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People v. Kolzow

February 26, 2001

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
DONNA KOLZOW, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice O'mara Frossard

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County

Honorable Eugene E. Campion, Judge Presiding.

Following a bench trial defendant was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for the death of her three-month-old son, who died of heat stroke after she left him unattended in a car for several hours. She was sentenced to three years' probation, with the conditions of counseling and six months in Cook County jail. Defendant began serving her six-month jail term. After serving four months of her six month sentence defendant sought early release from jail based on her good behavior pursuant to section 3 of the County Jail Good Behavior Allowance Act (Allowance Act) (730 ILCS 130/3 (West 1998)). Cook County jail officials denied defendant's request because her crime involved the infliction of physical harm upon another person, which rendered her ineligible for "good time" credit under the Allowance Act. See 730 ILCS 130/3 (West 1998). Defendant argued to the trial judge that the Allowance Act was unconstitutional. The trial judge denied defendant's motion to find the Allowance Act unconstitutional, but granted an "I bond" pending this appeal.

Defendant contends that the Allowance Act punishes offenders who are confined in county jail more severely than those who are confined in the penitentiary violating due process of law under article I, section 2, of the Illinois Constitution, which provides: "No person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law." Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, §2. We note that statutes are presumed constitutional. People v. Fuller, 187 Ill. 2d 1, 10 (1999). A party challenging a statute's validity has the burden of clearly establishing the statute's alleged constitutional infirmities. People v. Shephard, 152 Ill. 2d 489, 499 (1992). It is a court's duty to construe a statute so as to affirm the statute's constitutionality and validity, if reasonably possible. Further, if the statute's construction is doubtful, a court will resolve the doubt in favor of the statute's validity. People v. Hamm, 149 Ill. 2d 201, 208-09 (1992). However, it is equally our duty to declare invalid an unconstitutional statute. People v. P.H., 145 Ill. 2d 209, 221 (1991). A challenge to a statute's constitutionality is a question of law; therefore, our review is de novo. People v. Jung, 192 Ill. 2d 1, 4 (2000).

The two groups of persons with whom we are concerned in this case are: (1) felons convicted of offenses involving physical harm who are sentenced to a term of confinement in the county jail as a condition of probation; and (2) felons convicted of offenses involving physical harm who are sentenced to a term of confinement in the penitentiary. For example, two felons convicted of involuntary manslaughter can potentially receive sentences that contain different good-behavior credit. The felon sentenced to county jail as a condition of probation cannot be sentenced for more than six months confinement, cannot statutorily serve that sentence in the penitentiary, and "shall not be committed to the Department of Corrections." 730 ILCS 5/5-6-3(e) (West 1998). When serving this sentence in a county jail, the Allowance Act prohibits credit for good behavior because the felon inflicted physical harm upon another. 730 ILCS 130/3 (West 1998). The felon who is not sentenced to probation, but instead is serving a term of imprisonment in the penitentiary is eligible for good-time credit pursuant to section 3-6-3 of the Unified Code of Corrections. (730 ILCS 5/3-6-3(a)(2.1) (West 1996)).

We turn first to a review of the two statutory schemes implicated in this case that defendant complains deprived her of due process of law. Section 3 of the Allowance Act applies to persons sentenced to serve a fixed term in county jail and provides in relevant part:

"The good behavior of any person who commences a sentence of confinement in a county jail for a fixed term of imprisonment after January 1, 1987 shall entitle such person to a good behavior allowance, except that: (1) a person who inflicted physical harm upon another person in committing the offense for which he is confined shall receive no good behavior allowance ***." 730 ILCS 130/3 (West 1998).

Defendant's offense occurred before June 19, 1998, and both parties agree that, under prior section 3-6-3 of the Unified Code of Corrections (730 ILCS 5/3-6-3 (West 1996)), defendant would be eligible for day-for-day good-conduct credit if committed to the Department of Corrections.

"The Department of Corrections shall prescribe rules and regulations for the early release on account of good conduct of persons committed to the Department which shall be subject to review by the Prisoner Review Board.

***

(2.1) For all offenses, other than those enumerated in subdivision (a)(2) committed on or after the effective date of this amendatory Act of 1995, the rules and regulations shall provide that a prisoner who is serving a term of imprisonment shall receive one day of good conduct credit for each day of his or her sentence of imprisonment or recommitment under Section 3-3-9. Each day of good conduct credit shall reduce by one day the prisoner's period of imprisonment or recommitment under Section 3-3-9." 730 ILCS 5/3-6-3(a)(2.1) (West 1996).

As applied in the present situation, while defendant's conviction for involuntary manslaughter disqualified her from receiving good-behavior allowance credit for time she served in the county jail, she would have been eligible for day-for-day good-conduct credit had she been sentenced to a term of confinement in the penitentiary.

The legislature has wide discretion in prescribing penalties for defined criminal offenses. People v. Mathey, 99 Ill. 2d 292, 298 (1983). This exercise of the State's police power, however, is subject to the constitutional requirement that a person may not be deprived of liberty without due process of law. The standard for determining whether substantive due process requirements have been met is to examine "'whether the statute is reasonably designed to remedy the evils which the legislature has determined to be a threat to the public health, safety and general welfare.'" People v. Reed, 148 Ill. 2d 1, 11 (1992), quoting People v. Bradley, 79 Ill. 2d 410, 417 (1980). Applying the rational basis test, legislation attacked on due process grounds will be upheld if that legislation is rationally related to a legitimate legislative purpose and is not arbitrary. Reed 148 Ill. 2d at 11; see also Fuller, 187 Ill. 2d at 15-16.

Under the rational basis test, courts should abstain from judging whether legislation is wise or appropriate because these issues are within the province of the legislature. People ex rel. Lumpkin v. Cassidy, 184 Ill. 2d 117, 124 (1998). It is the duty of the legislature, and not the courts, to balance the advantages and disadvantages of legislation. People v. Warren, 173 Ill. 2d 348, 355 (1996). Therefore, if the court finds a legitimate reason which ...


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