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People v. Lewis

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fourth District

December 20, 2016

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
RICHARD D. LEWIS, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from Circuit Court of Adams County No. 14CF17 Honorable William O. Mays, Judge Presiding.

          PRESIDING JUSTICE KNECHT delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Holder White and Pope concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          KNECHT PRESIDING JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 Defendant, Richard D. Lewis, appeals his September 2014 conviction for unlawful possession of methamphetamine precursors in violation of section 120(a) of the Methamphetamine Control and Community Protection Act (Community Protection Act) (720 ILCS 646/120(a) (West 2012)). On appeal, defendant argues (1) the State failed to prove he knowingly purchased, owned, or otherwise possessed a product he knew to contain a methamphetamine precursor; (2) section 120 of the Community Protection Act violates due process by potentially punishing wholly innocent conduct with a felony conviction; (3) section 120 of the Community Protection Act defines unlawful possession of a methamphetamine precursor as a felony while section 40 of the Methamphetamine Precursor Control Act (Precursor Act) (720 ILCS 648/40 (West 2012)) defines unlawful possession of pseudoephedrine or ephedrine as a misdemeanor, thereby violating due process, equal protection, and the proportionate penalties clause of the Illinois Constitution (Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, § 11); and (4) the $100 methamphetamine law enforcement fine assessed against defendant should be vacated because defendant's conduct does not meet the requirements necessary to assess that fine.

         ¶ 2 The State responds (1) it met its burden to convict defendant under section 120(a) of the Community Protection Act by showing defendant knowingly purchased a medication that contained pseudoephedrine; (2) section 120 of the Community Protection Act does not encompass wholly innocent conduct and therefore is not overbroad and does not violate due process; and (3) the Community Protection Act and the Precursor Act have different purposes and punish different conduct and therefore do not violate due process, equal protection, or the proportionate penalties clause. Finally, the State concedes the $100 methamphetamine law enforcement fine assessed against defendant should be vacated. We affirm in part and vacate in part.

         ¶ 3 I. BACKGROUND

         ¶ 4 During a stipulated bench trial in September 2014, defendant was found guilty of one count of unlawful possession of methamphetamine precursors in violation of section 120(a) of the Community Protection Act, a Class 4 felony (720 ILCS 646/120(a), (b) (West 2012)). The stipulated facts at the bench trial follow. Defendant was previously convicted under the Community Protection Act in Adams County case No. 11-CF-387. Defendant admitted he, without a prescription, purchased one box of Smart Sense 12-hour decongestant, a product containing pseudoephedrine, on December 31, 2013, at a Kmart pharmacy in Quincy, Illinois. In addition to defendant's confession, there was video surveillance showing defendant making said purchase. Based on these stipulated facts, the trial court found defendant guilty of unlawful possession of a methamphetamine precursor in violation of section 120(a) of the Community Protection Act (id.).

         ¶ 5 Pursuant to the negotiated agreement between defendant and the State, the trial court sentenced defendant to one year in prison and one year of mandatory supervised release. The court assessed, inter alia, a $100 methamphetamine law enforcement fine. In September 2014, defendant timely filed a notice of appeal challenging his conviction in sufficient compliance with Illinois Supreme Court Rule 606 (eff. Feb. 6, 2013).

         ¶ 6 II. ANALYSIS

         ¶ 7 On appeal, defendant challenges his conviction, arguing the State failed to meet its burden to convict by proving he purchased a product he knew contained a methamphetamine precursor. Defendant also challenges the constitutionality of section 120 of the Community Protection Act on due process, equal protection, and proportionate penalties grounds. Finally, defendant argues the $100 methamphetamine law enforcement fine should be vacated because he was not convicted of possessing or delivering methamphetamine with the intent to manufacture methamphetamine.

         ¶ 8 At the outset, we acknowledge our supreme court has repeatedly held courts should attempt to resolve cases on nonconstitutional grounds before proceeding to constitutional analyses. In re E.H., 224 Ill.2d 172, 178, 863 N.E.2d 231, 234 (2006). Accordingly, we will consider defendant's nonconstitutional arguments first and only proceed to his constitutional challenges if necessary.

         ¶ 9 A. Defendant's Nonconstitutional Arguments

         ¶ 10 Defendant makes two nonconstitutional arguments. First, defendant argues the State failed to meet its burden to convict under section 120(a) of the Community Protection Act. Second, defendant asserts he is ineligible for the $100 methamphetamine law enforcement fine assessed against him by the trial court.

         ¶ 111. Application of Section 120 of the Community Protection Act

         ¶ 12 Defendant's argument asserting the State failed to demonstrate he knowingly purchased a methamphetamine precursor presents a question of statutory construction. Questions of statutory construction are reviewed de novo. People v. Molnar, 222 Ill.2d 495, 508, 857 N.E.2d 209, 217 (2006).

         ¶ 13 Section 120(a) of the Community Protection Act reads:

"Whenever any person pleads guilty to, is found guilty of, or is placed on supervision for an offense under this Act, in addition to any other penalty imposed by the court, no such person shall thereafter knowingly purchase, receive, own, or otherwise possess any substance or product containing a methamphetamine precursor as defined in Section 10 of this Act, without the methamphetamine precursor first being prescribed for the use of that person in the manner provided for the prescription of Schedule II ...

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