Appeal from Circuit Court of Macon County No. 11CF1708 Honorable Thomas E. Griffith, Jr., Judge Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Cook
Carla Bender 4th District Appellate
JUSTICE COOK delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.
Presiding Justice Turner and Justice Pope concurred in the judgment and opinion.
¶ 1 In February 2012, the trial court granted defendant Mason S. Baum's motion to dismiss the State's criminal charges against him, finding that, because defendant was younger than 17 years old when the alleged crimes occurred, the State was required to initiate charges against him in a juvenile delinquency petition. The State appeals, arguing it should not have been precluded from charging defendant in criminal, as opposed to delinquency, proceedings. We disagree and affirm.
¶ 3 In May 2011, M.M., then 13 years old, came forward with allegations of three separate incidents occurring between January 2004 and August 2009 when, she said, defendant molested her. The first alleged incident occurred when M.M. was 6 and defendant was 12 years old; the last occurred when M.M. was 10 and defendant was 16. In December 2011, the State charged defendant by information with three counts of criminal sexual assault. 720 ILCS 5/12-13(a)(2) (West 2008). Defendant, who was born August 20, 1992, was 19 years old when the State filed its charges.
¶ 4 In February 2012, defendant moved to dismiss the charges, asserting, as the trial court paraphrased, "that the cause should be in juvenile court instead of adult court" since defendant was not yet 17 years old when the alleged crimes were supposed to have been committed. At a hearing later that month, the parties stipulated to the controlling facts concerning defendant's age when the alleged crimes occurred. The court concluded that the charges should have been brought in juvenile court. Defendant conceded that the State could refile the charges by delinquency petition in juvenile court. The court offered "to enter an Order transferring this to juvenile court" for the State; the State declined. The court's docket entry stated, in relevant part, "The Defendant's Motion to Dismiss shall be granted on the basis the Court does not have jurisdiction over the Defendant as to this series of charges based on the Defendant's age at the time of the alleged offense."
¶ 5 In March 2012, the trial court denied the State's motion to reconsider. The court stated at the hearing on the State's motion, "[O]bviously, this case can be filed *** in juvenile court. A motion *** can be filed to transfer the case from juvenile court to adult court, and it's obviously within the discretion of [the juvenile court judge] *** whether or not to transfer it to adult court. And then if it is transferred to adult court, obviously, criminal charges can be sustained, of course, if they can be proven at that time."
¶ 6 The day that the trial court denied the State's motion to reconsider, the State filed its notice of appeal and certificate of impairment, effecting this appeal.
¶ 8 On appeal, the State argues the trial court erred in dismissing the charges against defendant. Specifically, the State contends that it should not have been precluded from charging defendant by information rather than delinquency petition. We disagree that the court erred.
¶ 9 Whether the criminal charges against defendant were properly filed in the form of an information in the trial court is a legal question involving statutory interpretation. Accordingly, de novo review is appropriate. See Douglas R.S. v. ...