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In re D.R.

July 11, 2003

IN RE: D.R., A MINOR
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PETITIONER-APPELLEE,
v.
D.R., A MINOR, RESPONDENT-APPELLANT



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 99 JD 19991 Honorable Richard F. Walsh, Judge Presiding.

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

UNPUBLISHED

Following a stipulated bench trial, respondent, 16-year-old D.R., was adjudicated delinquent for committing the offense of criminal sexual abuse and sentenced to 1 year of probation, 40 hours of community service, and sex offender counseling. The court also ordered D.R. to register as a sex offender pursuant to the Sex Offender Registration Act (Registration Act) (730 ILCS 150/1 et seq. (West 2000)) and to submit a blood sample pursuant to section 5-4-3 of the Unified Code of Corrections (730 ILCS 5/5-4-3 (West 2000)). Upon appeal, D.R. argues that: (1) his stipulated bench trial was tantamount to a guilty plea and the trial court erred by failing to give the necessary admonishments prior to accepting the guilty plea; (2) the court erred in ordering him to register as a sex offender pursuant to the Registration Act, as the Registration Act does not apply to juveniles; and (3) the Registration Act violates procedural due process because it does not afford registrants a predeprivation hearing to determine whether they are currently dangerous. We affirm.

At trial, the parties stipulated that if called to testify, Officer Crimmins would state that he met with D.R. on October 26, 1999, and that D.R. admitted having vaginal intercourse with the victim, M.L. The parties further stipulated that if called to testify, M.L. would identify D.R. in open court and state that on September 25, 1999, D.R. placed his penis in her vagina. Finally, the parties stipulated that D.R. was 16 years old and M.L. was 13 years old on September 25, 1999.

The trial court adjudicated D.R. delinquent for violating section 12-15(b) of the Criminal Code of 1961, which states:

"The accused commits criminal sexual abuse if the accused was under 17 years of age and commits an act of sexual penetration or sexual conduct with a victim who was at least 9 years of age but under 17 years of age when the act was committed." 720 ILCS 5/12-15(b)(West 2000).

Upon appeal, D.R. first argues that his stipulated bench trial was tantamount to a guilty plea and that the trial court erred by failing to give him the necessary admonishments pursuant to section 5-605 of the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 (705 ILCS 405/5-605 (West 2000)). Section 5-605 provides that prior to accepting a guilty plea, the court must admonish the defendant about the consequence of his plea and of the maximum penalty that may be imposed. 705 ILCS 405/5-605(2)(a) (West 2000).

When a defendant in a stipulated bench trial stipulates not only to the evidence, but also to the sufficiency of the evidence to convict, the proceeding is tantamount to a guilty plea. People v. Bellmyer, 199 Ill. 2d 529, 538-39 (2002). When the trial court is called upon to perform its function of determining guilt or innocence, no guilty plea is involved. Bellmyer, 199 Ill. 2d at 540.

Here, D.R. never stipulated that the evidence was sufficient to sustain a finding of delinquency; rather, the trial judge was called upon to determine whether the stipulated evidence was sufficient to find D.R. delinquent for committing criminal sexual abuse. Accordingly, D.R.'s stipulated bench trial was not tantamount to a guilty plea, and therefore no section 5-605 admonishments were required here.

This case is similar to In re J.R, No. 1-01-2318 (1st Dist. June 27, 2003) in which the respondent was charged as a delinquent minor under the Juvenile Court Act with criminal sexual abuse. At the stipulated bench trial, the parties stipulated that: the victim would testify she was 12 years old on July 1, 1999, when the respondent put his hand under her underwear and digitally penetrated her vagina and then put his penis in her vagina before pulling out and ejaculating; the forensic scientist would state that the semen stain from the victim's underwear was consistent with having originated from respondent; and the police sergeant would testify that respondent admitted to trying to place his penis in the victim's vagina. In re J.R., slip op. at 3.

The trial court accepted the stipulation and entered a finding of delinquency for criminal sexual abuse. In re J.R., slip op. at 3. The appellate court affirmed, noting that defense counsel "in no way stipulated that the evidence was sufficient to convict respondent. *** Rather, the State was held to its burden of proof, the trial judge was called upon to decide the issue of guilt or innocence and the issue of the sufficiency of the evidence was preserved for appeal." In re J.R., slip op. at 24. Therefore, the appellate court held that respondent's stipulated bench trial was not tantamount to a guilty plea and the trial court did not err in failing to provide admonishments. In re J.R., slip op. at 24.

In the present case, as in In re J.R., the State was held to its burden of proof, the trial judge was called upon to decide the issue of guilt or innocence, and the issue of the sufficiency of the evidence was preserved for review. Accordingly, D.R.'s stipulated bench trial was not tantamount to a guilty plea and the trial court did not err in failing to provide admonishments.

D.R. contends that People v. Stepheny, 56 Ill. 2d 237 (1974), compels a different result. In Stepheny, the defendant was charged with murder and convicted of voluntary manslaughter after a bench trial. Stepheny, 56 Ill. 2d at 238-39. Upon appeal, the defendant argued that his trial was a "sham and a mere formality" because his attorney, the prosecutor, and the judge had previously agreed to the result in the case without informing the defendant. Stepheny, 56 Ill. 2d at 239. In fact, the judge and opposing counsel had agreed that, regardless of the evidence, the defendant would be found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to 10 to 20 years' imprisonment. Stepheny, 56 Ill. 2d at 239. The supreme court reversed the defendant's convictions, holding that the trial was tantamount to a guilty plea and that defendant had not been given the appropriate admonishments. Stepheny, 56 Ill. 2d at 240.

Unlike Stepheny, the proceedings here were not tantamount to a guilty plea, as there is no indication in the record that defense counsel agreed to the defendant's adjudication of ...


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