Illinois Case Law Updates for APRIL 2015 – Fast and convenient summary or recent Illinois criminal court cases created just for you.
Get informed and up to speed on the latest case law. Click through to the court decision if you think the case is relevant to a current issue you are facing.
Was it proper to stop a car for a lane infraction when the cop had a hunch the car was connected to an accident he was investigating? Go to case.
Yes. Pretextual stops are a-okay. Officer responding to an SUV accident (SUV stuck on the medium) can’t find the driver. Cop sees a different car pull away from the scene. Stops that car for a lane infraction and driver of the SUV is in the passenger’s seat. She is arrested for DUI. Cop 100% stops the car because he thought it could be connected to the accident. “Subjective intentions play no role in ordinary, probable-cause Fourth Amendment analysis.” Probable cause existed prior to the stop regardless of the officer’s articulated reason for conducting the traffic stop. The lawfulness of a traffic stop must be measured by the trial judge rather than dictated by the officer’s motivations. formulated under exigent circumstances. People v. Taiwo
9 year sentence for aggravated DUI Death conviction upheld; it was not excessive. Go to Case.
Add riding race horses to the list of things you should not do after drinking. Sadly, Defendant’s girlfriend was killed when there was an accident with the horse she was on and the truck Defendant was driving. Two prior DUIs and an attempted criminal sexual conduct meant there were no extraordinary circumstances here. Court also discussed what fines the $5 jail credit could be applied to. People v. Lake
Was it error for the judge to tell the jury that they could decide for themselves what “reasonable doubt” means? Go to case.
This was not a jury question, but judge informed them during jury selection that “…you will not get a definition of beyond a reasonable doubt. That is for you to determine.” Court also told them, “As I said earlier today, you will decide what reasonable doubt is. There’s not going to be a jury instruction that explains it to you. It is what it is, beyond a reasonable doubt.” The appellate court found that these statements sent an unconstitutional message to jurors that they had discretion to determine what “reasonable doubt” means. Additionally, the statements likely influenced the jury because they were made just one day before the jury reached its verdict, making the statements fresh in the jurors’ minds when they deliberated. This aggravated sexual abuse was reversed. People v. Gashi
Search & Seizure
U.S. Supreme Court limits when a police drug dog may conduct a sniff test during a traffic stop. Go to case.
Officer conducts the sniff test after the business of the traffic stop had been completed. The sniff only took 7 to 8 minutes. The court refused to find a de minimis constitutional violation as urged by the State. Any addition to the total time used to conduct a traffic stop is going to be found unconstitutional as beyond the proper scope of the stop. Rodriguez v. United States
Appellate counsel was ineffective for not challenging the denial of his motion to suppress. Go to Case.
Police responded to a call of a fight possibly with weapons. Cops get there and find defendant walking with a friend. They say it was not them involved. Cop detains them to investigate if they were involved. They could not walk away. 911 caller shows up and says these aren’t the guys. When the cops ask to pat him down, he runs, slips on some ice and gets arrested. He is found with a loaded pistol, cocaine, cannabis and $560 cash. Appellate counsel mistakenly thought he could not appeal because the stipulated bench trial was like a plea. This court found Defendant made an arguable constitutional claim of ineffective assistance of appellate counsel. See direct appeal decision. Reversed and remanded. People v. Shipp
Defendant presented a gist of a constitutional claim for ineffective assistance of counsel in his postconviction petition when he alleged trial counsel never told him he would be deported. Go to case.
Defendant was a lawful permanent resident and claims he was not advised he would lose his status if he plead to possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver. A criminal defendant receives constitutionally deficient assistance of counsel where counsel fails to advise a defendant that his guilty plea carries a risk of deportation. Federal immigration law commands removal for all controlled substances convictions except trivial marijuana possession offenses. The allegations, if taken as true at the first stage of postconviction proceedings, are sufficient to establish that plea counsel’s performance arguably fell below an objective standard of reasonableness under Padilla. People v. Deltoro
No ineffective assistance of counsel found for not asking for a lesser included offense of resisting arrest in defendant’s trial for aggravated battery to a police officer. Go to case.
