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In re Jarquan B.

Supreme Court of Illinois

November 8, 2017

In re JARQUAN B., a Minor
v.
Jarquan B., Appellant. The People of the State of Illinois, Appellee,

          CHIEF JUSTICE KARMEIER delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Freeman, Garman, and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          KARMEIER, CHIEF JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 On November 17, 2015, respondent Jarquan B., a delinquent minor, was found to be in violation of his misdemeanor probation sentence pursuant to the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 (Juvenile Court Act) (705 ILCS 405/1-1 et seq. (West 2014)) and was ordered to be committed to the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) on April 26, 2016. Respondent appealed his commitment, arguing that a newly enacted amendment to section 5-710(1)(b) of the Juvenile Court Act that became effective on January 1, 2016 (the 2016 amendment), precluded the trial court from committing him to the DJJ for his misdemeanor offense. Pub. Act 99-268 (eff. Jan. 1, 2016) (amending 705 ILCS 405/5-710(1)(b)). A divided panel of the appellate court affirmed the commitment order. 2016 IL App (1st) 161180. We allowed respondent's petition for leave to appeal (Ill. S.Ct. R. 315 (eff. Mar. 15, 2016)) and now affirm the judgment of the appellate court.

         ¶ 2 STATUTES INVOLVED

         ¶ 3 Section 5-720(4) of the Juvenile Court Act, which sets forth the trial court procedures to resentence a delinquent juvenile upon the revocation of probation, states:

"If the court finds that the minor has violated a condition at any time prior to the expiration or termination of the period of probation or conditional discharge, it may continue him or her on the existing sentence, with or without modifying or enlarging the conditions, or may revoke probation or conditional discharge and impose any other sentence that was available under Section 5-710 at the time of the initial sentence." (Emphasis added.) 705 ILCS 405/5-720(4) (West 2014).

         ¶ 4 At the time respondent was initially sentenced, section 5-710(1)(b) of the Juvenile Court Act, which lists the kinds of sentencing orders available to a trial court, provided as follows:

"A minor found to be guilty may be committed to the Department of Juvenile Justice under Section 5-750 if the minor is 13 years of age or older, provided that the commitment to the Department of Juvenile Justice shall be made only if a term of incarceration is permitted by law for adults found guilty of the offense for which the minor was adjudicated delinquent." 705 ILCS 405/5-710(1)(b) (West 2014).

         ¶ 5 Effective January 1, 2016, section 5-710(1)(b) was amended to provide: "A minor found to be guilty may be committed to the Department of Juvenile Justice under Section 5-750 if the minor is at least 13 years and under 20 years of age, provided that the commitment to the Department of Juvenile Justice shall be made only if a term of imprisonment in the penitentiary system of the Department of Corrections is permitted by law for adults found guilty of the offense for which the minor was adjudicated delinquent." Pub. Act 99-268 (eff. Jan. 1, 2016) (amending 705 ILCS 405/5-710(1)(b)).

         ¶ 6 BACKGROUND

         ¶ 7 In January 2015, the State filed a petition for adjudication of wardship of respondent, a minor, for the offense of criminal trespass to a motor vehicle, a Class A misdemeanor (720 ILCS 5/21-2 (West 2014)). Respondent entered a plea of guilty on February 26, 2015, and the circuit court of Cook County sentenced respondent to 12 months' court supervision, 30 days' stayed detention, and community service. At respondent's sentencing hearing, the trial court informed respondent that in accordance with section 5-710(1)(b), if he violated the terms of his supervision, it could place him on probation or hold him in custody for up to 30 days or send him to the DJJ. At the time of respondent's sentencing, the maximum sentence for a Class A misdemeanor was less than one year of incarceration. 730 ILCS 5/5-4.5-55 (West 2014).

         ¶ 8 Two weeks after respondent's initial sentencing, the State moved to execute the stayed mittimus on the ground that respondent had left his residential placement on multiple occasions without permission. The trial court entered an order continuing the motion to stay the mittimus and placed respondent on electronic home monitoring. Later that day, respondent violated his electronic monitoring, and the trial court ordered him to serve 10 days in the juvenile temporary detention center (JTDC). Shortly after his release, respondent again violated the terms of his sentence, and he was ordered to serve additional time in the JTDC.

         ¶ 9 In September 2015, the State filed a petition alleging that defendant violated his supervision by leaving his residential placement multiple times after he was released from the JTDC. Respondent failed to appear at the subsequent hearing, and the trial court issued a warrant for his arrest. On October 13, 2015, respondent appeared before the trial court and admitted to the State's petition. The trial court revoked respondent's court supervision and continued the case for sentencing.

