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People v. Smith

Supreme Court of Illinois

December 30, 2016

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Appellant,
v.
MATTHEW SMITH, Appellee.

          THOMAS JUSTICE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Chief Justice Karmeier and Justices Kilbride, Garman, and The is concurred in the judgment and opinion. Justice Freeman dissented, with opinion, joined by Justice Burke.

          OPINION

          THOMAS JUSTICE.

         ¶ 1 Defendant, Matthew Smith, was charged by indictment with aggravated battery of a corrections officer, a Class 2 felony (720 ILCS 5/12-3.05(d)(4)(i), (h) (West 2010)). Following a jury trial in the Livingston County circuit court, defendant was found guilty. Defendant was sentenced as a Class X offender to six years in the Department of Corrections. The appellate court affirmed defendant's conviction but vacated defendant's sentence and remanded for a new sentencing hearing, holding that defendant was not eligible for Class X sentencing. 2015 IL App (4th) 130453-U. This court granted the State's petition for leave to appeal. Ill. S.Ct. R. 315 (eff. Jan. 1, 2015).

         ¶ 2 BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 The indictment against defendant was filed on January 20, 2012. The indictment alleged that on September 2, 2011, defendant, in committing a battery, "knowingly made physical contact of an insulting or provoking nature with Correctional Officer Jody Davis, in that the defendant threw an unknown liquid substance on Jody Davis striking him about the body, knowing Jody Davis to be a correctional institution employee of the State of Illinois Department of Corrections, who was engaged in the performance of his authorized duties." On January 24, 2012, the State filed its notice that defendant was eligible for mandatory Class X sentencing pursuant to 730 ILCS 5/5-4.5-95(b) (West 2010), should defendant be convicted of the Class 2 felony of aggravated battery.

         ¶ 4 In April 2012, following questioning and admonishment by the court, defendant waived his right to counsel and elected to proceed pro se. Defendant then filed several motions, including a motion to suppress an incriminating statement that he made to corrections officer Robert Snyder. Following a hearing on August 22, 2012, the trial court denied defendant's motion to suppress.

         ¶ 5 A jury trial was held on April 19, 2013, where defendant continued to appear pro se. Although there are no issues before this court concerning defendant's trial, we will briefly set forth some of the trial testimony in order to provide some background information.

         ¶ 6 Officer Jody Davis testified that on September 2, 2011, he was in uniform working as a correctional officer at Pontiac Correctional Center. Around 1:40 p.m. that day, Davis was doing shower duty for his gallery. Davis explained that once a week, the inmates in segregation are allowed to shower. Davis would go down the gallery, take the prisoners out and handcuff them, then take them to the showers. The doors of the cells on the gallery are perforated. Defendant was housed alone in cell 305 on the gallery. While Davis was talking with the inmate in cell 304, next door to the defendant, Davis was hit with a liquid substance all over the side of his body. Davis testified that the liquid came from defendant's cell. Davis could not tell what the substance was. After being hit with the liquid, Davis informed his cell house lieutenant, who directed Davis to go the health care unit to be evaluated.

         ¶ 7 Robert Snyder also testified at defendant's trial that he was a correctional officer at Pontiac Correctional Center assigned to the Internal Affairs Unit. Officer Snyder investigated the incident between Davis and defendant. Officer Snyder interviewed defendant on September 9, 2011. Officer Snyder asked defendant if he threw a liquid substance on Davis. Defendant responded that he did. When Officer Snyder asked why he threw the liquid, defendant said he did it because Davis did not give defendant his weekly shower. Defendant never identified the liquid substance. As noted, a jury found defendant guilty.

         ¶ 8 Defendant then appealed, arguing that the trial court erred by (1) improperly admonishing him regarding his waiver of counsel, (2) denying his motion to suppress his confession, and (3) sentencing him as a Class X offender. The appellate court rejected defendant's claim that the trial court's admonishments regarding waiver of counsel were insufficient. 2015 IL App (4th) 130453-U, ¶ 32. The appellate court also found that the trial court did not err in denying defendant's motion to suppress his statements to Officer Snyder. Id. ¶ 42. However, the appellate court found that the trial court erred in sentencing defendant as a Class X offender. Id. ¶ 44. The appellate court held that defendant was not eligible for Class X sentencing because he was not 21 at the time he was charged with the offense at issue. Id. The appellate court therefore vacated defendant's sentence and remanded the case for a new sentencing hearing.

         ¶ 9 The State now appeals the appellate court's finding that the trial court erred in sentencing defendant as a Class X offender. Defendant has requested cross-relief concerning the trial court's order denying his motion to suppress.

