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People v. Clark

August 06, 1998

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, APPELLANT, V. RON CLARK, APPELLEE.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Justice Freeman

Agenda 6-March 1998.

In People v. Evans, this court held that the motion-to-reconsider-sentence provisions contained in the language of Supreme Court Rule 604(d) (145 Ill. 2d R. 604(d)) apply only to open, as opposed to negotiated, guilty pleas. People v. Evans, 174 Ill. 2d 320 (1996). We today must decide whether a plea agreement that leaves open only the applicability of a mandatory sentencing statute constitutes a negotiated plea agreement, as contemplated in Evans. For the reasons that follow, we hold that it does.

BACKGROUND

On December 30, 1991, defendant, Ron Clark, was charged by criminal complaint with one count of home invasion in the circuit court of St. Clair County. On that same date, the circuit court ordered defendant released on his own recognizance pending trial proceedings. As a condition of the release, the court ordered defendant to report in person once a week to a probation officer. While on release, however, defendant committed other felonies in the State of Missouri and ultimately received a four-year term of imprisonment there. Defendant then entered into plea negotiations with the State of Illinois on the home invasion charge. In exchange for defendant's plea of guilty, the State agreed to recommend a six-year term of imprisonment to the trial Judge. During the negotiations, however, the State and defendant disagreed as to whether defendant was subject to the imposition of a mandatory consecutive sentence pursuant to section 5-8-4(h) of the Unified Code of Corrections (730 ILCS 5/5-8-4(h) (West 1994)). With full knowledge of the possibility that the agreed-upon six-year prison term might be statutorily mandated to be served consecutively to the Missouri sentence, defendant and the State agreed to present their negotiated arrangement to the circuit court.

On March 9, 1994, the circuit court conducted a proceeding attended by defendant, his attorney, and an assistant State's Attorney. The assistant State's Attorney orally set forth the negotiated plea agreement to the circuit court. The court thereafter explained to defendant that by pleading guilty, defendant was forgoing his right to trial, by jury if he so desired, in which the State would be required to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The court also explained that during such a trial, defendant's attorney could cross-examine the State's witnesses and defendant could testify in his own defense, if he wished to do so. Defendant stated that he understood the consequences of a guilty plea and that his decision to plead guilty was voluntary. The circuit court admonished defendant that a home invasion conviction carries with it a prison sentence of not less than 6 or more than 30 years. The court also explained that both defense counsel and the State would "provide the Court with case law and argument at the time of sentencing with regards to whether it is mandatory consecutive sentencing or whether [the] sentence could run concurrent[ly]" to the Missouri sentence. The court asked defendant if he "underst[ood] the possible penalties involved." Defendant replied, "Yes, sir, I do." The court then accepted the plea and continued the matter so that the attorneys could prepare arguments as to whether the Unified Code of Corrections mandated that the six-year term of imprisonment run consecutively to the Missouri sentences.

On March 21, 1994, the circuit court heard arguments from attorneys for both defendant and the State concerning the applicability of section 5-8-4(h) of the Unified Code of Corrections to defendant's sentence. The circuit court agreed with the assistant State's Attorney that the statute mandated a consecutive sentence and, accordingly, ordered defendant's six-year term to be served consecutively to the Missouri sentences. Defendant thereafter filed a "motion to reconsider" in which he argued that the statute was "not mandatory" and that "consecutive time" was "too severe" a punishment under the facts of this case. The circuit court denied the motion, and defendant appealed.

On appeal, defendant contended the circuit court improperly denied his motion to reconsider because defense counsel had failed to file a certificate of compliance with Supreme Court Rule 604(d). The appellate court agreed and ordered that, on remand, defendant be allowed to file whatever post-plea motion is deemed necessary after consultation with counsel. No. 5-94-0301 (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23). The State petitioned this court for leave to appeal. Although this court denied the State's petition, we nevertheless entered a supervisory order directing the appellate court to reconsider its decision in light of our opinions in People v. Evans, 174 Ill. 2d 320 (1996), People v. Wilk, 124 Ill. 2d 93 (1988), and People v. Janes, 168 Ill. 2d 382 (1995). People v. Clark, 169 Ill. 2d 573 (1996).

