the plastic bags of cocaine. As a result, Gloria was arrested for possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver in violation of section 401 of the Illinois Controlled Substances Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 56 1/2, par. 1401).

Over objection, the jury was instructed on constructive possession and accountability. The jury found her guilty, and the court sentenced her to 15 years in prison and imposed a fine of $50,000.

Adams and Gloria subsequently filed appeals in their respective cases. Each raised various grounds for reversal, but in both cases the appellate court reversed on the sole ground that the State had failed to prove venue beyond a reasonable doubt. (Adams, No. 1-91-3009 (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23); Valdez, 249 Ill. App. 3d 1058, 190 Ill. Dec. 166, 621 N.E.2d 35.) The remaining issues raised by Adams and Gloria were not addressed.

In its appeal to this court, the State first argues that the appellate court erred in holding that venue must be proven by the State beyond a reasonable doubt. The State cites section 1-6(a) of the Criminal Code of 1961 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1989, ch. 38, par. 1-6(a)), which provides that "all objections of improper place of trial are waived by a defendant unless made before trial." The State also invokes section 114-1 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1989, ch. 38, par. 114-1). Subsection (a)(7) of that statute states that thecourt may dismiss an indictment, information or complaint on the grounds that the county is an improper place of trial "upon the written motion of the defendant made prior to trial." (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1989, ch. 38, par. 114-1(a)(7).) Subsection (b) specifies ...

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