The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Freeman
Docket No. 96784-Agenda 6-May 2004.
Section 4-103.2(b) of the Illinois Vehicle Code (Code) incorporates an inference that a person who exercises the exclusive, unexplained possession of a stolen vehicle has knowledge that the vehicle is stolen. 625 ILCS 5/4-103.2(b) (West 2002) (incorporating 625 ILCS 5/4-103(a)(1) (West 2002)). In People v. Greco, 204 Ill. 2d 400 (2003), we held that application of this inference to "special mobile equipment," as defined by the Code, violated due process and, therefore, was unconstitutional. Greco, 204 Ill. 2d at 411-15. However, we "express[ed] no opinion with regard to the constitutionality of the permissive inference in the context of other vehicles as defined under the Code." Greco, 204 Ill. 2d at 414.
In this case, the proper question presented for review is whether this inference violates due process as applied to this particular defendant in the context of his charged crime. We hold that defendant has not established a constitutional violation.
Sworn statements of two Decatur police officers contain the following allegations. On the afternoon of January 2, 2003, defendant, Tremain Funches (a/k/a Tremain Parker), entered a drug store purportedly to make a purchase. Katrina Fisher, a sales clerk, went to the rear of the store to get help. Defendant walked behind the counter, opened a drawer, and took a post office deposit bag that contained over $300 in cash. Scott Finch, a pharmacist, chased defendant from the store and maintained pursuit.
In flight, defendant encountered an automobile with the engine running parked in a driveway. Defendant entered the automobile, backed out of the driveway, and sped forward. Rose Miller, the owner of the automobile, did not give anyone permission to take her vehicle. Driving the car, defendant struck Finch, who fell onto the hood of the car and rolled off.
Decatur police officers were alerted to the theft of the money and of the car. Police were also given a description of the car with its license plate number. En route to the drug store, police officers observed the stolen automobile. They activated their lights and sirens, but defendant refused to stop. Defendant engaged in a dangerous, high-speed flight from police. He finally wrecked the car at the end of a dead-end street. Defendant was taken into custody. The deposit bag was found with defendant. Finch and another witness, Seanna Little, were transported to the arrest scene, where they identified defendant as the person who stole the deposit bag and the car.
A four-count information was brought against defendant in the circuit court of Macon County. Defendant was charged with one count each of theft of the money and of the automobile (720 ILCS 5/16-1(a)(1)(A) (West 2002)); one count of attempted first degree murder of Finch (720 ILCS 5/8-4(a), 9-1(a)(1) (West 2002)); and one count of aggravated unlawful failure to obey a peace officer's order to stop (625 ILCS 5/4-103.2(a)(7)(A) (West 2002)).
Section 4-103.2(a)(7)(A) of the Code establishes a violation for a person "who is the driver or operator of a vehicle and is not entitled to the possession of that vehicle and who knows the vehicle is stolen or converted," who has been given a signal by a peace officer directing the driver to stop the vehicle, to wilfully fail or refuse to obey such direction, increase speed, extinguish the vehicle's lights, or otherwise flee or attempt to elude the officer. (Emphasis added.) 625 ILCS 5/4-103.2(a)(7)(A) (West 2002). Section 4-103.2(b) incorporates a permissive inference contained in section 4-103(a)(1). Pursuant to that section, it may be inferred that a person who exercises the exclusive unexplained possession of a stolen vehicle has knowledge that the vehicle is stolen, regardless of whether the date when the vehicle was stolen is recent or remote. 625 ILCS 5/4-103.2(a)(1) (West 2002).
Prior to trial, defendant filed an amended motion to dismiss count I of the information, i.e., the charge of aggravated failure to obey the police order to stop. Defendant contended that section 4-103.2(a)(7)(A) of the Code is unconstitutional "in that it violates the proportionate penalties clause of the Constitution of the State of Illinois, and the equal protection, due process and cruel and unusual punishment clauses of the State and Federal constitutions." Defendant cited other Code sections that establish offenses for failing to obey a peace officer's signal to stop. See 625 ILCS 5/11-204, 11-204.1 (West 2002). Defendant argued that section 4-103.2(a)(7)(A) violates due process because the circumstance that a vehicle was stolen is not a rational basis to establish a separate antiflight offense. Defendant also argued that section 4-103.2(a)(7)(A) is unconstitutionally disproportionate because it punishes the failure to stop while driving a stolen vehicle more severely than the failure to stop under more dangerous conditions, but while driving a vehicle that is not stolen.
The circuit court mailed to the parties the following record sheet entry:
"1. In Count I, the Defendant is charged with a violation of 625 ILCS 5/4-103.2(a)(7)(A).
2. Subsection (b) of that statute expressly provides that the inference set forth in 625 ILCS 5/4-103(a)(1) shall apply to the offenses set out in ...