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People v. Bradley M.

September 03, 2004

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
BRADLEY M., JOSEPH B., AND JACKI L., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 13th Judicial Circuit, Bureau County, Illinois, Nos. 03-CM-401, 03-CM-334 & 03-CM-400. Honorable Marc P. Bernabei, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Slater

PUBLISHED

In separate citations, the State charged the minor defendants, Bradley M., Joseph B., and Jacki L., with violating the Child Curfew Act (Curfew Act) (720 ILCS 555/1(a) (West 2002)). The State brought these actions under the Criminal Code of 1961 (Code) (720 ILCS 5/1--1 et seq. (West 2002)) rather than through juvenile petitions under the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 (Juvenile Act) (705 ILCS 405/1--1 et seq. (West 2002)). In a joint hearing and on the trial court's own motion, the court dismissed the charges against the defendants under the jurisdictional provisions of the Juvenile Act. On appeal, the State argues that the trial court erred by dismissing the charges. We affirm.

BACKGROUND

The State cited Joseph B. with violating the Curfew Act on July 3, 2003. At the time of the offense, Joseph B. was 16 years of age. Bradley M. and Jacki L. were charged with violating the Curfew Act on August 5, 2003. At the time of their offenses, Bradley M. was 16 and Jacki L. was 14 years old. All three violations took place in Bureau County.

On September 5, 2003, Bradley M. and Jacki L. pled guilty, and each was sentenced to six months of conditional discharge and 10 hours of public service. That same day, Joseph B. waived his right to a jury trial.

On its own motion, the trial court issued an order staying the proceedings in all three cases on September 6, 2003. The order set the matter for a joint hearing on the three cases for September 12, 2003, to consider whether the court should dismiss the actions for lack of jurisdiction under the Juvenile Act.

At the September 12 hearing, the trial judge stated that the jurisdictional provisions of the Juvenile Act had been changed by the enactment of Public Act 90--590 (Pub. Act 90--590, eff. January 1, 1999). The previous version of the Juvenile Act provided that a trial court lacked jurisdiction to consider a charge against a juvenile under the Code unless the offense was a traffic, boating, or fish and game offense, or an offense punishable by fine only. The newer version of the Juvenile Act, however, had removed the provision for an offense punishable only by fine. The judge stated that under the older version of the Juvenile Act, juveniles were prosecuted for curfew violations because the offenses were punishable by fine only. The judge said that under the newer version of the Juvenile Act, however, the court lacked jurisdiction to consider the charges against the defendants because curfew violations were not traffic, boating, or fish and game offenses.

The prosecutor argued that the judge's interpretation led to an absurd result, which the legislature could not have intended. According to the prosecutor, the legislature could not have intended to make the Curfew Act, which is applicable only to minors, part of the Code, but not allow the State to charge minors with violations of the Curfew Act under that same Code.

The prosecutor also contended that when two statutes are in conflict, the more specific statute prevails over the more general statute. In the prosecutor's view, the Curfew Act was more specific than the jurisdictional provisions of the Juvenile Act, and therefore, should prevail.

The judge responded that his interpretation did not lead to an absurd result because a curfew violation brought in a juvenile petition could be transferred to criminal court under the Juvenile Act. Additionally, under the judge's interpretation, the Juvenile Act's jurisdictional provisions were more specific than the Curfew Act because a juvenile could not be charged under the Code unless the offense was specifically a traffic, boating, or fish and game offense.

On its own motion, the trial court vacated its previous sentences and findings of guilt against Bradley M. and Jacki L., and dismissed the charges in all three cases. The State appealed.

ANALYSIS

The State submits that the trial court misinterpreted the Juvenile Act and erred in dismissing the charges against the defendants. The construction or interpretation of a statute is a question of law subject to de novo review. Carver v. Sheriff of La Salle County, 203 Ill. 2d 497, 787 ...


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