People v. Smith, 2017 IL App (1st) 161231 (May). Episode 365 (Duration 5:38)
Although artful and creative state can’t avoid compulsory joinder requirements with careful charging decision.
Chicago police and the Secret Service had information that defendant was making counterfeit money.
They execute a search warrant and found marijuana, counterfeit currency, and some machinery and tools.
A Secret Service agent interviewed Smith and, on the day of the arrest, Smith signed a statement in which he admitted that for three months, he had used the machinery and tools to make counterfeit currency.
The State charged Smith with possession of marijuana, and he pled guilty to the charge.
The circuit court sentenced Smith to probation.
The United States Attorney’s Office decided not to prosecute Smith for counterfeiting.
The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office also decided not to prosecute Smith further.
Over a year later for some reason the Illinois Attorney General decided to pursue the counterfeit charges.
The compulsory joinder statute provides:
“(a) When the same conduct of a defendant may establish the commission of more than one offense, the defendant may be prosecuted for each such offense. (b) If the several offenses are known to the proper prosecuting officer at the time of commencing the prosecution and are within the jurisdiction of a single court, they must be prosecuted in a single prosecution *** if they are based on the same act.”
The General Assembly enacted the compulsory joinder statute “to prevent the prosecution of multiple offenses in a piecemeal fashion and to forestall, in effect, abuse of the prosecutorial process. A prosecutor might otherwise harass a defendant through successive prosecutions of multiple offenses and put a defendant through the expense of several trials until the prosecutor obtains a result that satisfies him.” People v. Quigley, 183 Ill. 2d 1, 7 (1998).
Obviously, the state was aware of the counterfeiting, but they contest only the circuit court’s finding that the counterfeiting and the possession of marijuana constituted the “same act” within the meaning of the compulsory joinder statute.
State says they can still charge defendant if they make sure to charge him for making counterfeit money before the raid. If police found drugs, guns, counterfeit money, and machinery used to make counterfeit money, possession of the drugs and guns would count as one act separate from the act of making counterfeit money. See other crimes that are charged in Illinois.
In sum, defendant simultaneously possessed the cannabis and two handguns, and this contraband was discovered during the same search, at the same place, and at the same time.
Based on these facts, the court concluded that defendant committed a single physical act within the meaning of the compulsory joinder statute.
A different ruling would mean the state could prosecute a defendant years apart for items recovered out of the same search.
The State argues that the compulsory joinder statute permits it to charge the defendant with drug and gun possession, wait 160 days, and then file new charges based on the possession of counterfeit money and machinery used to make counterfeit money, as long as the State charged the defendant with making, and not possession of, counterfeit money.
Court said, “nice try” but “no”.
It did not believe the General Assembly intended to reward prosecutors for piecemeal litigation that harasses a defendant, as long as the State artfully pleads offenses discovered at the same time as separate acts committed at separate times.
The State’s interpretation of the compulsory joinder statute would permit prosecutors to impose consecutive sentences the court would not otherwise order, by waiting until the defendant served his sentence on one charge before formally seeking an indictment on other charges based on information prosecutors knew when they filed the original charges.
This reviewing court agreed with the circuit court that permitting the State to pursue the new charges here would contravene the purpose of the compulsory joinder statute as interpreted in the law.