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People v. Burge

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fourth District

December 13, 2019

The PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Plaintiff-Appellee,
Chaleah BURGE, Defendant-Appellant.


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          Appeal from the Circuit Court of Champaign County No. 16CM1074 Honorable John R. Kennedy, Judge Presiding.

          James E. Chadd, Paul M. McCarthy, and Mariah K. Shaver, of State Appellate Defender's Office, of Springfield, for appellant.

          Julia Rietz, State's Attorney, of Urbana ( Patrick Delfino, David J. Robinson, and Melissa Schwoerer, of State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor's Office, of counsel), for the People.

         JUSTICE DeARMOND delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Holder White concurred in the judgment and opinion. Justice Harris specially concurred, with opinion.



         ¶ 1 In March 2017, defendant, Chaleah Burge, pleaded guilty to one count of theft, and the trial court sentenced her to conditional discharge. Later that month, defendant filed a motion to withdraw her guilty plea and to vacate the judgment, which the court denied.

         ¶ 2 On appeal, defendant argues the trial court erred in denying her motion to withdraw her guilty plea. We affirm.

         ¶ 3 After granting defendant's petition for rehearing and considering the additional arguments of counsel, we continue to affirm.

         ¶ 4 I. BACKGROUND

         ¶ 5 In November 2016, the State charged defendant by information with one count of theft, a Class A misdemeanor (720 ILCS 5/16-1(a)(1)(A), (b)(1) (West 2016)), alleging she knowingly exerted unauthorized

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control over property of Jane Bond, namely United States currency having a value not in excess of $500, intending to permanently deprive her of the use or benefit of the property.

         ¶ 6 On March 20, 2017, defendant entered a fully negotiated guilty plea to the charged offense. Prior to accepting her guilty plea, the trial court admonished defendant pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 402(a) (eff. July 1, 2012). According to the State's factual basis, Bond had undergone knee replacement and was receiving home care from defendant, who worked for Help At Home. On or about September 1, 2016, Bond and defendant ran errands, and Bond cashed a $280 check. While Bond went into a store, she left her purse in the vehicle with defendant. After running more errands, Bond discovered the money was missing.

         ¶ 7 The trial court accepted defendant's guilty plea. Thereafter, the court sentenced her to 12 months' conditional discharge, imposed various fines and fees, and ordered her to complete an online shoplifting education class.

         ¶ 8 Ten days after pleading guilty, defendant filed a motion to withdraw her guilty plea and to vacate the judgment, claiming it was not voluntarily entered. Defendant asserted she was afraid of losing her job if she continued missing work for court proceedings and felt pressured to plead guilty to resolve the case and maintain her employment. She claimed she was unaware she would lose her job if she pleaded guilty. Further, she stated the trial court did not inform her of the collateral consequences of a theft conviction on her ability to obtain and retain employment as required by section 113-4 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963 (Code) (725 ILCS 5/113-4 (West 2016)), which was in effect when she pleaded guilty. As a result of her guilty plea, defendant lost her employment.

         ¶ 9 In May 2017, the trial court conducted a hearing on defendant's motion. Defendant testified she was 23 years old. She is licensed as a certified nursing assistant and had been employed at Aging In Place on the day she pleaded guilty. On March 28, 2017, defendant was informed by her employer that the State had notified it of her theft conviction. Defendant was fired because of her conviction and had been unable to find additional employment in home health care. She testified she did not realize she would lose her job by pleading guilty and would not have done so had she known.

         ¶ 10 In its ruling, the trial judge stated he considered section 113-4 of the Code, Illinois Supreme Court Rule 402 (eff. July 1, 2012), and various cases. The judge stated, in part, as follows:

"I think that the statute that the defendant cites is directory. There are no direct, immediate and automatic consequences under the court's control that deal with employment. What Rule 402 is about is advising the defendant of those constitutional rights that she has that are involved with the criminal process and that she is made aware of and then is advised giving up through the entry of a plea of guilty. It's clear that this is done in a voluntary fashion by— according to the record, that this is done in a voluntary fashion by [defendant]. She was advised, as she was supposed to be, by Supreme Court Rule 402 of the nature of the charge, the range of penalties and those essential constitutional rights that are in Rule 402. That is the right to require the presumption of innocence, the right to require proof beyond a reasonable doubt, the right to confront and cross[-]examine witnesses, the right to proceed to trial, trial by jury or trial

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by judge, the right to present witnesses and evidence on your behalf, [and] the right to testify or choose not to testify. Those are the fundamental constitutional rights that are at issue when someone enters a plea of guilty and those [defendant] was advised of. That's what's consistent with Rule 402. So, in addition to the statute being one that's directory, the consequences that I believe on the facts [defendant] did suffer are collateral. * * * The supreme court has decided what's— what a person has to be advised of when they enter a plea of guilty. That is not what's in the, the statute. And I, I think it's correct that the legislature cannot add to what's constitutionally required by the supreme court rule. So really the, the question then becomes, because I think the statute cannot be imposed on the court, it is directory rather than mandatory and it does deal with collateral consequences. To say they're collateral doesn't mean they're not important because these things are important. Housing, employment, the ability to have an occupational license or a firearm, driver's license are important. They're not trivial. These are important things. That's— I think that's why the statute addresses it. But they are collateral."

         While Rule 402 is designed to inform defendants of the constitutional issues involved in pleading guilty, the judge believed adding other issues "runs the risk of essentially watering down the explanation of rights that someone receives because what they're supposed to be advised of [are] those constitutional rights that a criminal defendant has at the time of entry of the plea. And that's what was done."

         ¶ 11 The trial judge also considered whether a manifest injustice occurred in defendant's plea of guilty, i.e., whether there was a misapprehension of facts or law or where there was doubt as to defendant's guilt and whether justice would be better served through a trial. The judge found nothing to indicate defendant misapprehended the facts or the law of the case or that there was any doubt as to her guilt. As a result of his findings, the judge denied defendant's motion. This appeal followed.

         ¶ 12 II. ANALYSIS

         ¶ 13 Defendant argues the trial court erred in denying her motion to withdraw her guilty plea because the court's failure to admonish her as required by section 113-4 of the Code violated a mandatory statutory provision or, alternatively, because accepting the plea after the inadequate admonishments resulted in a manifest injustice. We disagree.

         ¶ 14 A. Section 113-4(c) of the Code

         ¶ 15 Initially, we question whether section 113-4(c) of the Code even applies in this case. In effect at the time of defendant's guilty plea in this case, section 113-4 of the Code (725 ILCS 5/113-4 (West 2016)) provided, in part, as follows:

"(a) When called upon to plead at arraignment, the defendant shall be furnished with a copy of the charge and shall plead guilty, guilty but mentally ill, or not guilty. (b) If the defendant stands mute a plea of not guilty shall be entered for him and the trial shall proceed on such plea. (c) If the defendant pleads guilty such plea shall not be accepted until the court shall have fully explained to the defendant the following: (1) ...

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