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03/28/96 PEOPLE STATE ILLINOIS v. HEATHER K. MILLER

March 28, 1996

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, APPELLANT,
v.
HEATHER K. MILLER, APPELLEE.



The Honorable Justice Miller delivered the opinion of the court:

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Miller

The Honorable Justice MILLER delivered the opinion of the court:

Defendant, Heather K. Miller, was charged by information in the circuit court of Boone County with concealing a fugitive in violation of section 31-5 of the Criminal Code of 1961 (720 ILCS 5/31-5 (West 1994)). Defendant filed a motion to dismiss the information. The circuit court granted the motion, holding that the concealment statute was unconstitutional under the proportionate penalties clause of the Illinois Constitution (Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, § 11). The State appealed directly to this court. 134 Ill. 2d R. 603.

BACKGROUND

The facts may be briefly stated. Rick D. Goodwin stole one of defendant's credit cards and charged long distance telephone calls. Defendant was the complaining witness in this theft. A warrant was issued for Goodwin's arrest. On October 20, 1994, while the arrest warrant was outstanding, defendant drove Goodwin and another friend to a Hardees restaurant. Shortly after the three left Hardees in defendant's car, Belvidere police officers stopped defendant's car and discovered Goodwin secreted in the trunk of the car. Goodwin was arrested for theft of property under $300 in value (720 ILCS 5/16-1 (West 1994)) and ultimately convicted of a Class A misdemeanor.

Defendant was charged by information with concealing a fugitive, a Class 4 felony, in violation of the concealment statute (720 ILCS 5/31-5 (West 1994)), which provides:

"Concealing or Aiding a Fugitive. Every person not standing in the relation of husband, wife, parent, child, brother or sister to the offender, who, with intent to prevent the apprehension of the offender, conceals his knowledge that an offense has been committed or harbors, aids or conceals the offender, commits a Class 4 felony."

Prior to trial, defendant filed a motion to dismiss the felony information. She argued that the concealment statute violated the due process and proportionate penalties clauses of the Illinois Constitution (Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, §§ 2, 11) because, under the statute, she was subject to a more severe punishment than the fugitive she was accused of concealing. A person convicted of a Class 4 felony can be punished by a penalty of up to one to three years' confinement (730 ILCS 5/5-8-1(a)(7) (West 1994)) and a fine not to exceed $10,000 (730 ILCS 5/5-9-1(a)(1) (West 1994)). A person convicted of a Class A misdemeanor can be punished by a penalty of less than one year's confinement (730 ILCS 5/5-8-3(a)(1) (West 1994)) and a fine not to exceed $1,000 (730 ILCS 5/5-9-1(a)(2) (West 1994)).

After argument on defendant's motion, the trial judge dismissed the felony information. The trial judge found that the concealment statute is constitutional when applied to one who conceals a felon because the Class 4 felony penalty would be the lowest felony penalty possible. The trial judge found, however, that, because the penalty for a felony is more severe than that for a misdemeanor, the felony concealment statute is unconstitutional when applied to one who conceals a misdemeanant. The trial judge also believed that the legislature did not intend for the concealment statute to apply to one who conceals a misdemeanant. The State appealed directly to this court (134 Ill. 2d R. 603), and we now reverse the judgment of the circuit court.

ARGUMENT(S)

The issue presented is whether the concealment statute providing for a Class 4 felony penalty is constitutional when the violation of the statute charged results from the concealment of a misdemeanant. We initially note that the legislature has wide discretion in defining crimes and prescribing penalties for those crimes. People v. P.H., 145 Ill. 2d 209, 233, 164 Ill. Dec. 137, 582 N.E.2d 700 (1991); People v. Upton, 114 Ill. 2d 362, 373, 102 Ill. Dec. 842, 500 N.E.2d 943 (1986). Furthermore, a statute is presumed constitutional and the party challenging the statute bears the burden of showing its invalidity. People v. La Pointe, 88 Ill. 2d 482, 499, 59 Ill. Dec. 59, 431 N.E.2d 344 (1981).

Defendant relies on the due process and proportionate penalties clauses of the Illinois Constitution to establish the invalidity of the concealment statute. The due process clause provides in part that "no person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law ***." Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, § 2. Under the due process clause, a court requires that the penalty prescribed for a particular crime be "reasonably designed to remedy the evils that the legislature has determined to be a threat to the public health, safety, and general welfare." People v. Hickman, 163 Ill. 2d 250, 259, 206 Ill. Dec. 94, 644 N.E.2d 1147 (1994); People v. Steppan, 105 Ill. 2d 310, 319, 85 Ill. Dec. 495, 473 N.E.2d 1300 (1985); Heimgaertner v. Benjamin Electric Manufacturing Co., 6 Ill. 2d 152, 159, 128 N.E.2d 691 (1955); see also People v. Wick, 107 Ill. 2d 62, 65-66, 89 Ill. Dec. 833, 481 N.E.2d 676 (1985) (discussing standard).

The proportionate penalties clause provides in part that "all penalties shall be determined both according to the seriousness of the offense and with the objective of restoring the offender to useful citizenship." Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, § 11. The question on review under the proportionate penalties clause is whether the penalty is so cruel, degrading or disproportionate to the offense committed as to shock the moral sense of the community. Hickman, 163 Ill. 2d at 259-60; Steppan, 105 Ill. 2d at 320, quoting People v. Gonzales, 25 Ill. 2d 235, 240, 184 N.E.2d 833 (1962).

Defendant claims that the concealment statute violates these constitutional provisions because, under the statute, she is subject to a greater penalty for concealment of a misdemeanant than she would have been subjected to had she committed a more serious offense. People v. Wisslead, 94 Ill. 2d 190, 196, 68 Ill. Dec. 606, 446 N.E.2d 512 (1983) (the policy underlying the due process and proportionate ...


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