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The People of the State of Illinois v. Silvestre Dominguez

April 19, 2012

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, APPELLEE,
v.
SILVESTRE DOMINGUEZ, APPELLANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Garman

JUSTICE GARMAN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

Justices Thomas, Karmeier, and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion.

Justice Burke dissented, with opinion, joined by Chief Justice

Kilbride and Justice Freeman.

OPINION

¶ 1 Defendant, Silvestre Dominguez,*fn1 pleaded guilty to one count of predatory criminal sexual assault of a child (720 ILCS 5/12-14.1(a)(1) (West 2008)) and was sentenced to 16 years in prison. Defendant appealed, arguing that the cause should be remanded due to the circuit court's failure to provide adequate postplea admonishments as required under Supreme Court Rule 605 (Ill. S. Ct. R. 605 (eff. Oct. 1, 2001)). The appellate court affirmed. No. 1-09-0125 (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23). For the following reasons, we affirm the judgment of the appellate court.

¶ 2 BACKGROUND

¶ 3 In June 2007 defendant was indicted on 26 counts, mostly relating to the sexual abuse of a single minor victim. By September 2007 defendant had been appointed a public defender. A Spanish language interpreter was also present in the courtroom for defendant's appearances. On September 10, 2008, defendant indicated to his attorney that he wished to waive his right to a jury trial. A bench trial was set for October 9, 2008. Defendant appeared in court on October 9, 2008, with his attorney and the Spanish language interpreter. The circuit court discussed the charges against defendant and the possible penalties. Defendant indicated that he understood. The court then stated to defendant:

"THE COURT: However, your lawyer has told me that you are willing at this point to have a conference with the Court which means we would review your case and come up with a sentence for you. So I am going to admonish you as to that.

Your lawyer and the State are seeking a conference regarding your case. At the conference, I will hear the facts and circumstances surrounding your arrest. I will hear about any traffic or criminal background you may have. Normally, I wouldn't hear this unless there was a trial or a plea. We may reach an agreement that's acceptable to you and your attorney. We may not. In the event we do not, you would not have a right to have another judge preside at your trial, be it bench or jury trial, for the reason I participated in the conference.

Do you understand, and do you want me to participate in the conference?

DEFENDANT: Yes."

¶ 4 The attorneys and circuit court then held the conference in the court's chambers. After the conference, the court again addressed defendant concerning the charges against him and the possible penalties he faced. Defendant said he understood and wanted to plead guilty. The court then, in detail, discussed with defendant what he would be giving up by pleading guilty, such as the right to trial and the right to confront witnesses against him. The court noted there was a signed waiver from defendant indicating that he understood he was giving up those rights. The court asked, "You signed that after making yourself aware of that right and you wish to give it up?" Defendant indicated "yes" and that it was his signature on the waiver of rights. Defendant indicated he understood the rights he was giving up and still wished to plead guilty, which he did. The State then presented the factual basis for defendant's plea.

¶ 5 After hearing the factual basis, the court asked defendant if those facts were what he was pleading guilty to and defendant stated "yes." Defendant also waived his right to a presentence investigation. Defendant was sentenced to 16 years in prison. The victim then addressed the court, asking for more than 16 years. The court then stated to defendant:

"THE COURT: Sir, even though you have pled guilty and been found guilty, you have certain rights. Those rights include your right to return to the courtroom within 30 days to file motions to vacate your plea of guilty and/or reconsider your sentence. The motions must be in writing and contain all the reasons to support them. Any reasons not contained therein will not be preserved for purposes of appeal. Should your motion to vacate your plea of guilty be granted, your plea of guilty and the judgment I have entered thereon will be vacated, meaning erased. Your case will be set back down on the trial calendar for further proceedings. Should your motion to reconsider sentence be granted, you will be resentenced. In the event the motions are denied, you have 30 days from denial to return to file a notice of appeal the Court's ruling. If you wish to do so and could not afford an attorney, we will give you an attorney free of charge, along with the transcripts necessary for those purposes.