With these facts there was no way they would have supported a conviction for resisting a peace officer and a simultaneous acquittal of aggravated battery. Defendant dug his fingernails into the officer’s hand and spat blood across his face and shirt. In looking for any evidence adduced, even “[v]ery slight evidence”, does not mean the court should indiscriminately troll through the record looking for any evidence at all of resisting a peace officer. The charging document still governs. The court answered this question with a “no”: Would it have been rationally defensible to find that by knowingly digging his fingernails into the officer’s hand, defendant committed the offense of resisting a peace officer but not the offense of aggravated battery? People v. Wrencher (wrongful arrest, not charged with resisting, was charged with agg bat, made it third stage of postconviction)
Illinois Supreme Court says that DNA analysts lab notes are not testimonial. Go to case.
Defendant made a confrontation clause argument that his constitutional rights were violated when the State presented DNA laboratory work and conclusions of non testifying scientists. These scientists did not testify so they could not be cross-examined. The court held that because this DNA work was done before Defendant was charged or identified it could not have been done in preparation for a prosecution. Thus, the reports were not testimonial in nature nor in violation of the Crawford principle. People v. Barner
Murder conviction is reversed where the firearm expert witness’s opinion lacked sufficient foundation when the expert failed to testify to any facts that formed the bases or reasons for the opinion that the bullet matched defendant’s gun. Go to case.
This was a close circumstantial robbery and murder case. The expert testified that what is “sufficient agreement” between bullet comparisons is based on his training and experience, no national standard is used, and examinations at the Illinois State Police laboratory are verified by another examiner. If the expert opinion concerns scientific evidence, there must be a foundation laid for the scientific principle or methodology used by the expert in arriving at his or her opinion. Specifically, the proponent must lay an adequate foundation establishing that the information upon which the expert bases his opinion is reliable. Here, the expert did not testify to the specifics of the striations that he used to come to his conclusion. The court noted that the this expert’s zero-based testimony was the result of either the shortcut direct examination by the State or poor testimony by the expert. The expert did not testify to even a single individual characteristic or striation or marking as a point of comparison on the bullet recovered from the victim’s body to the test bullets fired from defendant’s gun. He did not testify to even one. The minimal testimony that he looked at the “overall pattern” and concluded that there was “sufficient agreement” equates to telling the trier of fact “take my word for it.” People v. Jones
No discovery violation occurred even though the State submitted a knife for DNA testing nearly fours years after discovery was due. Go to case.
The appellate court held that the State’s reason for the late DNA testing was that the knife testing was “lost in transition” between two prosecutors working on the case. In other words, it was an oversight. Reviewing court found this to be a plausible, good-faith reason for the oversight and it was not willful or blatant. Also, the trial court abused its discretion by excluding the test results in the absence of an allegation or showing of unfair prejudice to the defense. Finally, statements made by defendant and recorded by a 911 call are admissions, and are plainly considered nonhearsay under Ill. R. Evid. 801(d)(1)(B)(2) Illinois law. People v. Schlott
Contempt of Court
10 years for refusing to testify in a murder trial is about right. Go to case.
Defendant had already testified against two co-defendants in a double murder but refused to testify against the third guy. Said he was pleading the Fifth, then later said he just forgot the details. So, unclear why he suddenly refused to testify. Court said 10 years for this “assault” on the judicial system was not grossly disproportionate to the nature of the contemptuous act when considered in light of defendant’s previous criminal history. Originally, the sentence was 20 years but the Illinois Supreme Court reversed that in an earlier proceeding. People v. Geiger
It was proper to dismiss this second stage petition because newly discovered evidence, which merely has the effect of impeaching, discrediting, or contradicting a witness is not a basis for a new trial. Go to case.
This defendant had filed multiple post trial motions each alleging ineffectiveness or “new evidence.” Hearings on the motions never turned out quite like defendant was claiming. This was the second time he was saying a witness saw the victim with a gun. The first time Defendant tried this the witness came into court and said he actually didn’t see a gun. Defendant himself testified that the victim did not have a gun when the fight began. People v. Wingate
Defendant filed his post trial motion and notice of appeal beyond 30 days, no error in denying his petition seeking leave to file his notice of appeal beyond the 30 days. Go to case.
