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01/16/98 PEOPLE STATE ILLINOIS v. MAURICE WELLS

January 16, 1998

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
MAURICE WELLS, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Honorable Thomas Fitzgerald, Judge Presiding.

The Honorable Justice Quinn delivered the opinion of the court. Greiman, P.j., and Theis, J. concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Quinn

The Honorable Justice QUINN delivered the opinion of the court:

In March of 1978, defendant, Maurice Wells, was indicted on charges of murder and attempt murder. Following a bench trial, defendant was found not guilty by reason of insanity, and defendant was involuntarily committed to the Illinois Department of Mental Health. On March 16, 1984, defendant was conditionally released from the department and placed in outpatient treatment. On December 14, 1990, defendant was unconditionally released. On September 19, 1995, defendant filed a petition for expungement of his arrest records in the present cause pursuant to section 2630/5 of the Criminal Identification Act. 20 ILCS 2630/5 (West 1994). The State objected to the petition. On September 24, 1996, the trial court held a hearing and denied defendant's petition. Defendant now appeals. Jurisdiction is vested in this court pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 603 (134 Ill. 2d R. 603).

The issue of whether a defendant found not guilty by reason of insanity (NGRI) is eligible for expungement of his or her arrest records has not been previously addressed in Illinois. Accordingly, we turn to the statute authorizing expungement to determine whether such a remedy is available to defendant.

The primary goal of statutory construction is to ascertain and give effect to the intention of the legislature. People v. Britz, 174 Ill. 2d 163, 196, 673 N.E.2d 300, 220 Ill. Dec. 388 (1996), citing Bonaguro v. County Officers Electoral Board, 158 Ill. 2d 391, 397, 634 N.E.2d 712, 199 Ill. Dec. 659 (1994). To determine the legislative intent, "a court must look first to the language of the statute and interpret that language in accordance with its plain and ordinary meaning." People v. Haynes, 174 Ill. 2d 204, 222, 673 N.E.2d 318, 220 Ill. Dec. 406 (1996). When the language of the statute is clear and unambiguous, courts may not read exceptions, limitations or conditions into the statute that the legislature did not express. People v. Woodard, 175 Ill. 2d 435, 443, 677 N.E.2d 935, 222 Ill. Dec. 401 (1997). Further, criminal statutes are to be strictly construed in favor of the accused. Woodward, 175 Ill. 2d at 444.

Section 2630/5 of the Criminal Identification Act (Act) provides that:

"Whenever an adult or minor prosecuted as an adult, not having previously been convicted of any criminal offense or municipal ordinance violation, charged with a violation of a municipal ordinance or a felony or a misdemeanor, is acquitted or released without being convicted *** the Chief Judge of the circuit wherein the charge was brought *** may upon verified petition of the defendant order the record of arrest expunged from the official records ***." 20 ILCS 2630/5 (a) (West 1994).

The expungement statute does not specifically provide relief for defendants found NGRI. However, we find that defendants found NGRI are eligible for relief under section 2630/5 of the Act.

In order to be eligible for expungement of arrest records, a defendant must either be acquitted or released without a conviction. The United States Supreme Court has held that, "[a] verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity establishes two facts: (i) the defendant committed an act that constitutes a criminal offense, and (ii) he committed the act because of mental illness." Jones v. United States, 463 U.S. 354, 363, 77 L. Ed. 2d 694, 705, 103 S. Ct. 3043, 3049 (1983). The statute in Illinois on insanity provides that:

"When the defense of insanity has been presented during the trial, the burden of proof is on the defendant to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant is not guilty by reason of insanity. However, the burden of proof remains on the State to prove beyond a reasonable doubt each of the elements of each of the offenses charged * * *." 720 ILCS 5/6-2(e) (West 1994).

We first note that a defendant found NGRI is not acquitted of the crime charged because the State must prove the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of each of the elements of each of the offenses charged before a defendant may be found NGRI. 720 ILCS 5/6-2(e) (West 1994). However, a defendant found NGRI, upon completion of his or her treatment, may be characterized as having been released without a conviction. Indeed, a person found NGRI is relieved of criminal responsibility due to a mental disease or mental defect. 720 ILCS 5/6-2(a) (West 1994). Accordingly, individuals found NGRI fall within the scope of the statute on expungement. Given that we find that defendant is eligible to have his arrest records expunged, we next turn to defendant's first argument on appeal: whether the trial court abused its discretion in denying defendant's petition for expungement.

In the present case, the trial court issued the following ruling on defendant's petition for expungement:

"I have considered the petition. There is certainly arguments to be made on behalf of the petitioner, at least based upon the record before the court, he's lived a blameless life since this occurrence; nevertheless I think whenever an expungement is ordered, I might note that not every situation, in not every situation is an expungement ...


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