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People v. Greco

May 8, 2003

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, APPELLANT,
v.
PETER M. GRECO, APPELLEE.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Kilbride

PUBLISHED

Docket No. 89940-Agenda 34-May 2001.

At issue in this case is the constitutionality of sections 1-191 and 4-103.2(b) of the Illinois Vehicle Code (Code) (625 ILCS 5/1-191, 4-103.2(b) (West 2000)). Defendant was charged with one count of theft (720 ILCS 5/16-1(a)(1)(A) (West 2000)), two counts of aggravated unlawful possession of special mobile equipment (625 ILCS 5/4-103.2(a)(5) (West 2000)), and one count of unlawful defacing of a manufacturer's identification number (625 ILCS 5/4-103(a)(2) (West 2000)). In dismissing the latter three counts, the circuit court of Du Page County found that the definition of "[s]pecial mobile equipment" within section 1-191 (625 ILCS 5/1-191 (West 2000)) is unconstitutionally vague. The court also found that the permissive inference in section 4-103.2(b) (625 ILCS 5/4-103.2(b) (West 2000)) violates the doctrine of separation of powers. The State appeals the circuit court's ruling directly to this court pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 302(a) (134 Ill. 2d R. 302(a)). For the following reasons, we affirm in part and reverse in part the judgment of the circuit court, and hold that section 4-103.2(b) violates due process and that the circuit court improperly sustained defendant's facial challenge of section 1-191.

I. STATUTORY AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Due to the procedural posture of this case, the record below is severely limited. Because this was a facial challenge of the disputed provisions of the statute, the facts surrounding defendant's indictment were not adduced before the trial court.

Defendant was charged under section 4-103.2 with possession of stolen special mobile equipment. In relevant part, that section states:

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

(5) a person not entitled to the possession of any *** special mobile equipment *** to *** possess *** the vehicle or vehicle part described in this paragraph knowing it is stolen or converted[.]" 625 ILCS 5/4-103.2(a)(5) (West 2000).

Subsection (b) of section 4-103.2 invokes a permissive inference contained in section 4-103(a)(1) of the Code. Under that provision, it may be inferred that a person who exercises the exclusive unexplained possession of a stolen vehicle has knowledge that the vehicle is stolen. 625 ILCS 5/4-103(a)(1) (West 2000). Moreover, the provision explains that the permissive inference may be applied whether the date when the vehicle was stolen is recent or remote. 625 ILCS 5/4-103(a)(1) (West 2000). The General Assembly based the permissive inference, in part, upon the finding that:

"the acquisition and disposition of vehicles and their essential parts are strictly controlled by law and that such acquisitions and dispositions are reflected by documents of title, uniform invoices, rental contracts, leasing agreements and bills of sale." 625 ILCS 5/4-103(a)(1) (West 2000).

Under the Code, special mobile equipment is defined as follows:

"Every vehicle not designed or used primarily for the transportation of persons or property and only incidentally operated or moved over a highway, including but not limited to: street sweepers, ditch digging apparatus, well boring apparatus and road construction and maintenance machinery such as asphalt spreaders, bituminous mixers, bucket loaders, tractors other than truck tractors, ditchers, levelling graders, finishing machines, motor graders, road rollers, scarifiers, earth moving carryalls and scrapers, power shovels and drag lines, and self-propelled cranes and earth moving equipment. The term does not include house trailers, dump trucks, truck mounted transit mixers, cranes or shovels, or other vehicles designed for the transportation of persons or property to which machinery has been attached." 625 ILCS 5/1-191 (West 2000).

The indictment provided that defendant's aggravated unlawful possession of special mobile equipment charges stemmed from his possession of one "Case Wheeled Loader Model 1845C." The machinery referred to by the indictment is commonly known as a "wheel loader," a "uni-loader," or a "skid-steer loader."

Defendant moved to dismiss the indictment, arguing among other things that: (1) the permissive inference incorporated into section 4-103.2(b) violates due process and the separation of powers doctrine; and (2) the definition of "special mobile equipment" contained in section 1-191 is unconstitutionally vague. The court granted defendant's motion, and the State now appeals under Supreme Court Rule 302(a) (134 Ill. 2d R. 302(a)).

II. ANALYSIS

All statutes are presumed to be constitutional, and the burden of rebutting that presumption is on the party challenging the validity of the statute to demonstrate clearly a constitutional violation. People v. Sypien, 198 Ill. 2d 334, 338 (2001). If reasonably possible, a statute must be construed so as to affirm its constitutionality and validity. People v. Fuller, 187 Ill. 2d 1, 10 (1999). In this case the circuit court declared that sections 1-191 and 4-103.2(b) are facially unconstitutional. Such challenges to legislative acts are the most difficult challenges to mount. In re R.C., 195 Ill. 2d 291, 297 (2001), quoting In re C.E., 161 Ill. 2d 200, 210-11 (1994), quoting United States v. Salerno, 481 U.S. 739, 745, 95 L. Ed. 2d 697, 707, 107 S. Ct. 2095, 2100 (1987). " `[T]he challenger must establish that no set of circumstances exists under which the Act would be valid.' " R.C., 195 Ill. 2d at 297, quoting In re C.E., 161 Ill. 2d 200, 210-11 (1994), quoting United States v. Salerno, 481 U.S. 739, 745, 95 L. Ed. 2d 697, 707, 107 S. Ct. 2095, 2100 (1987). Moreover, that the statute might operate unconstitutionally under some conceivable set of circumstances is insufficient to render it wholly invalid, as we have not recognized an overbreadth doctrine outside the limited context of the first amendment. C.E., 161 Ill. 2d at 210-11, quoting United States v. Salerno, 481 U.S. 739, 745, 95 L. Ed. 2d 697, 707, 107 S. Ct. 2095, 2100 (1987). We review de novo a circuit court's holding that a statute is unconstitutional. Sypien, 198 Ill. 2d at 338.

A. Section 4-103.2(b); Permissive Inference in Relation to Special Mobile Equipment

An inference or presumption is a legal device that either permits or requires the fact finder to assume the existence of a presumed or ultimate fact based on certain predicate or basic facts. People v. Watts, 181 Ill. 2d 133, 141-42 (1998). While inferences and presumptions play "a vital role in the expeditious resolution of factual questions" (People v. Hester, 131 Ill. 2d 91, 98 (1989)), their use to prove an element of a crime may raise due process concerns. Watts, 181 Ill. 2d at 143. The due process clause " `protects the accused against conviction except upon proof beyond a reasonable doubt of every fact necessary to constitute the crime with which he is charged.' " People v. Jeffries, 164 Ill. 2d 104, 114 (1995), quoting In re Winship, 397 U.S. 358, 364, 25 L. Ed. 2d 368, 375, 90 S. Ct. 1068, 1073 (1970). Thus, "the due process clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments set limits upon the power of Congress or that of ...


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