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People v. Woods

October 26, 2000

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, APPELLEE, V.
VELTON L. WOODS, APPELLANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Bilandic

Docket No. 88198-Agenda 34-May 2000.

Petitioner, Velton L. Woods, filed a petition in the circuit court of Madison County requesting relief under the Post-Conviction Hearing Act (the Act) (725 ILCS 5/122-1 et seq. (West 1996)). The appellate court dismissed his petition as not timely filed. 306 Ill. App. 3d 1144. The sole question presented is whether the phrase "date of conviction," as it is used in section 122-1(c) of the Act (725 ILCS 5/122-1(c) (West Supp. 1997)), means the date that a final judgment including sentence was entered, or the date that a plea, finding or verdict of guilty was entered. We hold that the phrase has the former meaning and, accordingly, reverse the appellate court.

BACKGROUND

On July 26, 1994, petitioner's guilty plea to first degree murder and armed robbery was entered by the circuit court. On February 7, 1995, the circuit court sentenced petitioner to concurrent terms of 45 years' imprisonment for murder and 20 years' imprisonment for armed robbery. The appellate court affirmed petitioner's convictions and sentences on direct appeal on March 25, 1997. No. 5-95-0230 (unpublished order pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 23).

On August 7, 1997, petitioner mailed his post-conviction petition to the circuit court, along with accompanying materials. The circuit court summarily dismissed the petition, finding that it was not timely filed and patently without merit.

Petitioner appealed, arguing that he had filed his petition in a timely manner, and that he had stated the gist of a constitutional claim. The appellate court affirmed the summary dismissal of the petition on the ground that it was not timely. The appellate court held that, for purposes of section 122-1(c), the "date of conviction" was the date of petitioner's guilty plea. Having found the timeliness issue dispositive, the appellate court did not address the merits of the petition.

ANALYSIS

Petitioner contends that his post-conviction petition was timely filed. According to petitioner, as used in section 122-1(c) of the Act, the phrase "date of conviction" means the date of his sentence, not the date of his guilty plea.

Section 122-1(c) sets forth the time limit within which a post-conviction petition must be filed, as follows:

"No proceedings under this Article shall be commenced more than 6 months after the denial of a petition for leave to appeal or the date for filing such a petition if none is filed or more than 45 days after the defendant files his or her brief in the appeal of the sentence before the Illinois Supreme Court (or more than 45 days after the deadline for the filing of the defendant's brief with the Illinois Supreme Court if no brief is filed) or 3 years from the date of conviction, whichever is sooner, unless the petitioner alleges facts showing that the delay was not due to his or her culpable negligence." (Emphasis added.) 725 ILCS 5/122-1(c) (West Supp. 1997).

The parties agree that, of the various dates provided for by section 122-1(c), post-conviction proceedings must have been commenced by whichever date was sooner, i.e., the earliest date.

The parties also agree on how to calculate the first time period under the statute. Six months from the due date for the filing of petitioner's petition for leave to appeal with this court was October 15, 1997. See 177 Ill. 2d R. 315(b).

The parties' disagreement concerns how to calculate the last time period, which is "3 years from the date of conviction." If, as petitioner argues, "date of conviction" means the date that final judgment including sentence was entered, the filing date would be February 7, 1998, three years from the date of entry of petitioner's sentence. If, on the other hand, "date of conviction" means the date on which an adjudication of guilt was entered, as the State contends, the filing date would be July 26, 1997, three years from the date of entry of his guilty plea.

Petitioner here mailed his post-conviction petition on August 7, 1997. Petitioner asserts that the earliest date under section 122-1(c) was October 15, 1997, and, thus, that his petition was timely filed. In contrast, the State claims that the petition was not timely filed, ...


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