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People v. Chatman

June 01, 1998


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Colwell

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Kane County.

No. 95--CF--2250

Honorable Judith M. Brawka, Judge, Presiding.

The State appeals an order dismissing an indictment against defendant, Annie Chatman, a/k/a Annie Rollins (see 145 Ill. 2d R. 604(a)(1)). Defendant was charged with three counts of possession of cocaine, a controlled substance (720 ILCS 570/402(c) (West 1994)). The trial court concluded that, because the State admitted that it could prove only that defendant had had cocaine in her system, any conviction would unconstitutionally punish her for being a drug user rather than for committing a wrongful act within the jurisdiction. See Robinson v. California, 370 U.S. 660, 8 L. Ed. 2d 758, 82 S. Ct. 1417 (1962); People v. Davis, 27 Ill. 2d 57 (1963). Therefore, the court held the statute unconstitutional as applied and dismissed the indictment.

On appeal, the State argues that the dismissal was unauthorized by statute and amounted to an improper pretrial adjudication of the sufficiency of the evidence. Defendant responds that due process warranted the dismissal of the indictment because the State conceded that it had no evidence that would allow it to obtain a constitutionally valid conviction.

We hold that the trial court exceeded its authority in dismissing the indictment, and we reverse its judgment and remand the cause for further proceedings.

The history of this case requires Discussion in some detail. On October 31, 1995, a grand jury indicted defendant on three counts of unlawful possession of less than 15 grams of a substance containing cocaine. The indictment gave the dates of the alleged offenses as "[o]n or about March 1, 1992 to December 2, 1992"; "[o]n or about April 1, 1993 to January 1, 1994"; and "[o]n or about January 1, 1995 to October 1, 1995." In October 1996, defendant demanded a bill of particulars; three months later, the State replied that it did not yet know the exact location of the offenses, except that all took place "partly" at Copley Hospital.

On March 6, 1997, defendant moved to dismiss the indictment. She asserted that the State's tendered discovery appeared to imply that its evidence consisted of blood or urine test results showing that defendant had been addicted to or under the influence of cocaine. From this, defendant argued that the State was attempting to secure a possession conviction based solely on defendant's status as a cocaine addict or user, a result Robinson and Davis forbade. Defendant soon withdrew the motion to dismiss and substituted a motion to declare the possession statute unconstitutional as applied. On March 11, 1997, the court heard arguments on the motion. Assistant State's Attorney Barsanti, conceding that "I don't have any drugs." acknowledged that, under Robinson and Davis, a valid conviction would require evidence beyond drug tests showing that defendant had cocaine in her system at certain times. The State would have to prove that defendant actually possessed drugs in Illinois, and merely having cocaine in her blood was not "possession." However, Barsanti represented that the State would produce admissions and other evidence beyond what it had disclosed to date. Noting these representations, the trial court denied defendant's motion. The court stated that a valid conviction required evidence in addition to the blood or urine tests; however, the State might present the required evidence. Whether the State could prove its case was the ultimate issue to be resolved by the trial (or on a motion for a directed verdict), not by a pretrial proceeding.

At a hearing, on June 6, 1997,the following exchange ensued:

"MR. BARSANTI: I'm offering this as what I believe the People's proof would show, is in essence a child with cocaine in its system and the mother with cocaine in her system on the day or shortly after the birth of the child.

The statements that the Defendant made, allegedly made *** would not be specifically corroborative of that corpus delicti, and the witness who we believe may be able to shed light on the situation is unattainable at this time *** --

Unattainable at this time or forever?

MR. BARSANTI: Let me rephrase.

The witness who I believe would have information who [sic] could corroborate this corpus delicti, I don't have those statements from that witness, Judge, and I don't know where that witness is right now. So for me to say that ...

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