The appellate court again reversed the circuit court's denial of defendant's motion to reconsider. No. 5-94-0301 (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23). Although the court recognized that Evans holds that the motion-to-reconsider-sentence provisions of Rule 604(d) do not apply to negotiated guilty pleas, the court held that Evans was factually distinguishable from the case at bar. Specifically, the appellate court found it significant that in Evans the pleas were "fully negotiated," while in this case, the parties "left it to the court to decide whether the sentence was to be served concurrently with or consecutively to [defendant's] Missouri sentence." As a result, the court concluded that the rule announced in Evans did not apply to this case and that both Janes and Wilk mandate a strict compliance with Rule 604(d). Noting that defendant's attorney had failed to file a certificate in accordance with Rule 604(d), the court remanded the matter to the circuit court for strict compliance with Rule 604(d) and so that a motion to reduce sentence could be filed by defendant, if necessary. We granted the State's subsequent petition for leave to appeal (166 Ill. 2d R. 315) and now vacate the judgment of the appellate court.

ANALYSIS

The dispositive issue in this case is whether defendant's plea constitutes an open, as opposed to a negotiated, plea agreement. The State contends that the agreement in this case was fully negotiated by the parties and, therefore, not subject to the motion-to-reconsider-sentence provisions of Rule 604(d). In response, defendant claims that his plea was not "fully negotiated" because the parties agreed to let the circuit court determine whether the agreed-upon sentence was statutorily mandated to be served consecutively to the Missouri sentences.

Section 5-8-4(h) of the Unified Code of Corrections states in relevant part that

"[i]f a person charged with a felony commits a separate felony while on pre-trial release ***, the sentences imposed upon conviction of these felonies shall be served consecutively regardless of the order in which the judgments of conviction are entered." 730 ILCS 5/5-8-4(h) (West 1994).

We have recently held that this statute mandates consecutive sentences whenever a defendant commits a second offense while out on bond from the original offense. See People v. Wilson, 181 Ill. 2d 409 (1998). Indeed, this court in Wilson held that it was error for the circuit court to impose a concurrent sentence because, under the statute, the circuit court lacked the authority to impose any sentence other than a consecutive sentence. Wilson, 181 Ill. 2d at 411-12. Like the defendant in Wilson, defendant here committed the other felonies while he was out on bond from the original felony with which he was charged. For this reason, the circuit court lacked the authority to impose the agreed-upon six-year term as a concurrent sentence.

Given the fact that section 5-8-4(h) does not allow for any discretion to be exercised in deciding whether to impose a concurrent or consecutive sentence when another felony is committed while a defendant is on pretrial release, we cannot agree with defendant's characterization of his plea agreement with the State as a "partial" negotiation. By operation of the statute, once a defendant stands guilty of the felony, the only discretionary option left available to the circuit court is the duration of the sentence. In this case, that option had been "fully negotiated" by defendant and the State. Neither the State nor defendant had any bargaining power with respect to the consecutive nature of this sentence. More importantly, the circuit court did not have discretion in the matter either. Unlike other consecutive sentencing provisions found in the Unified Code of Corrections, section 5-8-4(h) does not require the circuit court to evaluate a defendant's conduct and then, in exercise of its discretion, decide upon the propriety of a consecutive sentence. Compare 730 ILCS 5/5-8-4(b) (West 1994) with 730 ILCS 5/5-8-4(h) (West 1994). Rather, section 5-8-4(h) dictates that those charged with a felony while on pretrial release for another felony "shall" serve the resulting sentences "consecutively regardless of the order in which the judgments of conviction are entered." 730 ILCS 5/5-8-4(h) (West 1994). Thus, even if the State had agreed to allow defendant to serve the six-year term concurrently, the circuit court could not have accepted the parties' agreement because the statute prohibits imposition of the sentence in that manner. Had defendant, in fact, decided to go to trial in this matter, any sentence he would have received would have had to be served consecutively-a concurrent sentence was simply not an option left open by the legislature to the ...


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