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People v. Walker

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Third District

October 28, 2016

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
MICHAEL WALKER, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 9th Judicial Circuit, Knox County, Circuit No. 06-CF-519 Illinois, Honorable Scott Shipplett, Judge, Presiding.

          JUSTICE SCHMIDT delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justice Carter concurred in the judgment and opinion. Justice Wright dissented, with opinion.

          OPINION

          SCHMIDT JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 Defendant, Michael Walker, appeals from the dismissal of his second-stage postconviction petition. Defendant's sole argument on appeal is that his Violent Crime Victims Assistance Fund fine (VCVA) and drug court fee were fines improperly imposed by the circuit clerk and must be vacated. We vacate, as void, the fines imposed by the circuit clerk.

         ¶ 2 FACTS

         ¶ 3 In January 2008, defendant pled guilty to one count of aggravated battery (720 ILCS 5/12-4(b)(6) (West 2006)). The court sentenced defendant to four years' imprisonment and ordered defendant to "pay court costs in this matter which are due within six months of his release from custody." The prison sentence was ordered to run consecutive to the sentence defendant was serving at the time he committed the instant offense.

         ¶ 4 On April 13, 2012, defendant filed a pro se postconviction petition, arguing that he had been deprived of his right to a speedy trial and defense counsel was ineffective for failing to raise this issue. The court summarily dismissed defendant's petition, and defendant appealed. We reversed the dismissal and remanded the cause for second-stage proceedings. People v. Walker, 2013 IL App (3d) 120330-U.

         ¶ 5 On remand, defense counsel filed an amended postconviction petition, which realleged defendant's pro se arguments. The State filed a motion to dismiss. In September 2014, the court dismissed defendant's amended petition, and the clerk entered a written cost sheet into the record. The cost sheet included the following assessments: "Clerk Fee" $50, "State's Attorney" $30, "Court Fund-County Fee" $50, "Court Automation" $10, "Court Security" $25, "Victim of Violent Crime" $20, "Document Storage Fund" $10, "Arrestee's Medical Fee" $10, "Teen Court" $5, "Drug Court Fee" $5, and "Knox Cty Child Advocacy Center" $5. Defendant appeals from the dismissal of his amended postconviction petition, but defendant does not contest the dismissal. Therefore, he has abandoned the arguments raised in the petition.

         ¶ 6 ANALYSIS

         ¶ 7 Defendant solely argues that his VCVA and drug court fines must be vacated as they were imposed without authority by the circuit clerk. The State agrees that these assessments were imposed without authority, but argues that the matter should be remanded to the trial court with direction for the court to specifically order these mandatory fines. Upon review, we find the VCVA and drug court assessments are void. Additionally, we sua sponte find that the circuit clerk imposed several other fines without an order of the court. These fines are void and vacated accordingly. We further reject the State's argument for a remand as we do not have authority to order the trial court to impose the mandatory fines. See Ill. S.Ct. R. 615(b)(4); People v. Castleberry, 2015 IL 116916, ¶ 19; People v. Wade, 2016 IL App (3d) 150417, ¶ 13.

         ¶ 8 The imposition of a fine is a judicial act. People v. Strong, 2016 IL App (3d) 140418, ¶ 8. "The clerk of a court is a nonjudicial member of the court and, as such, has no power to impose sentences or levy fines ***." People v. Scott, 152 Ill.App.3d 868, 873 (1987). A fine imposed without authority by the circuit clerk is void from its inception. People v. Larue, 2014 IL App (4th) 120595, ¶ 56. The circuit clerk may levy fees against a defendant, but only the trial court may impose fines. Wade, 2016 IL App (3d) 150417, ¶ 10.

         ¶ 9 Here, the parties agree that defendant's VCVA and drug court fines are void as they are fines that were imposed without authority by the circuit clerk. See People v. Folks, 406 Ill.App.3d 300, 306 (2010) (holding drug court assessment is a fine that cannot be imposed by the circuit clerk); Scott, 152 Ill.App.3d at 873 (holding VCVA assessment is a mandatory fine that cannot be imposed by the circuit clerk). We find that the record establishes that the VCVA and drug court assessments were imposed by the clerk after the court entered a generic order for "costs." As a result, the VCVA and drug court fines are void. See Larue, 2014 IL App (4th) 120595, ¶ 56. Accordingly, we vacate these two fines.

         ¶ 10 After reviewing the cost sheet, we find the circuit clerk imposed several additional fees, which have been judicially categorized as fines, without an order of the court. These assessments, which are properly categorized as fines, are void. See Id. We "have an independent duty to vacate void orders and may sua sponte declare an order void." People v. Thompson, 209 Ill.2d 19, 27 (2004). Therefore, we vacate the following additional fines as void: "Court Fund County Fee" (People v. Ackerman, 2014 IL App (3d) 120585, ¶ 30 (holding the court systems fee of $50 (55 ILCS 5/5-1101(c)(1), (g) (West 2008)) was a fine)), "Arrestee's Medical Fee" (People v. Jernigan, 2014 IL App (4th) 130524, ¶ 38 (holding the $10 arrestee's medical assessment is a fine)), "Teen Court" (People v. Graves, 235 Ill.2d 244, 255 (2009) (holding the teen court assessment is a fine)), and "Knox Cty Child Advocacy Center" (People v. Jones, 397 Ill.App.3d 651, 660-61 (2009) (holding the Children's Advocacy Center Fund assessment is a fine)).

         ¶ 11 Having vacated the improperly imposed fines, the State argues that we must remand the cause for the trial court to properly order any mandatory fines. See 725 ILCS 240/10(b) (West 2008); 55 ILCS 5/5-1101(d-5) (West 2008). However, in Castleberry, 2015 IL 116916, ¶ 19, our supreme court abolished the void sentence rule. In doing so, the supreme court noted that an "appellate court may not, under our rules, address a request by the State to increase a criminal sentence which is illegally low." Id. ¶ 26. Since a fine is part of a criminal sentence (Graves, 235 Ill.2d at 250), Castleberry bars remanding this case to the trial court with instructions to impose the required fines. Castleberry, 2015 IL 116916, ¶ 26. To do so would impermissibly increase defendant's sentence on appeal. Id. Therefore, we reject the ...


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