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People v. Howard

Supreme Court of Illinois

March 23, 2017

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Appellee,
v.
ARCHIE C. HOWARD, Appellant.

          JUSTICE BURKE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Chief Justice Karmeier and Justices Freeman, Thomas, Kilbride, Garman, and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          BURKE JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 Following a bench trial in the circuit court of Peoria County, the defendant, Archie Howard, was convicted of violating section 11-9.3(b) of the Criminal Code of 1961 (720 ILCS 5/11-9.3(b) (West 2010)). This provision generally makes it unlawful for a child sex offender to knowingly loiter within 500 feet of a school while persons under the age of 18 are present.

         ¶ 2 Defendant appealed, arguing that the evidence presented at his trial was insufficient to prove him guilty of "loitering" within the meaning of the statute and that the statutory provision was unconstitutionally vague. The appellate court affirmed defendant's conviction, with one justice dissenting. 2016 IL App (3d) 130959.

         ¶ 3 For the reasons that follow, we affirm the judgment of the appellate court.

         ¶ 4 BACKGROUND

         ¶ 5 At trial, Peoria police officer Chris Lenover testified that on the morning of November 8, 2012, he was patrolling in the area near Irving Elementary School when he noticed a car parked "partially in" a T-intersection in front of the school. Lenover stated that the car was about 15 feet from school property and was facing toward the school. It was a weekday, and according to Lenover, there were 80 to 100 young children playing in the school yard.

         ¶ 6 Lenover ran the license plate on the vehicle and discovered that the car was owned by defendant, who was a registered child sex offender. Lenover approached the parked car, verified that the driver was defendant, and asked defendant what was going on. According to Lenover, defendant admitted that he was a child sex offender and that he knew he was not supposed to be around the school. Lenover asked defendant to exit the vehicle and informed him that he was under arrest for loitering within 500 feet of a school.

         ¶ 7 Following Lenover's testimony, the trial court took judicial notice of the fact that defendant is a child sex offender, having been convicted in 2003 of aggravated criminal sexual abuse involving a minor.

         ¶ 8 Defendant, testifying on his own behalf, stated that on the morning of November 8, 2012, he drove a friend, Tumika Jordan, to the grocery store and then to a McDonald's restaurant, where she purchased lunches for her grandchildren, who attended Irving Elementary School. Defendant then drove Jordan to the school so she could deliver the lunches. Defendant stated that he dropped Jordan off and then parked on a street in front of the school. Defendant remained inside the car while he waited for Jordan to return and spent the time balancing his checkbook and paying bills.

         ¶ 9 Defendant testified that when officer Lenover approached him, he explained that he was waiting for a friend who had gone into the school to deliver lunch to her grandchildren. As they were speaking, Jordan returned to his vehicle and confirmed to Lenover that defendant had given her a ride to her grandchildren's school so she could drop off lunch for them and that she had been inside the school for only four to five minutes. Defendant denied telling Lenover that he knew he was not supposed to be near the school.

         ¶ 10 After hearing this evidence, the trial court found that defendant was in his parked car within 500 feet of the school while children were present and that he was, therefore, "in direct violation" of section 11-9.3(b). The court further held that the "reason given for [defendant's] presence at the school has no merit in this case." Defendant was sentenced to 30 months' probation.

         ¶ 11 The appellate court affirmed defendant's conviction, with one justice dissenting. Interpreting section 11-9.3(b), the majority held that a child sex offender who is neither a parent nor a guardian of a school child "loiters, " within the meaning of the statute, if he remains within "the restricted school zone for any purpose, lawful or unlawful, while children under age 18 are present." 2016 IL App (3d) 130959, ¶ 40. The court rejected defendant's contention that the statute is unconstitutionally vague and concluded that the evidence was ...


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