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People v. Rios-Salazar

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Third District

November 20, 2017

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
AARON RIOS-SALAZAR, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 12th Judicial Circuit No. 10-CF-2114, Will County, Illinois. Honorable Carla Alessio-Policandriotes, Judge, Presiding.

          JUSTICE SCHMIDT delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justice Wright specially concurred, with opinion. Justice Lytton dissented, with opinion.

          OPINION

          SCHMIDT, JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 Defendant, Aaron Rios-Salazar, after being sentenced to 24 years for predatory criminal sexual assault of a child (720 ILCS 5/12-14.1(a)(1) (West 2010)), argues only that his defense counsel was ineffective for failing to object to $57 in fines. We affirm.

         ¶ 2 FACTS

         ¶ 3 Defendant pled guilty to predatory criminal sexual assault of a child (720 ILCS 5/12- 14.1(a)(1) (West 2010)) for an offense that occurred between February 1 and August 30, 2010. In return, the State nol-prossed two counts of predatory criminal sexual assault of a child, three counts of criminal sexual assault, and one count of aggravated criminal sexual assault. The circuit court sentenced defendant to 24 years' imprisonment.

         ¶ 4 A cost sheet signed by the circuit court, bearing the file-stamped date of July 24, 2015, appears in the record. The cost sheet shows that the court imposed $1587 in assessments, including a $100 Violent Crime Victims Assistance Fund (VCVA) assessment and a $25 "house fee." A separate document, which is unsigned and appears to be a computer print-out, also lists the monetary assessments. That document describes the $25 "house fee" as "judicial facilitie[s]."

         ¶ 5 ANALYSIS

         ¶ 6 Defendant argues that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object to the $25 judicial facilities fee and the $100 VCVA assessment. He contends that the assessments violated ex post facto principles and, had counsel objected, the $25 judicial facilities fee would have been vacated and the $100 VCVA assessment would have been reduced to $68. Essentially, defendant's argument is that his trial counsel was constitutionally deficient for failing to object to $57 in improper fines. By challenging the fines on the basis of ineffective assistance of counsel rather than directly, defendant implicitly concedes that he forfeited the issue. For the reasons stated below, we find no reason to determine whether the contested charges are fines or fees, appropriate or inappropriate.

         ¶ 7 To state a claim for ineffective assistance of counsel, a defendant must show that (1) counsel's performance was deficient and (2) the deficient performance prejudiced defendant. Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984). "In order to satisfy the deficient-performance prong of Strickland, a defendant must show that his counsel's performance was so inadequate that counsel was not functioning as the 'counsel' guaranteed by the sixth amendment." People v. Smith, 195 Ill.2d 179, 188 (2000).

         ¶ 8 Even accepting defendant's argument that $57 of his fines were improper, we find that trial counsel's failure to object to this de minimis amount of monetary assesments did not constitute constitutionally deficient performance. That is, counsel's failure to challenge $57 in allegedly improper fines did not render counsel's performance "so inadequate that counsel was not functioning as the 'counsel' guaranteed by the sixth amendment." Id. Not every mistake of counsel constitutes deficient performance. People v. Easley, 192 Ill.2d 307, 344 (2000) ("[I]neffective assistance of counsel refers to competent, not perfect, representation."). In the instant case, defendant pled guilty to a Class X felony and received a sentence of 24 years' imprisonment. Counsel's failure to object to de minimis fines is simply not an error of constitutional magnitude.

         ¶ 9 In reaching our holding, I note that there is no right to counsel under the sixth amendment of the United States Constitution in cases where a defendant is not sentenced to imprisonment. Scott v. Illinois, 440 U.S. 367, 373-74 (1979). Even the statutory right to counsel in Illinois, which is broader than the right to counsel guaranteed by the sixth amendment, does not apply in cases punishable by fine only. 725 ILCS 5/113-3(b) (West 2010). The fact that there is no right to counsel in cases punishable only by fines supports our holding that counsel's failure to object to certain de minimis fines did not render his representation of defendant constitutionally deficient.[1]

         ¶ 10 CONCLUSION

         ¶ 11 For the foregoing reasons, we affirm the judgment of the ...


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