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The People of the State of Illinois v. Jason B. Hodges

December 12, 2011

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS,
PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
JASON B. HODGES, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Du Page County. No. 08-CF-1636 Honorable Robert G. Kleeman, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Schostok

JUSTICE SCHOSTOK delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justice Burke concurred in the judgment and opinion.

Justice McLaren dissented, with opinion.

OPINION

¶ 1 Defendant, Jason B. Hodges, pleaded guilty to one count of identity theft under section 16G-15(a)(4) of the Criminal Code of 1961 (Code) (720 ILCS 5/16G-15(a)(4) (West 2008)) and was sentenced to seven years' imprisonment. Defendant filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea, arguing that the trial court's judgment was void because section 16G-15(a)(4) lacks a culpable mental state and thus is facially unconstitutional. The trial court denied defendant's motion, and defendant brought this timely appeal.

¶ 2 On appeal, defendant argues that the trial court erred in denying his motion to withdraw his guilty plea, because section 16G-15(a)(4) of the Code is facially unconstitutional, as it does not require a culpable mental state and potentially punishes wholly innocent conduct. Section 16G-15(a)(4) of the Code provides that a person commits identity theft when he or she knowingly "uses, obtains, records, possesses, sells, transfers, purchases, or manufactures any personal identification information or personal identification document of another knowing that such personal identification information or personal identification documents were stolen or produced without lawful authority." 720 ILCS 5/16G-15(a)(4) (West 2008). Whatever the merits of defendant's argument on appeal, we must affirm the trial court's judgment because of the supreme court's statement in People v. Madrigal, 241 Ill. 2d 463 (2011).

¶ 3 In Madrigal, the defendant challenged section 16G-15(a)(7) of the Code (720 ILCS 5/16G-15(a)(7) (West 2008)), which provides that a person commits identity theft when he or she knowingly "uses any personal identification information or personal identification document of another for the purpose of gaining access to any record of the actions taken, communications made or received, or other activities or transactions of that person, without the prior express permission of that person." The defendant argued that section 16G-15(a)(7) lacked a culpable mental state and potentially punished wholly innocent conduct. Madrigal, 241 Ill. 2d at 465. The supreme court agreed with the defendant and upheld the trial court's finding that section 16G-15(a)(7) was facially unconstitutional. Madrigal, 241 Ill. 2d at 472-73. However, the supreme court made the following statements regarding the other subparagraphs of section 16G-15(a):

"All seven of the subparagraphs in section 16G-15(a) require at least a mental state of mere knowledge, as introductory paragraph (a) makes clear ***. [Citation.] The first five offenses listed in subparagraphs (a)(1) through (a)(5), however, also require the additional element of criminal intent or knowledge. In other words, they require a criminal purpose in addition to the general knowledge that one is committing the actions specified. Subparagraphs (a)(1) through (a)(5) are not at issue in this case and clearly do not fall within the parameters of the line of cases that deal with statutes that potentially punish innocent conduct." Madrigal, 241 Ill. 2d at 470.

¶ 4 This statement by the supreme court-that subparagraphs (a)(1) through (a)(5) require a criminal purpose in addition to general knowledge and do not fall within the line of cases that deal with statutes that potentially punish innocent conduct-precludes any challenge to the constitutionality of subparagraph (a)(4) on the ground that it lacks a culpable mental state and potentially punishes innocent conduct. Although subparagraph (a)(4) was not at issue in Madrigal and the court's statement appears to be obiter dictum, " '[e]ven obiter dictum of a court of last resort can be tantamount to a decision and therefore binding in the absence of a contrary decision of that court.' " Nudell v. Forest Preserve District, 207 Ill. 2d 409, 416 (2003) (quoting Cates v. Cates 156 Ill. 2d 76, 80 (1993)). No exception to this rule appears in existing case law, and there is no decision contrary to Madrigal. Accordingly, we are bound by the statement in Madrigal and must affirm the trial court's denial of defendant's motion to withdraw his guilty plea.

¶ 5 The judgment of the circuit court of Du Page County is affirmed.

¶ 6 Affirmed.

¶ 7 JUSTICE McLAREN, dissenting.

¶ 8 I respectfully dissent because I believe that a close reading of Madrigal shows the inconsistency between the dicta and the holding in Madrigal. Madrigal compared, through dicta, subparagraphs (a)(1) through (a)(6) with subparagraph (a)(7), which was in contention. The dicta declared that subparagraphs (a)(1) through (a)(5) contained an additional element of criminal intent or knowledge beyond that of mere knowledge but that subparagraph (a)(6) did "not appear" to do so.*fn1 Madrigal, 241 Ill. 2d at 470-71. The dicta were required for neither the logical analysis of the merits of the appeal (ratio decidendi) nor the holding ...


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