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People v. Aguilar

Supreme Court of Illinois

September 12, 2013

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Appellee,
v.
ALBERTO AGUILAR, Appellant.

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

OPINION

THOMAS JUSTICE

¶ 1 The principal issue in this case is whether section 24-1.6(a)(1), (a)(3)(A) of the Illinois aggravated unlawful use of weapons (AUUW) statute (720 ILCS 5/24-1.6(a)(1), (a)(3)(A) (West 2008)) violates the right to keep and bear arms, as guaranteed by the second amendment to the United States Constitution (U.S. Const., amend. II). We hold that it does.

¶ 2 BACKGROUND

¶ 3 The facts are not in dispute. Officer Thomas Harris of the Chicago police department testified that, on the evening of June 12, 2008, he was on surveillance duty near 4217 West 25th Place. Officer Harris observed a group of male teenagers screaming, making gestures, and throwing bottles at passing vehicles. This group included defendant, who Officer Harris noticed was holding the right side of his waist area. After watching the group walk into a nearby alley, Officer Harris radioed other officers who were nearby.

¶ 4 Officer John Dolan testified that, after receiving a radio communication from Officer Harris, he and Officers Wagner and Triantafillo traveled to 4217 West 25th Place. Once there, Officer Dolan watched several individuals walk into the backyard. The officers followed, and Officer Dolan heard defendant yell an expletive. Officer Dolan then saw that defendant had a gun in his right hand. Defendant dropped the gun to the ground, and Officer Dolan took defendant into custody while another officer recovered the gun. When Officer Dolan examined the gun, he saw that the serial number had been scratched off and that it was loaded with three live rounds of ammunition. Officer Dolan learned later that defendant did not live at 4217 West 25th Place.

¶ 5 Defense witness Romero Diaz testified that he lived at 4217 West 25th Place and that defendant was his friend. Diaz explained that, on the evening in question, he was with defendant and another friend in his backyard waiting for defendant's mother to pick up defendant, when three or four police officers entered the backyard with flashlights and ordered him and his friends to the ground. When defendant hesitated to comply, one of the officers tackled him to the ground. According to Diaz, defendant did not have a gun and did not drop a gun to the ground when the officers entered the backyard.

¶ 6 Defendant testified that, on the night of June 12, 2008, he was with friends at the corner of 26th Street and Keeler Avenue. After spending about 45 minutes there, he and another friend walked to Diaz's backyard. While defendant was waiting there for his mother to pick him up, three police officers entered the yard with flashlights and guns drawn. One officer yelled at defendant to get on the ground, and when defendant moved slowly, another of the officers tackled defendant. The officers then searched the yard, showed defendant a gun, and accused him of dropping it. Defendant denied ever having a gun that evening, and he denied dropping a gun to the ground.

¶ 7 After weighing the credibility of the witnesses, the trial court found defendant guilty of AUUW (720 ILCS 5/24-1.6(a)(1), (a)(3)(A) (West 2008)) and unlawful possession of a firearm (UPF) (720 ILCS 5/24-3.1(a)(1) (West 2008)). The trial court sentenced defendant to 24 months' probation for the AUUW conviction and did not impose sentence on the UPF conviction.

¶ 8 Defendant appealed, and the appellate court affirmed with one justice dissenting. 408 Ill.App.3d 136. We allowed defendant's petition for leave to appeal. Ill. S.Ct. R. 315 (eff. Feb. 26, 2010).[1]

¶ 9 DISCUSSION

¶ 10 Standing

¶ 11 In this case, we are asked to decide whether the two statutes under which defendant stands convicted—namely, section 24-1.6(a)(1), (a)(3)(A) of the AUUW statute and section 24-3.1(a)(1) of the UPF statute—violate the right to keep and bear arms, as guaranteed by the second amendment to the United States Constitution. Before we get to those questions, however, we must quickly dispose of the State's argument that defendant lacks standing to contest the constitutionality of these statutes. In support of this argument, the State invokes the familiar principle that, in order to have standing to contest the constitutionality of a statutory provision, the party bringing that challenge must show that he falls within the class of persons aggrieved by the alleged unconstitutionality. See, e.g., People v. Bombacino, 51 Ill.2d 17, 20 (1972). According to the State, this principle means that, in this case, before defendant can argue that either of these statutes violates the second amendment, he first must be able to show that he was engaged in conduct that enjoys second amendment protection. Yet there is no way defendant can do this, the State maintains, because defendant himself concedes that the conduct involved in this case, namely, possessing a loaded, defaced, and illegally modified handgun on another person's property without consent, enjoys no such protection. Thus, the State insists, defendant has no standing to bring a second amendment challenge.

¶ 12 We reject the State's argument. The State assumes that defendant is arguing that the enforcement of sections 24-1.6(a)(1), (a)(3)(A) and 24-3.1(a)(1) in this particular case violates his personal right to keep and bear arms, as guaranteed by the second amendment. But that is not what defendant is arguing. Rather, he is arguing that sections 24-1.6(a)(1), (a)(3)(A) and 24-3.1(a)(1) themselves facially violate the second amendment, and that consequently neither statute can be enforced against anyone, defendant included. See, e.g., People v. Manuel, 94 Ill.2d 242, 244-45 (1983) (a defendant cannot be prosecuted under a criminal statute that is unconstitutional in its entirety, as such a statute is void ab initio). This is a very different argument from the one the State assumes, and one that defendant undoubtedly has the standing to make. "One has standing to challenge the validity of a statute if he has sustained or if he is in immediate danger of sustaining some direct injury as a result of enforcement of the statute." People v. Mayberry, 63 Ill.2d 1, 8 (1976). Here, sections 24-1.6(a)(1), (a)(3)(A) and 24-3.1(a)(1) were enforced against defendant in the form of a criminal prosecution initiated by the People of the State of Illinois, and the "direct injury" he sustained was the entry of two felony ...


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