Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 10 CH 10674 Honorable James R. Epstein, Judge Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Cunningham
JUSTICE CUNNINGHAM delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion Justices Connors and Harris concurred in the judgment and opinion.
¶ 1 Plaintiff Michael Martin appeals from an order of the circuit court of Cook County, affirming the decision of the Department of State Police (the Department) that he was ineligible for a firearm owner's identification card (identification card) pursuant to the Firearm Owners Identification Card Act (Act), (430 ILCS 65/0.01 et seq. (West 2008)). Plaintiff contends on appeal that the circuit court erred in denying him relief from the Department's decision where, as provided in the Act (430 ILCS 65/10(c)(1) (West 2008)), 20 years had passed since his last conviction for a forcible felony. The State's Attorney of Cook County responds that relief is available under the Act only when both 20 years have passed since the conviction and 20 years have passed since completion of the prison sentence for that conviction. For the reasons stated below, we affirm the judgment of the circuit court of Cook County.
¶ 2 Following a 1987 jury trial, plaintiff was convicted by the State of Florida of sexual battery, kidnaping, and burglary. On January 19, 1988, he was sentenced to 27 years of imprisonment, which was later reduced to 25 years. In November 1996, plaintiff completed his prison sentence. In January 2010, he submitted an application for an identification card to the Department, which stated that he had been convicted of a felony. The Department denied his application based on his 1988 felony convictions in Florida.
¶ 3 Plaintiff timely petitioned the circuit court for relief from the Department's decision, pursuant to the provision of the Act allowing the court to overrule the Department when, in part, the applicant "has not been convicted of a forcible felony under the laws of this State or any other jurisdiction within 20 years" of the application. 430 ILCS 65/10(c)(1) (West 2008). Over 20 years had passed between his 1988 conviction and his 2010 application for an identification card.
¶ 4 The State's Attorney objected to the petition, noting that the relevant provision of the Act continues, "or at least 20 years have passed since the end of any period of imprisonment imposed in relation to that conviction." 430 ILCS 65/10(c)(1) (West 2008). The State's Attorney argued that the provision applies only when both 20-year periods, from the time of conviction and the completion of imprisonment, have occurred. The State's Attorney noted that 20 years had not passed since plaintiff's 1996 release from prison.
¶ 5 Plaintiff replied in support of his petition, arguing that the relevant provision in the Act should be read disjunctively; that is, that 20 years must pass from either the date of conviction or the completion of imprisonment. Plaintiff noted the "or" between the two statutory clauses in question, and cited two appellate cases disposing of petitions based on whether the application to the Department was made within 20 years of the barring conviction.
¶ 6 On August 23, 2010, the circuit court denied plaintiff's petition and affirmed the Department's decision, finding that the Act requires that 20 years must pass from an applicant's release from prison on his last forcible felony conviction before he is eligible for an identification card. This appeal timely followed.
¶ 7 On appeal, plaintiff contends that the circuit court erred in denying him relief from the Department's decision where, as provided in section 10(c)(1) of the Act, 20 years had passed since his last conviction for a forcible felony. The State's Attorney responds that relief is available under the Act only when both 20 years have passed since the conviction and 20 years have passed since completion of the prison sentence for that conviction.
¶ 8 The Act provides that, with certain enumerated exceptions, "[n]o person may acquire or possess any firearm, stun gun, or taser within this State without having in his or her possession a Firearm Owner's Identification Card previously issued in his or her name by the Department of State Police under the provisions of this Act." 430 ILCS 65/2(a), (b) (West 2008). The Department "has authority to deny an application for or to revoke and seize a Firearm Owner's Identification Card previously issued under this Act only if the Department finds that the applicant or the person to whom such card was issued is or was at the time of issuance *** [a] person convicted of a felony under the laws of this or any other jurisdiction." 430 ILCS 65/8(c) (West 2008).
¶ 9 An applicant for an identification card may appeal the denial, revocation or seizure of an identification card by petition to the circuit court if "the denial, revocation, or seizure was based upon a forcible felony." 430 ILCS 65/10(a) (West 2008). A person prohibited from acquiring an identification card under section 8 of the Act may petition the circuit court,
"requesting relief from such prohibition and the *** court may grant such relief if it is established by the applicant to ...