         ¶ 10 At respondent's sentencing hearing on November 5, 2015, the trial court sentenced respondent to six months' probation and again inquired whether respondent understood that, based on his admission, he could be sentenced to the DJJ. Respondent acknowledged that he understood the terms imposed and the possible penalties if he violated the terms of his probation. On the way back to respondent's residential placement facility, however, respondent fled from the residential placement staff, thereby again violating the terms of his probation. The next day, the State filed another petition alleging that respondent violated his probation.

         ¶ 11 On November 17, 2015, at the hearing on the State's petition, respondent admitted to the probation violation. The trial court once more inquired of respondent whether he was fully aware that, based on his admission to the probation violation, he could be committed to the DJJ. Respondent acknowledged that he understood. The matter was continued for sentencing. However, prior to respondent's sentencing hearing scheduled in early December 2015, respondent again absconded from his residential placement without permission. An arrest warrant was issued, and respondent was eventually arrested on February 5, 2016. On February 18, 2016, the trial court conducted a sentencing hearing on the State's November 2015 petition to revoke probation. Before reaching a decision, the trial court continued the matter for sentencing, warning respondent that he had "one more chance" and, if he left his residential placement again, the court would commit him to the DJJ.

         ¶ 12 In mid-March 2016, respondent did not appear at his sentencing hearing. An arrest warrant was issued resulting in respondent's arrest about a month later. On April 26, 2016, over the objections of defense counsel, the trial court found it to be in respondent's best interest to commit him to the DJJ.

         ¶ 13 ANALYSIS

         ¶ 14 The central issue in this case is whether, on the date of respondent's sentencing on his misdemeanor probation violation, April 26, 2016, the trial court had the statutory authority to commit him to the DJJ. The crux of respondent's argument relies on the applicability of the amendment to section 5-710 of the Juvenile Court Act that became effective on January 1, 2016, which precludes the trial court from committing a minor to the DJJ for a misdemeanor offense. 705 ILCS 405/5-710(1)(b) (West Supp. 2015).

         ¶ 15 Before this court can address whether the trial court erred in committing respondent to the DJJ, we begin our review, as we must, with the question of whether this court should consider the issue because the appeal has become moot.

         ¶ 16 I. MOOTNESS

         ¶ 17 No dispute exists that, having served the terms of his sentence, respondent's appeal is rendered moot. In re Shelby R., 2013 IL 114994, ¶ 15 ("Where *** the appeal involves the validity of a sentence, such appeal is rendered moot if the sentence has been served."). Although the general rule is that reviewing courts will not decide moot questions, we will consider an otherwise moot case where it falls under a recognized exception. Id. The appellate court here held that the validity of respondent's sentence, although moot, was reviewable under the public interest exception to the mootness doctrine. 2016 IL App (1st) 161180, ¶ 14. Both the State and respondent urge this court to consider respondent's claim under the public interest exception. This narrowly construed exception requires that (1) the question presented is of a public nature, (2) a need exists for an authoritative determination of the question for the future guidance of public officers, and (3) the question is likely to recur. In re Shelby R., 2013 IL 114994, ¶ 16.

         ¶ 18 In In re Shelby R., this court applied the public interest exception in a case where a juvenile completed her sentence and had been released by the time the appeal was decided. Id. ¶¶ 10, 23. Applying the exception, this court concluded the detention of a juvenile is a matter of public concern and that the liberty interests of minors posed a significant need for authoritative intervention, as did the need to provide guidance to judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys on a question that was likely to recur. Id. ¶¶ 16, 22-23.

         ¶ 19 As in In re Shelby R., this case satisfies all three requirements for application of the public interest exception. First, the question we are asked to address is certainly of a public nature, as it deals in general with the detention of minors. See In re J.T., 221 Ill.2d 338, 350-51 (2006) (the question of how long a minor will remain incarcerated or subject to parole restrictions or the custodianship of the Department of Corrections is a question of public importance). Second, resolution of this issue will undoubtedly affect the procedures that must be followed in similar proceedings under the Juvenile Court Act. Thus, future guidance of public officers is necessary to provide clear direction in the application of the relevant provisions of the Juvenile Court Act and create a uniform body of law. As to the third criterion, the parties agree that the question herein is likely to recur despite it being over a year since the 2016 amendment to the Juvenile Court Act became effective. Respondent notes that a juvenile may be placed on probation for a misdemeanor offense for a period not to exceed "5 years or until the minor has attained the age of 21 years, whichever is less." 705 ILCS 405/5-715(1) (West 2016). Therefore, application of the 2016 amendment could recur well after the effective date of January 1, 2016, to a minor sentenced to probation prior to the effective date of the amendment. Accordingly, we agree with the parties that the public interest exception to the mootness doctrine should apply and review by this court is appropriate. We now turn to the merits of respondent's sentencing issue.

         ¶ 20 II. MERITS

         ¶ 21 This appeal requires us to construe the statutory language of various provisions of the Juvenile Court Act to determine whether a delinquent minor's commitment to the DJJ, upon probation revocation, is permitted for an offense no longer eligible for commitment. ...


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