         ¶ 10 ANALYSIS

         ¶ 11 We first address the issue raised in the State's petition for leave to appeal: whether the appellate court erred in vacating defendant's Class X sentence. Section 5-4.5-95(b) of the Unified Code of Corrections (Code), the statute at issue, provides:

"(b) When a defendant, over the age of 21 years, is convicted of a Class 1 or Class 2 felony, after having twice been convicted in any state or federal court of an offense that contains the same elements as an offense now (the date the Class 1 or Class 2 felony was committed) classified in Illinois as a Class 2 or greater Class felony and those charges are separately brought and tried and arise out of different series of acts, that defendant shall be sentenced as a Class X offender. This subsection does not apply unless:
(1)the first felony was committed after February 1, 1978 (the effective date of Public Act 80-1099);
(2)the second felony was committed after conviction on the first; and
(3)the third felony was committed after conviction on the second." 730 ILCS 5/5-4.5-95(b) (West 2010).

         ¶ 12 The parties do not dispute that defendant had two prior qualifying convictions, including an October 2007 conviction for aggravated criminal sexual assault with a weapon, a Class X felony, and a June 2010 conviction for bringing a weapon into a penal institution, a Class 1 felony. The parties disagree concerning when a defendant must reach the age of 21 in order to be eligible for mandatory Class X sentencing.

         ¶ 13 Defendant was born on September 24, 1991, so he was 19 years old at the time the offense at issue was committed, was 20 years old when he was indicted, and was 21 years old at the time of trial and sentencing. The appellate court held that the relevant time period for purposes of section 5-4.5-95(b) was defendant's age at the time he was charged with the offense at issue. Accordingly, because defendant in this case was 20 years old when he was indicted, he was not eligible for mandatory Class X sentencing pursuant to the statute.

         ¶ 14 The State argues that the appellate court erred in vacating defendant's sentence, contending that the relevant time period for purposes of the statute is a defendant's age at the time he is convicted. Because defendant was 21 years old when he was convicted, the trial court properly sentenced defendant pursuant to section 5-4.5-95(b).

         ¶ 15 Because this issue involves a question of statutory interpretation, our review is de novo. People v. Chenoweth, 2015 IL 116898, ¶ 20.

         ¶ 16 As the State observes, at the time defendant was convicted and sentenced, the only decisions addressing when a defendant must reach the age of 21 for purposes of section 5-4.5-95(b) uniformly held that a defendant must be 21 at the time of conviction. These decisions were all from the first district of the appellate court.

         ¶ 17 In People v. Baaree, 315 Ill.App.3d 1049 (2000), the defendant was 20 years old at the time of his arrest, and at the time his guilty verdict was rendered, but had turned 21 years old by the time of his sentencing. The trial court sentenced the defendant to mandatory Class X sentencing pursuant to section 5-5-3(c)(8) of the Code (730 ILCS 5/5-5-3(c)(8) (West 1998) (now 730 ILCS 5/5-4.5-95(b) (West 2010))). Baaree, 315 Ill.App.3d at 1050. On appeal, the defendant argued that the term "convicted" in the statute could be construed as referring to the time the court determined his guilt rather than the time the sentence was imposed.

         ¶ 18 The Baaree court held that a plain reading of the statute indicated that a defendant's age at the time of conviction is the deciding factor in determining whether the mandatory Class X sentencing statute would apply. Id. at 1050. The court then addressed what was meant by the term "convicted, " noting that it could mean the time sentenced is imposed or it could mean the time a defendant is found guilty. Id. at 1052. The court found the term "convicted" in section 5-5-3(c)(8) was ambiguous and therefore adopted a construction favoring the defendant, holding that the defendant was convicted for purposes of section 5-5-3(c)(8) when he was adjudicated guilty by the trial court. Id. at 1052-53.

         ¶ 19 Following Baaree, the appellate court in People v. Williams, 358 Ill.App.3d 363 (2005), addressed the defendant's claim that the Baaree decision should be taken one step further to interpret section 5-5-3(c)(8) as being triggered when the defendant is over the age of 21 at the time the charged offense is committed. The defendant in that case claimed that the statute was ambiguous concerning whether the age requirement pertained to when the accused became a "defendant" or when the accused is "convicted." Id. at 365.

         ¶ 20 The Williams court rejected that claim, holding that Baaree resolved any ambiguity in section 5-5-3(c)(8) when it determined that "convicted" referred to the adjudication of guilt and not to sentencing. Id. at 366. The Williams court further found that "the Baaree court also impliedly resolved the issue that defendant" raised in the case before it, when Baaree held that a defendant's age at the time of conviction is the deciding factor in determining whether the statute will apply. Id. Therefore, the statute's reference to a defendant over the age of 21 refers to the time at which a defendant is convicted or adjudicated guilty and not to a time when the offense was committed. Id.

         ¶ 21 In People v. Stokes, 392 Ill.App.3d 335 (2009), the defendant again argued that section 5-5-3(c)(8) applied only if a defendant is 21 or older at the time the offense is committed. Citing Baaree and Williams, the appellate court rejected that claim, holding that because the defendant turned 21 prior to the start of his trial and, thus, was 21 years old at the time he was convicted or adjudicated guilty, the defendant was subject to the mandatory Class X sentencing provisions of section 5-5-3(c)(8). Id. at 344.

