Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, First Division
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County., No. 10 CR 20546, Honorable Stanley J. Sacks, Judge Presiding.
JUSTICE CUNNINGHAM delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Connors and Justice Hoffman concurred in the judgment and opinion.
¶ 1 Following the entry of a negotiated guilty plea for aggravated unlawful use of a weapon in the circuit court of Cook County, defendant James Merriweather was sentenced to three years of imprisonment and a mandatory supervised release (MSR) term of two years. Subsequently, instead of filing a motion to withdraw his guilty plea, the defendant filed a pro se notice of appeal before the circuit court. On appeal, the defendant argues that: (1) he had an automatic constitutional right to counsel following the entry of his negotiated guilty plea, regardless of whether he has filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea; (2) his filing of a pro se notice of appeal automatically triggered his constitutional right to counsel so that defense counsel may file any necessary postplea motions before perfecting the defendant's appeal; and (3) alternatively, the aggravated unlawful use of a weapon statute (720 ILCS 5/24-1.6(a)(1), (3)(A) (West 2010)) under which he pled guilty was unconstitutional and thus rendered his conviction void. For the following reasons, we dismiss this appeal.
¶ 2 BACKGROUND
¶ 3 On November 5, 2010, the defendant was driving a van near 6105 South Eberhart Avenue in Chicago, Illinois, when he was stopped by Chicago police officers for committing a traffic violation. The defendant was unable to produce a valid driver's license or proof of insurance, and the police officers placed him under arrest. A search incident to the arrest revealed a .22-caliber handgun in the defendant's coat pocket. On November 19, 2010, the defendant was charged with multiple counts of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon (AUUW) (counts I to VI), unlawful use or possession of a weapon by a felon (UUWF) (counts VII and VIII), and felony driving while driver's license was suspended or revoked (count IX).
¶ 4 On December 10, 2010, during a court hearing, the trial court appointed an assistant public defender to represent the defendant. On January 26, 2011, the defendant, represented by counsel, filed a motion to quash arrest and suppress evidence (motion to quash), in which he argued that the police lacked probable cause to arrest him and sought to suppress any evidence stemming from his arrest.
¶ 5 On April 1, 2011, a hearing on the motion to quash was conducted during which Officer Caribou testified to the circumstances leading up to the defendant's arrest. Officer Caribou testified that at about 10:49 p.m. on November 5, 2010, he was near the intersection of Eberhart Avenue and 62nd Street in Chicago when he observed the defendant driving a van at a high speed. He also noticed that the defendant was not wearing a seatbelt. Officer Caribou acknowledged that his police vehicle was not equipped with a radar device so he was unable to determine how fast the defendant's van was traveling. Officer Caribou, along with his partner Officer Williams, stopped the defendant's van as a result of the seatbelt violation. The officers then approached the driver's side of the defendant's vehicle, where Officer Caribou confirmed that the defendant was not wearing a seatbelt, and asked him to produce a driver's license and proof of insurance. The defendant was unable to produce these items and was subsequently placed under arrest. Officer Caribou then searched the defendant's person and recovered a .22-caliber handgun from the defendant's coat pocket. He testified that the police did not issue any citations to the defendant for speeding. The trial court then denied the motion to quash, finding that the defendant's seatbelt violation was sufficient to justify stopping the defendant's vehicle, that probable cause existed to place the defendant under arrest when he was unable to produce a driver's license and proof of insurance, and that the police discovered the handgun during a lawful search incident to his arrest.
¶ 6 On April 15, 2011, at the next court date, the defendant informed the court that he wished to file a pro se "motion to reconsider the evidence." The trial court advised the defendant that he was not allowed to file any pro se pleadings while he was represented by counsel. The defendant then informed the court that he wished to proceed pro se. The trial court then admonished the defendant regarding the charges against him, the possible range of penalties, and his right to counsel. The defendant indicated that he understood the court's admonishments, and the trial court allowed him to proceed pro se.
¶ 7 On July 26, 2011, the defendant filed a pro se motion to suppress statements he made to the police officers (motion to suppress), arguing that he was not properly advised of his Miranda rights. On August 16, 2011, a hearing on the motion to suppress was held during which Officer Caribou testified that he and his partner, Officer Williams, transported the defendant to the police station after they arrested him. Officer Caribou advised the defendant of his Miranda rights at the police station, and the defendant indicated that he understood them. The defendant then made an incriminating statement to the officers about the recovered handgun. On cross-examination by the defendant, Officer Caribou testified that no written waiver of rights was signed. During closing arguments at the hearing, the defendant argued that his statement to the police was not voluntary in the absence of a signed written waiver form. Subsequently, the trial court denied the motion to suppress. ¶ 8 On September 14, 2011, the defendant filed a pro se motion to reconsider the trial court's denial of the motion to quash, which the trial court denied. At the next court date on October 26, 2011, the defendant informed the court that he no longer wished to proceed pro se. The trial court then reappointed counsel to represent the defendant.
¶ 9 On October 31, 2011, the defendant, represented by counsel, informed the court that he had "submitted an appeal." The trial court informed the defendant that he could not appeal the case on his own because the case was still in progress and the defendant was now represented by counsel. ¶ 10 On November 1, 2011, the defendant, represented by counsel, entered into a negotiated plea of guilty to a single count of AUUW (count III), a Class 2 offense. All other charges (counts I, II, IV to IX) were nol-prossed by the State. In exchange for the negotiated guilty plea, the State recommended that a sentence of three years of imprisonment and two years of MSR be imposed against the defendant. The parties also stipulated that the defendant had a prior conviction for aggravated driving under the influence (aggravated DUI) (case No. 09 CR 05091). The trial court then admonished the defendant regarding the charge against him, the possible range of sentence, and the constitutional rights he would be waiving by pleading guilty–all of which the defendant acknowledged he understood and then expressed the desire to plead guilty. The trial court then found that the evidence adduced in the April 2011 hearing on the motion to quash, and the parties' stipulation that the defendant was a convicted felon, were sufficient to establish the factual basis for the AUUW charge (count III). The trial court also determined that the defendant's plea of guilty was voluntary and sentenced him in accordance with the terms of the plea agreement. The trial court then admonished the defendant as follows:
"[THE COURT]: Mr. Merriweather, even though you've been sentenced to a period of three years in the Department of Corrections based on your plea of guilty followed by two years MSR once you get out of custody, you still have the right to appeal. Before you can do that though, you must file in the trial court within 30 days of today's date a written motion asking that the judgment be vacated for leave to withdraw your plea of guilty, setting forth any reasons you have for doing that in the motion in writing. Do you understand me so far?
[THE DEFENDANT]: Yes, sir.
[THE COURT]: If the motion were made and the motion were allowed, the plea of guilty, the sentence, the judgment vacated or taken back, the case will be set for trial on the charge to which you just pled guilty. Do you understand that also[?]
[THE DEFENDANT]: Yes
[THE COURT]: At the State's request, any charge that might have been dismissed as part of the plea agreement, those being Counts 1 and 2 and 4 through 9, will be reinstated and set ...