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People v. Moran

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Third District

May 23, 2018

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
RUBEN GOMEZ MORAN, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 12th Judicial Circuit, Will County, Illinois, Circuit No. 05-CF-1476 Honorable Sarah-Marie Francis Jones and Robert P. Livas, Judges, Presiding.

          JUSTICE WRIGHT delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Holdridge and Lytton concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          JUSTICE WRIGHT

         ¶1 The trial court sentenced defendant in absentia to nine years' imprisonment in the Illinois Department of Corrections. Approximately eight years later, defendant was arrested and filed a motion to vacate or reconsider the sentence imposed in his absence. The trial court struck defendant's motion to vacate on October 28, 2015. Defendant appeals that 2015 ruling.

         ¶2 FACTS

         ¶3 On July 20, 2005, the State charged Ruben Gomez Moran (defendant) with aggravated driving under the influence pursuant to sections 11-501(a)(1) and 11-501(d)(1)(c) of the Illinois Vehicle Code (625 ILCS 5/11-501(a)(1), (d)(1)(c) (West 2004)), reckless driving pursuant to section 11-503(c) of the Illinois Vehicle Code (625 ILCS 5/11-503(c) (West 2004)), and failure to stop after having an accident involving personal injury or death pursuant to section 11-401(a) of the Illinois Vehicle Code (625 ILCS 5/11-401(a) (West 2004)).

         ¶4 On July 11, 2006, defendant entered an open guilty plea to aggravated driving under the influence, reckless driving, and failure to stop after a personal injury accident. The trial court revoked defendant's bond and ordered a presentence investigation report (PSI) for purposes of sentencing.

         ¶5 The next day, July 12, 2006, the trial court granted an agreed motion allowing defendant to be released on a recognizance bond until July 26, 2006, in order to allow defendant to be present for the impending birth of defendant's child. Defendant failed to return to custody on July 26, 2006, as agreed.

         ¶6 On September 20, 2006, the trial court received a letter from the Will County Probation Services Department informing the court that the department could not complete defendant's PSI because defendant's whereabouts were unknown. On January 30, 2007, the trial court scheduled defendant's sentencing hearing for March 15, 2007. A "certified letter to appear, " informing defendant of this court date was mailed to defendant's last known address on February 1, 2007.

         ¶7 On March 15, 2007, defendant failed to appear but his attorney was present in court. Both the prosecutor and defense counsel agreed to proceed with sentencing without the PSI. The court stated: "[defendant] chose voluntarily not to participate in the presentence investigation. So we are left - - which is his right if he refuses" and "Well, since he didn't participate, we are left with kind of a lack of knowledge about the defendant, and without a presentence investigation, I will just listen to evidence in aggravation." The defense presented no evidence in mitigation and the trial court sentenced defendant to nine years' imprisonment in the Illinois Department of Corrections for aggravated driving under the influence (625 ILCS 5/11-501(a)(1), (d)(1)(C) (West 2004)). Defendant did not file any timely motions after the sentence was imposed in 2007 and did not file a direct appeal.

         ¶8 On July 22, 2015, defendant was arrested and returned to custody in Will County. On September 8, 2015, counsel for defendant filed a section 115-4.1(e) "Motion To Vacate Sentence And/Or In the Alternative Motion To Reconsider Sentence" (2015 motion to vacate). 725 ILCS 5/115-4.1(e) (West 2014). Defendant's 2015 motion to vacate incorporated defendant's explanation for defendant's absence in 2007. Defendant alleged his absence was "due to his fear of returning to jail and no one else being able to support his family." In addition, defendant challenged the sentence imposed on the following three grounds: the trial court violated defendant's constitutional rights by failing to properly admonish defendant regarding sentencing in absentia; the trial court erroneously sentenced defendant before receiving a PSI; and the trial court imposed a sentence that was excessive.

         ¶9 In response, on the same day, the State filed a motion to strike defendant's 2015 motion to vacate as untimely. On October 28, 2015, following a hearing on the 2015 motion to vacate, the trial court announced its ruling. The court stated that, "The State does not have to consent to revesting the Court with the jurisdiction, " therefore, "I don't have the ability to grant the relief that you are seeking." In addition, the trial court found that defendant received the proper admonitions about the possibility of proceedings in absentia.

         ¶10 On November 2, 2015, defendant filed a notice of appeal challenging several orders, including the March 15, 2007, order imposing defendant's sentence and the October 28, 2015, order granting the ...


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