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06/25/97 PEOPLE STATE ILLINOIS v. WILLIAM

June 25, 1997

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
WILLIAM HUFSTEDLER, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Madison County. No. 94-CF-1952. Honorable Charles V. Romani, Jr., Judge, presiding.

The Honorable Justice Chapman delivered the opinion of the court. Maag, J., concurs. Presiding Justice Kuehn, specially concurring.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chapman

JUSTICE CHAPMAN delivered the opinion of the court:

The defendant, William Hufstedler, pleaded guilty to armed robbery (720 ILCS 5/18-2(a) (West 1994)), aggravated kidnapping (720 ILCS 5/10-2(a)(5) (West 1994)), and aggravated vehicular hijacking (720 ILCS 5/18-4(a)(3) (West 1994)) and was sentenced to concurrent terms of 12 years' imprisonment. In consideration for defendant pleading guilty, the State had agreed not to seek sentences in excess of 18 years' imprisonment, and defendant could seek any available sentences. Defendant filed a pro se motion to reduce sentence. Defense counsel filed a certificate of compliance pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 604(d) (145 Ill. 2d R. 604(d)), but counsel did not amend the pro se motion.

On appeal, the defendant initially contends that this cause must be remanded for further proceedings on his motion to reduce sentence because defense counsel did not fulfill his obligations under Rule 604(d) as the transcript of the sentencing hearing presented issues other than those in the pro se motion. The State responds that under People v. Evans, 174 Ill. 2d 320, 673 N.E.2d 244, 220 Ill. Dec. 332 (1996), defendant was required to file a motion to withdraw the guilty pleas because the defendant received some concession from the State in return for his guilty pleas. Defendant also contends that the sentences are an abuse of the trial court's sentencing discretion, and the State counters that the sentences are proper.

The first issue to be addressed is whether a defendant who has negotiated a cap on his sentence is required to file a motion to withdraw his guilty plea, rather than a motion to reduce his sentence, when the trial court has discretion to sentence him to any appropriate sentence within the boundaries of the cap.

In Evans, the supreme court stated:

"We therefore hold that, following the entry of judgment on a negotiated guilty plea, even if a defendant wants to challenge only his sentence, he must move to withdraw the guilty plea and vacate the judgment so that, in the event the motion is granted, the parties are returned to the status quo." (Emphasis added.) Evans, 174 Ill. 2d at 332, 673 N.E.2d at 250.

The State contends that the key term in the quotation from Evans is the emphasized word "negotiated." The State argues that the supreme court placed no limitations or qualifications on the word and that, therefore, all defendants in all cases involving all negotiated pleas must move to withdraw their guilty pleas and none will be allowed to challenge only the sentence. We conclude that Evans does not require such a result for the following reasons.

As both Evans and the State point out, and as we agree, plea bargains are governed to a certain extent by contract law principles. In Evans, the terms of the contract were more certain than they are in the present case, because in Evans the pleas involved were given in exchange for the State's recommendation of prison terms of a specific number of years. Therefore, the supreme court's failure to impose any limitations or qualifications on the word "negotiated" is perfectly understandable. It would be a rare case that a defendant who had pled guilty and agreed to a prison sentence of X years in exchange for the State's reduction of the charges against him would be entitled to file a motion to reduce his sentence rather than a motion to withdraw his guilty plea. Although it would be a rare case, it is not an inconceivable one. For example, assume that a defendant agreed to be sentenced to six years' imprisonment for one residential burglary in exchange for the State's agreement to recommend six years' imprisonment and to dismiss two other burglary charges. Assume further that, at the sentencing hearing, the State recommends 10 years' imprisonment and the trial court sentences the defendant to 10 years' imprisonment. Should the defendant not be allowed to challenge this sentence by a motion to reduce sentence rather than being required to withdraw his guilty plea? Or consider the same defendant and the same agreement and further assume that the judge agrees to be bound by the terms of the plea agreement. Assume, however, that at the sentencing hearing, the judge does not follow the State's recommendation and instead gives the defendant 10 years' imprisonment. Finally, assume the same defendant and the same agreement and the trial judge gives 20 years' imprisonment, a sentence unauthorized by statute. Should that defendant not be allowed to move to reduce his sentence? See People v. Arna, 168 Ill. 2d 107, 658 N.E.2d 445, 212 Ill. Dec. 963 (1995).

The low probability of any of these suggested scenarios occurring when a plea to a prison term for a specific number of years is involved may be the reason for the supreme court's broad use of the word "negotiated" in Evans.

In a case where a defendant pleads guilty in exchange for a prison term for a specific number of years, in order for the defendant to successfully contend that he should be entitled to proceed on a motion to reduce his sentence rather than a motion to withdraw his guilty plea, he must be able to show that the plea agreement:

(1) was breached by the State, or

(2) was not honored by the court, or

(3) was not authorized by law (i.e., exceeded the statutory ...


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