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10/17/97 CITY CHICAGO v. JESUS MORALES ET AL.

October 17, 1997

THE CITY OF CHICAGO, APPELLANT,
v.
JESUS MORALES ET AL., APPELLEES.



The Honorable Justice Nickels delivered the opinion of the court.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Nickels

The Honorable Justice NICKELS delivered the opinion of the court:

These consolidated appeals involve 70 defendants who were charged with violating the City of Chicago's Gang Congregation Ordinance (Chicago Municipal Code § 8--4--015 (added June 17, 1992)). In cause No. 80668, defendant Youkhana and 13 other defendants were charged with violating the ordinance. The Cook County circuit court granted defendants' motion to dismiss the city's actions against them, finding the ordinance unconstitutionally vague. The appellate court affirmed, holding the ordinance unconstitutional on several grounds. Youkhana, 277 Ill. App. 3d 101, 213 Ill. Dec. 777, 660 N.E.2d 34.

In cause No. 80485, the Cook County circuit court dismissed the charges against defendant Ramsey and 49 other defendants, also finding the ordinance unconstitutional. In cause No. 80479, after separate bench trials in the Cook County circuit court, defendant Morales and five other defendants were found guilty of violating the ordinance and each sentenced to jail terms ranging from 1 to 27 days. The appellate court reversed the convictions of the Morales defendants based on its holding in Youkhana (Morales, Nos. 1-93-4039, 1-93-4351, 1-93-4356, 1-94-1542, 1-94-3065, 1-94-4062 cons. (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23)), and affirmed the dismissal of the actions against the Ramsey defendants (Ramsey, Nos. 1-93-4125, 1-93-4126, 1-94-0220, 1-94-0876, 1-94-0877, 1-94-1541, 1-95-0191, 1-95-0246 cons. (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23)). The appellate court granted the city's request for a certificate of importance in Youkhana (155 Ill. 2d R. 316), and this court granted the city's petitions for leave to appeal in the other two causes (155 Ill. 2d R. 315). We consolidated the three causes for purposes of this appeal.

BACKGROUND

In May 1992, the Chicago city council held hearings to explore the problems criminal street gangs present for the city's residents. Of particular concern was the problems gang members cause by loitering in public. Witnesses testified how gang members loiter as part of a strategy to claim territory, recruit new members, and intimidate rival gangs and ordinary community residents. Testimony revealed that street gangs are responsible for a variety of criminal activity, including drive-by shootings, drug dealing, and vandalism.

As a result of the hearings, the city council enacted the Gang Congregation Ordinance, more commonly known as the "gang loitering ordinance." The city council incorporated its findings in the preamble to the ordinance, as follows:

"WHEREAS, The City of Chicago, like other cities across the nation, has been experiencing an increasing murder rate as well as an increase in violent and drug related crimes; and

WHEREAS, The City Council has determined that the continuing increase in criminal street gang activity in the City is largely responsible for this unacceptable situation; and

WHEREAS, In many neighborhoods throughout the City, the burgeoning presence of street gang members in public places has intimidated many law abiding citizens; and

WHEREAS, One of the methods by which criminal street gangs establish control over identifiable areas is by loitering in those areas and intimidating others from entering those areas; and

WHEREAS, Members of criminal street gangs avoid arrest by committing no offense punishable under existing laws when they know the police are present, while maintaining control over identifiable areas by continued loitering; and

WHEREAS, The City Council has determined that loitering in public places by criminal street gang members creates a justifiable fear for the safety of persons and property in the area because of the violence, drug-dealing and vandalism often associated with such activity; and

WHEREAS, The City also has an interest in discouraging all persons from loitering in public places with criminal gang members; and

WHEREAS, Aggressive action is necessary to preserve the city's streets and other public places so that the public may use such places without fear[.]" Chicago Municipal Code § 8--4--015 (added June 17, 1992).

The gang loitering ordinance provides in pertinent part:

"(a) Whenever a police officer observes a person whom he reasonably believes to be a criminal street gang member loitering in any public place with one or more other persons, he shall order all such persons to disperse and remove themselves from the area. Any person who does not promptly obey such an order is in violation of this section.

(b) It shall be an affirmative defense to an alleged violation of this section that no person who was observed loitering was in fact a member of a criminal street gang.

(c) As used in this section:

(1) 'Loiter' means to remain in any one place with no ...


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