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In re K.C.

July 01, 1999

IN RE K.C., A MINOR (THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, APPELLANT,
v.
K.C., APPELLEE).-IN RE S.D., A MINOR (THE PEOPLE OF THE STATEOF ILLINOIS, APPELLANT, V. S.D., APPELLEE).



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Rathje

9-May 1999.

In separate petitions for adjudication of wardship, the State charged respondents, K.C. and S.D., with criminal trespass to a vehicle (720 ILCS 5/21-2 (West 1996)). The State later amended the petitions to include charges under sections 4-102(a)(1) and 4-102(a)(2) of the Illinois Vehicle Code (625 ILCS 5/4-102(a)(1), (a)(2) (West 1996)). Respondents moved to strike the amendments, arguing that sections 4-102(a)(1) and 4-102(a)(2) potentially punish wholly innocent conduct without requiring a culpable mental state and therefore violate the due process clauses of the Illinois and United States Constitutions (Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, §2; U.S. Const., amend. XIV). The circuit court of Cook County agreed with respondents and dismissed the amended counts. The State appealed directly to this court pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 603 (134 Ill. 2d. R. 603).

SECTION 4-102 OF THE ILLINOIS VEHICLE CODE

Section 4-102 reads, in relevant part:

"Offenses relating to motor vehicles and other vehicles-Misdemeanors.

(a) It is a violation of this Chapter for:

(1) A person, without authority to do so, to damage a vehicle or to damage or remove any part of a vehicle;

(2) A person, without authority to do so, to tamper with a vehicle or go in it, on it, or work or attempt to work any of its parts, or set or attempt to set it in motion;

***

(b) Sentence. A person convicted of a violation of this Section shall be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor. A person convicted of a violation of this Section a second or subsequent time, shall be guilty of a Class 4 felony." 625 ILCS 5/4-102 (West 1996).

A person convicted of a Class A misdemeanor faces a maximum fine of $2,500 (730 ILCS 5/5-9-1(a)(2) (West Supp. 1999)) and a maximum prison term of 364 days (730 ILCS 5/5-8-3(a)(1) (West 1996)). A person convicted of a Class 4 felony faces a maximum fine of $25,000 (730 ILCS 5/5-9-1(a)(1) (West Supp. 1999)) and a maximum prison term of three years (730 ILCS 5/5-8-1(a)(7) (West 1996)).

ABSOLUTE LIABILITY

The threshold question in this case is whether the trial court correctly concluded that sections 4-102(a)(1) and 4-102(a)(2) impose absolute liability. In deciding whether the legislature intended to establish an absolute liability offense, this court considers the guidelines that the legislature set forth in section 4-9 of the Criminal Code of 1961 (720 ILCS 5/4-9 (West 1996)), which states:

"A person may be guilty of an offense without having, as to each element thereof, one of the mental states described in Sections 4-4 through 4-7 if the offense is a misdemeanor which is not punishable by incarceration or by a fine exceeding $500, or the statute defining the offense clearly indicates a legislative purpose ...


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