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People v. Lumzy

March 23, 2000

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, APPELLANT, V. GREGORY A. LUMZY, APPELLEE.


Agenda 7-November 1999.

JUSTICE HEIPLE delivered the opinion of the court:

The State appeals from a decision by the appellate court which permitted defendant to appeal the length of his prison sentence without first filing a motion to withdraw his guilty plea. We affirm.

BACKGROUND

On June 10, 1997, defendant was charged with the offenses of aggravated battery and robbery. On June 23, 1997, defendant pled guilty to robbery in exchange for the State's dismissal of the aggravated battery charge. The circuit court of Lee County sentenced defendant to seven years in prison.

On August 1, 1997 defendant's attorney filed a motion to reconsider defendant's sentence. Defendant did not move to withdraw his guilty plea. The trial court denied defendant's motion and defendant filed a notice of appeal.

In the appellate court, defendant's attorney filed a motion to remand the cause to the circuit court. The motion alleged that defense counsel had failed to file a certificate of compliance as required by Supreme Court Rule 604(d). Defendant therefore sought a remand for the filing of such a certificate.

In response to defendant's motion, the State urged the court to affirm defendant's conviction on other grounds. The State argued that defendant's plea was a "negotiated plea" because the State had agreed to drop the aggravated battery charge in exchange for defendant's guilty plea. Accordingly, under the rationale of People v. Evans, 174 Ill. 2d 320 (1996), defendant could not ask the court to reconsider the length of his sentence without having first filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea.

The appellate court, with one justice dissenting, held that defendant could properly challenge the length of his sentence even though he had not filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea. The appellate court found Evans distinguishable because the defendant in Evans had pled guilty in exchange for a specific sentencing recommendation. In contrast, the agreement between defendant and the State in the instant case was silent as to the sentence defendant could receive. Accordingly, Evans did not preclude defendant's appeal under the facts of this case. However, because defendant's attorney had failed to file in the trial court a certificate of compliance with Rule 604(d), the appellate court ordered a remand to the trial court for the filing of such a certificate. No. 3-97-0633 (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23).

This court granted the State's petition for leave to appeal. 177 Ill. 2d R. 315.

DISCUSSION

In arguing for a reversal of the appellate court's decision, the State goes to great lengths to characterize defendant's plea in this case as a "negotiated plea." Defendant, for his part, argues with equal force that the failure of the parties to agree upon a sentence precludes his plea from being considered "negotiated." Indeed, the parties' focus on whether the plea constituted a "negotiated plea" is understandable. In Evans, this court held that:

"[F]or a defendant to prevail in a challenge to a sentence entered pursuant to a negotiated plea agreement, the defendant must (1) move to withdraw the guilty plea and vacate the judgment, and (2) show that the granting of the motion is necessary to correct a manifest injustice." (Emphasis added.) Evans, 174 Ill. 2d at 332.

While that terminology used in Evans was perfectly appropriate and adequate to dispose of the issue before the court in that case, it did not, nor did it purport to, address every conceivable type of plea agreement.

As Justice Freeman correctly observed in his special concurrence in People v. Linder, "not all `negotiated' pleas are the same." People v. Linder, 186 Ill. 2d 67, 77 (1999) (Freeman, C.J., concurring). Indeed, there are at least four distinct plea scenarios which can occur when a defendant decides to enter a plea of guilty. First, a defendant may simply enter a "blind," or "open," plea without any inducement from the State. In such a case, both the defendant and the State may argue for any sentence permitted by law. Likewise, the trial court in such a case exercises its full discretion and selects the defendant's sentence from the range provided by the relevant statute. Because such a plea ...


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