Appeal from Circuit Court of Champaign County No. 09JD299 Honorable Heidi N. Ladd, Judge Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Cook
JUSTICE COOK delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Turner and Justice Appleton concurred in the judgment and opinion.
¶ 1 Following a July 2010 bench trial, respondent, Jerome S., was found guilty of aggravated battery. In September 2010, the trial court adjudicated respondent delinquent, declared him a ward of the court, and sentenced him to 15 months' probation.
¶ 2 Respondent appeals, arguing the State failed to prove him guilty of aggravated battery under section 12-4(b)(9) of the Criminal Code of 1961 (Criminal Code) (720 ILCS 5/12-4(b)(9) (West 2008)), because a school bus monitor is not a public transportation employee, and, as such, asks this court to reduce his adjudication to the lesser-included offense of misdemeanor battery. We agree with respondent and reverse and remand with directions to enter judgment against respondent on the lesser-included offense of misdemeanor battery.
¶ 4 In December 2009, the State filed a petition for adjudication of delinquency and wardship alleging respondent committed the offense of aggravated battery, a Class 3 felony. 720 ILCS 5/12-4(b)(9), (e)(1) (West 2008). The charge stemmed from an October 2009 incident in which respondent struck Linda Little, a school bus monitor, in the arms while on a school bus that was transporting respondent and 11 other special education children to Circle Academy, a therapeutic day school for children with mental health problems operated by Cunningham Children's Home. The charge was elevated to the level of aggravated battery based on the allegation that Little was an "employee of *** a transportation facility engaged in the business of transporting the public for hire, and *** was, at that time, performing in her capacity as an employee of [First Student]." See 720 ILCS 5/12-4(b)(9) (West 2008).
¶ 5 At the close of respondent's July 2010 bench trial, the trial court specifically noted that Little's uncontradicted testimony established that First Student (previously Laidlow Transportation) was a "public transportation or a transportation facility engaged in the business of transporting the public for hire" and Little was acting as a bus monitor and, thus, performing in her capacity as an employee of First Student at the time of the incident. As a result, the court found respondent guilty of aggravated battery. At the September 2010 sentencing hearing, the court adjudicated respondent delinquent and sentenced him to 15 months' probation.
¶ 6 This appeal followed.
¶ 8 Respondent contends that the State failed to prove him guilty of aggravated battery beyond a reasonable doubt because a school bus monitor is not a public transportation employee within the meaning of section 12-4(b)(9) of the Criminal Code (720 ILCS 5/12-4(b)(9) (West 2008)). Respondent concedes, however, that a reasonable trier of fact could conclude he committed the lesser-included offense of misdemeanor battery (720 ILCS 5/12-3 (West 2008)) and thus requests that this court reduce his adjudication to misdemeanor battery. The State maintains that respondent was properly adjudicated delinquent upon the commission of aggravated battery because Little was performing in her capacity as a public transportation employee at the time of the incident. We agree with respondent.
¶ 9 Respondent's argument rests on his assertion that a school bus monitor is not a public transportation employee within the meaning of the aggravated-battery statute (720 ILCS 5/12-4(b)(9) (West 2008)). This is a question of statutory interpretation, which we review de novo. People v. Whitney, 188 Ill. 2d 91, 98, 720 N.E.2d 225, 229 (1999).
¶ 10 The primary rule of statutory construction is to ascertain and give effect to the intent of the legislature. People v. Davis, 199 Ill. 2d 130, 135, 766 N.E.2d 641, 644 (2002). The legislature's intent is best gleaned from the plain language of the statute. People v. Carter, 213 Ill. 2d 295, 301, 821 N.E.2d 233, 237 (2004). The statute should be considered in its entirety in light of its subject matter and the legislature's objective in enacting it. Davis, 199 Ill. 2d at 135, 766 N.E.2d at 644. Additionally, statutes must be construed in such a way that no term or phrase is rendered meaningless or superfluous. See, e.g., Innovative Modular Solutions v. Hazel Crest School District 152.5, 2012 IL 112052, ¶ 22, 2012 WL 312251, at *4. In interpreting the plain meaning, dictionary definitions can provide useful guidance. ...