Defendant said he thought his trial attorney was going to file the post trial motion and notice of appeal. That didn’t happen. He discovered the negligence late then sought leave to file. Failure to comply with the rule leaves the appellate court without jurisdiction. Defendant argued that he did not file a postconviction petition. Thus, the court did the only thing it could do; dismiss for lack of jurisdiction. Had Defendant allowed the trial court to treat his petition, filed 4 years after the sentence, he would have had a better shot to claim ineffectiveness and at least make his argument on the merits. This case also discusses the effects of a stipulated bench trial. People v. Moore
16 year old defendant has his sentence reduced to 31 years, down from 50 years, because the trial court did not rely on the constitutional objective of restoring defendant to useful citizenship. Go to case.
Defendant rejected an 8 year offer. He was convicted of attempted first degree murder with a 25 year gun add on for causing great bodily harm. Defendant boards a bus and shoots at another young man on the bus. Appellate court took issue with the judge’s uncertain speculative evidence of the gun jamming to support a phantom aggravating factor that but for defendant’s gun jamming, defendant would have caused more violence on the bus that day. The appellate court noted that children do not have fully matured levels of judgment or impulse control, and they are uniquely capable of change. The reviewing court held that the trial judge abused its discretion in sentencing defendant to 25 years’ imprisonment for attempted first degree murder because it relied on the speculative evidence of defendant’s gun jamming and because defendant’s sentence did not satisfy the constitutional objective of restoring him to useful citizenship. See Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, § 11. People v. Brown
Defendant claimed he was inappropriately sentenced to an extended term even though he was sentenced within the normal range. Go to case.
During the sentencing hearing the judge said defendant was eligible for two extended terms on his high count and the lower count of aggravated battery. The extended term only applied to the higher conviction he had and not the aggravated battery. Yet, the court sentenced defendant to a term of imprisonment significantly below the extended-term range on the lower count. Error is still possible if the judge thought he was in low end of a possibly extended term. Even if the trial court did believe that defendant was extended-term eligible, this mistaken belief did not affect the sentencing decision. There was no clear or obvious error. People v. Arbuckle
Trial court did not error in imposing 4 concurrent sentences because, even though the jury found great bodily harm, the judge did not find severe bodily injury. Go to case.
“Great bodily harm” and “severe bodily injury” each play different roles in a criminal proceeding. Thus, they are and were intended to be entirely distinct concepts. The jury did find great bodily harm when Defendant shot the arm of a victim in a van. But this does not automatically lead to a finding of severe bodily injury at sentencing. Great bodily harm was an element of one of the counts of attempted murder. Severe bodily injury is required for mandatory consecutive sentences. The court held that “severe bodily injury” requires a degree of harm to the victim that is something more than that required to create “great bodily harm”. The trial court always retains discretion to determine separately whether defendant inflicted severe bodily injury for the purpose of imposing consecutive sentences. The trial judge felt that a bullet to the arm that could not be removed was not so severe as to warrant consecutive 40 sentences. People v. Ramirez
Defendant’s phone confession was not made during a plea discussion so it was error for the trial judge to suppress these statements. Go to case.
Cop, in phone call, tells Defendant to come in and confess and the officer “would be willing to consider” charging a misdemeanor and not a felony theft. Cop asked him what he would say. Defendant says he would write that he took $50 in coins from a washing machine on 12 occasions. A guilty plea was not discussed. He was charged with a felony. Defendant challenged this under a 402 argument saying that he was in plea discussion with the cop. The reviewing court said that defendant did not subjectively believe he was negotiating a guilty plea. Further, it was not objectively reasonable for defendant to believe that the officer had authority to engage in plea discussions. The reviewing court said this was merely a routine police investigation employing an interrogation technique. People v. Neese
Judge erred in asking about the Zeher principles, however, the case was not so closely balanced that the trial court’s error warrants reversal under the plain-error doctrine. Go to case.
There was clear evidence of resisting arrest. The supreme court rejected the argument that failure to ask a Rule 431(b) question amounts to plain error under the second prong of the analysis. People v. Sebby