People v. Hardman, 2017 IL 121453 (November). Episode 440 (Duration 8:24).
Is is sufficient for a couple officers to testify they are familiar with the neighborhood and that the building is a school?
The State charged Hardman with one count of possessing between 1 and 15 grams of heroin with intent to deliver within 1000 feet of “any school *** to wit: Ryerson Elementary School,” a Class X offense. See 720 ILCS 570/401(c)(1), 407(b)(1) (West 2012).
At trial, three officers testified about the location of the drug transactions.
Most of that testimony went like this:
“Q. Now, how long had you worked in the 11th District on the date of this incident?
A. Well, I’d been in the 11th District nine years.
Q. In your nine years in the 11th District were you familiar with this area where the arrest occurred?
Q. Are you familiar with the schools near this address?
A. I am.
Q. What school is there?
A. Laura Ward School.
Q. Is that what it is currently called?
A. Yes. It changed.
Q. What was the name of the school back on July 22, 2013?
Hardman only challenges whether the evidence established that the building at issue was a school.
On appeal, Hardman argued that the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the building at issue was operating as a school on the date of the offense because the evidence showed that the building was in flux or in transition around the time of the offense.
To establish that an offense occurred within 1000 feet of a school, Hardman asserts that the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the building at issue was an active or operational “school” at the time of the offense. To do so, according to Hardman, requires that the State present particularized evidence, based on a witness’s personal knowledge of an enhancing location’s actual use at the time of the offense.
Inherit in the defendant’s argument is the idea that is insufficient for the State to present testimony of a police officer who simply refers to a building as a “school.”
So What’s A School?
No section of the Illinois Controlled Substances Act defines the term “school.” 720 ILCS 570/101 et seq.
However, the term has acquired a settled meaning through judicial construction and legislative acquiescence. Courts look to the definition of “school” contained within the Criminal Code of 2012 (Criminal Code), which provides that a school
“means a public, private, or parochial elementary or secondary school, community college, college, or university and includes the grounds of a school.”
Subsections 407(b)(1)-(6) do not speak to any “use” requirement in the context of a school locality enhancement.
Additionally, section 407(c) makes clear that the State need not demonstrate that a building was active or operational on the day of the offense. It provides:
“[r]egarding penalties prescribed in subsection (b) for violations committed in a school or on or within 1,000 feet of school property, the time of day, time of year and whether classes were currently in session at the time of the offense is irrelevant.”
Requiring particularized evidence as to a purported school building’s active or operational status on the day of an offense would run counter to section 407(c)’s plain language.
Difference Between A Church And A School
As discussed, subsections 407(b)(1)-(6) require the State to demonstrate that the purported church was “used primarily for religious worship.” See 720 ILCS 570/407(b)(1)-(6) (West 2012).
Conversely, subsections 407(b)(1)-(6) and section 407(c) make clear that the State need not present particularized evidence as to a purported school’s use.
Requiring such evidence would necessarily and impermissibly read a use requirement into the statute and conflict with section 407(c).
We now address whether the testimony presented at Hardman’s trial was sufficient to prove that Hardman’s underlying offense occurred within 1000 feet of a school.
In the instant case, not only did the evidence show that 646 North Lawndale Avenue was named as a school, Officer Harmon’s and Officer Ruggiero’s testimony revealed their familiarity with the area where 646 North Lawndale Avenue was located. Both officers had worked in the area for years, and both knew enough about the area to know that the name of the school had changed.
As mentioned, a trier of fact is not required to disregard inferences which flow normally from the evidence. The logical inference, here, is that both officers knew the area well enough to know that 646 North Lawndale Avenue was still a school, despite the school’s change in name.
We agree with the appellate court that the status of 646 North Lawndale Avenue as a school could be inferred from the testimony of two officers with demonstrated familiarity with the area due to their having worked in the area for years.
Therefore, we affirm Hardman’s conviction for possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver within 1000 feet of a school.
We reject Hardman’s argument that, for purposes of demonstrating that an offense took place within 1000 feet of a school under section 407(b), the State must present particularized evidence that a building is an “active” or “operational” school on the day of the offense.
Taking the evidence in the light most favorable to the State, we find that a rational trier of fact could have found that the testimony gave rise to a reasonable inference that 646 North Lawndale Avenue was a school.
The Illinois Supreme Court disagreed with Hardman’s contention that the State is required to present evidence as to whether a school is active or operational on the date of the offense.
People v. Davis, 2016 IL App (1st) 142414 (June). Episode 200 (Duration 3:45)