         ¶ 22 While defendant's appeal in the instant case was pending, the appellate court in People v. Douglas, 2014 IL App (4th) 120617, disagreed with the preceding cases and held that a defendant's eligibility for Class X sentencing pursuant to section 5-5-3(c)(8) depended upon his age at the time he is charged, rather than his age at the time of conviction. The Douglas court stated that the defendant in Baaree did not make the same argument as the defendants in Williams, Stokes, and the case before it. Id. ¶ 23. The defendant in Baaree had argued that the term "convicted" in section 5-5-3(c)(8) could refer to either the date he was found guilty or the date he was sentenced. Id. ¶ 25. In contrast, the defendants in Williams, Stokes, and Douglas had argued that section 5-5-3(c)(8) did not apply because they were under 21 when the offense at issue was committed and charged. Id. ¶ 23. The Douglas court held that because the Baaree court did not address whether a defendant must be 21 years old at the time he committed the offense or was charged with the offense, the decisions in Baaree, Williams, and Stokes were not persuasive concerning the issue before it. Id. ¶ 26.

         ¶ 23 In its analysis, the Douglas court noted that the definition of "defendant" in the Code is "a person charged with an offense." Id. ¶ 28 (quoting 730 ILCS 5/5-1-7 (West 2008)). The court then replaced the word "defendant" in the statute with its definition, so that the statute would read: " 'When a [person charged with an offense], over the age of 21 years, is convicted ***.' " Id. ¶ 29 (quoting 730 ILCS 5/5-5-3(c)(8) (West 2008)). According to the court, when read in that manner, the key point in time was no longer the date of conviction but rather the date the individual is charged with an offense. Id. The court concluded that the statute was ambiguous and held that the rule of lenity required it to resolve any ambiguity in favor of the accused. Id. ¶ 30. Interpreting the statute in favor of the defendant would place the date for determining a defendant's age for purposes of section 5-5-3(c)(8) as the date on which he was charged, not the date on which he was convicted. Id.

         ¶ 24 In vacating defendant's sentence in this case, the appellate court relied on the Douglas decision. 2015 IL App (4th) 130453-U, ¶ 25. The appellate court acknowledged the decisions in Baaree, Williams, and Stokes but was not persuaded to depart from the reasoning in Douglas.

         ¶ 25 Following Douglas, the first district of the appellate court again addressed whether a defendant must be over the age of 21 when he commits or is charged with an offense in order to be eligible for sentencing under section 5-4.5-95(b). People v. Brown, 2015 IL App (1st) 140508. The Brown court, with one justice dissenting, acknowledged the conflict between the decisions in Baaree, Williams, Stokes, and Douglas and found the reasoning of Douglas persuasive. Id. ¶ 13. Brown concluded that the statute was ambiguous regarding whether a defendant's age should be considered at the time an offense is committed, at the time the offense is charged, or at the time the defendant is convicted. Id. ¶ 16. Therefore, the Brown court applied the rule of lenity and interpreted the statute in favor of the defendant, holding that because the defendant was under the age of 21 when he was charged with the offense at issue, he was ineligible for Class X sentencing under section 5-4.5-95(b). Id.

         ¶ 26 The dissent in Brown stated that the determination at issue was at which time a defendant must be over the age of 21, not the time at which an individual becomes a defendant. Id. ¶ 22 (Lavin, J., dissenting). Adding the definition of "defendant" into the statute, as the Douglas court did, was not inappropriate but did not support the Douglas court's reading of the statute. Id. ¶ 27. The dissent noted:

"While a person must be charged with an offense in order to be a defendant, it does not follow that a defendant ceases to be a defendant the moment after he is charged. The defendant before us, as well as the defendant in Douglas, continued to be a defendant long after he was charged. Even at sentencing, a defendant is a person who has been charged with an offense. In short, the word 'defendant' does not identify the time of an event; rather, it identifies a person's status. Additionally, Douglas's reading of the statute would render meaningless the word 'convicted.' In contrast, reading the statute as a whole, as we must, the statute clearly requires the defendant to be 21 years old when convicted. If the legislature had intended the statute to read, 'when a defendant over the age of 21 years, is charged, ' the legislature very well could have written the statute that way but it is not the appellate court's place to rewrite it. Because the statute is not ambiguous in the specific manner that defendant suggests, we cannot misconstrue the statute in favor of the accused." (Emphasis in original.) Id.

         ¶ 27 We find the Brown dissent to be well taken. It is well settled that this court's primary objective in construing a statute is to give effect to the intent of the legislature. People v. Chenoweth, 2015 IL 116898, ¶ 21. The most reliable indicator of legislative intent is the language of the statute, given its plain and ordinary meaning. Id. A court must view the statute as a whole, construing words and phrases in light of other relevant statutory provisions and not in isolation. Id. Each word, clause, and sentence of a statute must be given a reasonable meaning, if possible, and should not be rendered superfluous. Id. This court will not depart from a statute's plain language by reading into it exceptions, limitations, or conditions that the ...


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