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The People of the State of Illinois et al v. Aaron Jackson

February 7, 2013


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Karmeier

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

Chief Justice Kilbride and Justices Freeman, Thomas, Garman, Burke, and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion.


¶ 1 Defendant, Aaron Jackson, was charged by information on March 31, 2011, with the Class 4 felony of "Driving while driver's license, permit or privilege to operate a motor vehicle is suspended or revoked" (driving while license suspended or revoked), in violation of Illinois Vehicle Code (Code) section 6-303(a) and (d), for an offense that occurred on July 9, 2010. See 625 ILCS 5/6-303 (West 2010). The information also alleged that defendant was subject to extended-term sentencing pursuant to section 5-5-3.2(b)(1) of the Unified Code of Corrections (730 ILCS 5/5-5-3.2(b)(1) (West 2010)). Defendant moved to dismiss the charge on the ground that section 6-303 was unconstitutional as applied to him under both the Illinois Constitution of 1970 and the United States Constitution. The circuit court of Clinton County granted the motion, holding that because the statutory scheme found in section 6-303(a) and (d) violated defendant's right to due process, the charge must be dismissed and defendant discharged. The People of the State of Illinois, and the Illinois Secretary of State, whom the circuit court allowed to intervene (collectively, the State), appealed directly to this court, as required in cases in which a statute of this state has been held invalid. See Ill. S. Ct. R. 603 (eff. Oct. 1, 2010).*fn1 For the following reasons, we vacate the circuit court's order and remand to the circuit court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.


¶ 3 On February 16, 2012, the circuit court entered a written order granting defendant's motion seeking a declaration that the statute under which he was charged (625 ILCS 5/6-303 (West 2010)) was unconstitutional as applied to him. The order stated that the defendant wished to present certain evidence at his trial, and the parties had stipulated to these facts for the purposes of the motion. Therefore, we shall rely upon the stipulated facts set forth below, including necessary clarification, in reviewing the propriety of the circuit court's order.

¶ 4 On November 6, 1997, when defendant was 15 years old, he was charged with the offense of driving under the influence of alcohol in Kane County, Illinois. Although defendant had never applied for a license, the Illinois Secretary of State created a driving record for defendant under the name Aaron A. Jackson, which included a driver's license, number J250-0018-2008. The Secretary of Sate suspended that license as of December 22, 1997. We note that Illinois law requires the Secretary of State to suspend the driver's license of anyone arrested for driving under the influence (625 ILCS 5/11-501.1(h) (West 2010)) and that the period of statutory summary suspension continues until all required reinstatement fees have been paid. People v. Martinez, 184 Ill. 2d 547, 551 (1998).

¶ 5 On April 19, 1998, defendant was charged with driving while license suspended, and was convicted of that offense on April 6, 1999. Meanwhile, on March 25, 1999, defendant was sentenced to court supervision for the November 6, 1997, driving while under the influence offense. In fact, the record on appeal contains a March 25, 1999, "Plea of Guilty and DUI Order for Court Supervision," placing defendant on court supervision until March 24, 2000. On November 29, 2000, defendant's court supervision was revoked and a judgment was entered on the charge of driving while under the influence of alcohol.*fn2

¶ 6 On February 24, 2006, defendant applied for and received an Illinois driver's license, number J250-0008-2008,*fn3 from the Secretary of State under the name Aaron Jackson, using his valid social security number. When applying for this license, defendant answered the following question in the negative: "Is your driver's license or ID card [or] privilege to obtain a license or ID card suspended, revoked, cancelled or refused in any state under this or any other name[?]" On January 16, 2008, defendant renewed his driver's license number J250-0008-2008 without objection from the Secretary of State.

¶ 7 In 2009, defendant received citations for the offenses of speeding and operating an uninsured motor vehicle in Marion County, Illinois. He pleaded guilty to those offenses and paid the assessed fine. The circuit court of Marion County sent notice of these dispositions to the Secretary of State. On July 9, 2010, defendant was issued a citation for driving while license suspended, and on July 20, 2010, the Secretary of State sent notice to defendant that driver's license number J250-0008-2008 was suspended. On March 31, 2011, the State's Attorney of Clinton County, Illinois, filed an information alleging that defendant had committed a Class 4 felony for the offense of driving while license suspended on July 9, 2010.

¶ 8 In addition to setting forth the stipulated facts, the circuit court's order of February 16, 2012, notes that the parties were given an opportunity to argue and to supplement their arguments with written memoranda, and that the court had considered those arguments and the "briefs filed herein." The circuit court then set forth its understanding of the parties arguments, and its findings, stating, in part, as follows:

"The substance of the [S]tate's position is that the only elements of the offense of driving while license suspended are, first whether the defendant was driving, and whether his license was suspended at that time. Indeed, the Attorney General*fn4 argues that the statutory scheme creates an 'absolute liability offense for driving with a suspended or revoked license.' The Attorney General urges that this court find that the defendant participated in a fraudulent act by applying for a second license under a different name, concealing the previous suspension.

The essence of the defendant's argument is that his due process rights would be violated by refusing to allow him to present evidence of the above facts. The proposed defense is in the nature of an affirmative defense.

This Court finds that, given the above facts, the trier of fact could conclude that the Office of the Secretary of State was remise [sic] in its duties by issuing license J250-0008-2008 to Mr. Jackson without conducting any examination to determine whether his driving privileges had been previously revoked. *** The Secretary of State would respond that Mr. Jackson committed a fraud in his application. Fraud requires intent, and this court finds that Mr. Jackson should be permitted to present evidence of his lack of intent. ...

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