I have a signed acknowledgment of those rights. Is that your signature (indicating)?

DEFENDANT: Yes.

THE COURT: And you signed that after making yourself aware of those rights, is that correct?

DEFENDANT: Yes.

THE COURT: Good luck to you."

¶ 6 Defendant filed a form entitled "Acknowledgment By Defendant of Advice Given to Him By the Trial Judge Pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 605 (B)" with the circuit court on October 9, 2008. The space labeled "Date" on the form was left blank, but defendant's signature was on the form. The form recited Rule 605(c)*fn2 almost verbatim.

¶ 7 The State dismissed all other charges and defendant did not file a postplea motion. On January 20, 2009, defendant filed a pro se "Notice of Appeal" with the appellate court. The notice was dated December 4, 2008. In the notice, defendant stated:

"1. Defendant Silvestre Dominguez was told by court appointed counsel to sign a paper at plea bargain court date.

2. Defendant Silvestre Dominguez court appoinde [sic] counsel Ms. Diana Garcia told Defendant that signing that document would give Defendant the right for an Appeal. 3. Defendant Silvestre Dominguez is not well spoken or have any understanding whatsoever in reading, comprehending legal materials. WHEREFORE, the Defendant, Silvestre Dominguez, request that this court enter a Notice of Appeal in this case."

¶ 8 The appellate court dismissed defendant's appeal, finding he had failed to file the proper postplea motions to perfect his right to appeal and challenge his guilty plea. The appellate court found the substance of the rule was conveyed to defendant and that defendant indicated, both orally and in writing, that he understood the rule. The court rejected defendant's remaining arguments, finding that defendant (1) was made aware by the court of the general right to counsel in reference to postplea motions; (2) did not file any postplea motions; and (3) understood the proceedings, as he had been provided with a Spanish interpreter and informed the court he understood what was happening and had even signed documents to this effect.

¶ 9 ANALYSIS

¶ 10 Defendant argues that the circuit court failed to strictly comply with Supreme Court Rule 605(c).*fn3 Alternatively, if strict compliance is not required, defendant asks this court to remand because the circuit court failed to provide advice essential to a knowing and intelligent waiver of counsel and the right to appeal. Finally, in the third alternative, defendant argues the circuit court's admonishments affirmatively misled defendant.

¶ 11 We conclude that, based on the plain meaning of Rule 605(c), the rule must be strictly complied with in that the admonitions must be given to a defendant who has pled guilty. Failure to do so requires remand for proper admonishment. However, the plain meaning of the rule requires only that a defendant be "substantially" advised of the actual content of Rule 605(c). A verbatim reading of the rule is not required. We find this interpretation to be consistent with our case law on this issue.

¶ 12 Supreme Court Rule 604(d) requires a defendant who is appealing from a plea of guilty to file a motion challenging the sentence or plea in the circuit court within 30 days of the day sentence is imposed. The rule states, in relevant part:

"No appeal from a judgment entered upon a plea of guilty shall be taken unless the defendant, within 30 days of the date on which sentence is imposed, files in the trial court a motion to reconsider the sentence, if only the sentence is being challenged, or, if the plea is being challenged, a motion to withdraw the plea of guilty and vacate the judgment. No appeal shall be taken upon a negotiated plea of guilty challenging the sentence as excessive unless the defendant, within 30 days of the imposition of sentence, files a motion to withdraw the plea of guilty and vacate the judgment. *** Upon appeal any issue not raised by the defendant in the motion to reconsider the sentence or withdraw the plea of guilty and vacate the judgment shall be deemed waived." Ill. S. Ct. R. 604(d) (eff. July 1, 2006).

ΒΆ 13 Rule 605(b) and Rule 605(c), which complement Rule 604(d) and serve as a corollary to the requirements of Rule 604(d), provide the admonitions the trial judge must give a defendant when imposing sentence on a defendant who has pled guilty. People v. Jamison, 181 Ill. 2d 24, 27 (1998). Rule 605(c) states: "In all cases in which a judgment is entered upon a negotiated plea of guilty, ...


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