JUSTICE THEIS delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Chief Justice Karmeier and Justices Freeman, Thomas,
Kilbride, Garman, and Burke concurred in the judgment and
1 Following a bench trial in the circuit court of Cook
County, defendant Leshawn Coats was convicted of several
offenses, including being an armed habitual criminal (720
ILCS 5/24-1.7(a) (West 2012)) and armed violence
(id. § 33A-2(a)). The trial court sentenced him
to 7 years in prison on the armed habitual criminal count,
consecutive to a term of 15 years in prison on the armed
violence count. Defendant appealed, contending that his
convictions were predicated on the same physical act of gun
possession in violation of the one-act, one-crime rule. The
appellate court concluded that the one-act, one-crime rule
did not prohibit the multiple convictions. 2016 IL App (1st)
142028-U. For the reasons that follow, we affirm the judgment
of the appellate court.
3 In June 2013, Chicago police officer Edwin Utreras was part
of a team executing a search warrant at a two-flat basement
apartment in Chicago. After forcing entry into the apartment
and detaining four individuals, Utreras and his team
approached a locked, rear room. They knocked on the door and
heard people shuffling around inside the room, but nobody
answered the door. Utreras's partner then forced entry
into the room, where Utreras saw defendant holding a handgun
in his left hand and two plastic bags in his right hand,
which he was placing on a window ledge.
4 Utreras recovered a .45-caliber handgun loaded with nine
live rounds of ammunition, as well as both bags. Inside one
bag was a clear bag containing 53 smaller bags of suspected
crack cocaine and one "knotted bag" containing
suspected crack cocaine. Inside the other bag was a clear
plastic bag containing 92 bags of suspected heroin. Drugs
were also recovered in other areas of the room, including
suspected heroin recovered from the refrigerator. The police
also recovered cash currency, ammunition, and narcotics
packaging materials. The contents of the plastic bags were
tested. The parties stipulated that a chemist verified the
contents of the plastic bags defendant was holding, which
contained over 15 grams of heroin. The parties also
stipulated to defendant's prior convictions for robbery
and aggravated robbery.
5 The trial court found defendant guilty of being an armed
habitual criminal, armed violence, and two counts of
possession of a controlled substance (heroin) with intent to
deliver. The possession counts merged into the armed violence
count. Defendant was sentenced to 7 years in prison on the
armed habitual criminal count to run consecutively to a term
of 15 years in prison on the armed violence
6 On appeal, defendant argued for the first time that his
convictions for both armed violence and armed habitual
criminal violated the one-act, one-crime rule because they
were predicated on the same physical act of gun possession.
After reviewing the claim under the second prong of the plain
error doctrine, the appellate court affirmed, finding that
the offenses did not result from precisely the same physical
act and that neither offense was a lesser-included offense of
the other. 2016 IL App (1st) 142028-U, ¶¶ 27-29.
7 In reaching its conclusion that the multiple convictions
did not violate the one-act, one-crime rule, the court
recognized a conflict between the Second District decision in
People v. Williams, 302 Ill.App.3d 975 (1999), and
the Fourth District's decision in People v.
White, 311 Ill.App.3d 374 (2000). 2016 IL App (1st)
142028-U, ¶¶ 25-27. The appellate court found
White to be more persuasive. Id. ¶ 27.
We allowed defendant's petition for leave to appeal. Ill.
S.Ct. R. 315 (eff. Mar. 15, 2016).
9 Initially, defendant recognizes that he has forfeited his
one-act, one-crime argument by failing to raise it before the
trial court, but he seeks review under the plain error
doctrine. The plain error doctrine allows a reviewing court
to consider an unpreserved error "(1) when 'a clear
or obvious error occurred and the evidence is so closely
balanced that the error alone threatened to tip the scales of
justice against the defendant, regardless of the seriousness
of the error, ' or (2) when 'a clear or obvious error
occurred and that error is so serious that it affected the
fairness of the defendant's trial and challenged the
integrity of the judicial process, regardless of the
closeness of the evidence.' " People v.
Sebby, 2017 IL 119445, ¶ 48 (quoting People v.
Piatkowski, 225 Ill.2d 551, 565 (2007)).
10 The State maintains that defendant has forfeited his plain
error argument because he failed to show that the claimed
error was clear or obvious. We disagree. This court has
previously explained that one-act, one-crime violations fall
within the second prong of the plain error doctrine as an
obvious error so serious that it challenges the integrity of
the judicial process. People v. Nunez, 236 Ill.2d
488, 493 (2010); see also People v. Artis, 232
Ill.2d 156, 168 (2009) (protections afforded to defendants by
the one-act, one-crime rule are integral to maintaining the
integrity of the judicial process); In re Samantha
V., 234 Ill.2d 359, 378-79 (2009) (a one-act, one-crime
violation "satisf[ies] the second prong of the
plain-error test"). Thus, despite the forfeiture, we
will address defendant's argument under the second prong
of the plain error doctrine.
11 We first consider whether a one-act, one-crime error
occurred. In People v. King, 66 Ill.2d 551, 566
(1977), this court held that a criminal defendant may not be
convicted of multiple offenses when those offenses are all
based on precisely the same physical act. Although this rule
is not derived from the constitutional prohibition against
double jeopardy, we have continued to reaffirm and adhere to
it over the last four decades based on the prejudice that
results when there are multiple convictions for precisely the
same criminal conduct. Artis, 232 Ill.2d at 164-68.
12 Whether a violation of the rule has occurred is a question
of law, which we review de novo. People v.
Robinson, 232 Ill.2d 98, 105 (2008). In making that
determination, this court has long followed a two-step
analysis. People v. Rodriguez, 169 Ill.2d 183, 186
(1996). First, the court ascertains whether the
defendant's conduct consisted of a single physical act or
separate acts. Id. If it is determined that the
defendant committed multiple acts, the court then moves to
the second step and determines whether any of ...