People v. Coats, 2018 IL 121926 (January). Episode 466 (Duration 7:24)
One Act – One Crime principles needed a little cleaning up.
The trial court found defendant guilty of being an armed habitual criminal, armed violence, and two counts of possession of a controlled substance (heroin) with intent to deliver.
The possession counts merged into the armed violence count.
Defendant was sentenced to 7 years in prison on the armed habitual criminal count to run consecutively to a term of 15 years in prison on the armed violence count.
Chicago police officer Edwin Utreras was part of a team executing a search warrant at a two-flat basement apartment in Chicago.
After forcing entry into the apartment and detaining four individuals, Utreras and his team approached a locked, rear room. They knocked on the door and heard people shuffling around inside the room, but nobody answered the door.
Utreras’s partner then forced entry into the room, where Utreras saw defendant holding a handgun in his left hand and two plastic bags in his right hand, which he was placing on a window ledge. Utreras recovered a .45-caliber handgun loaded with nine live rounds of ammunition, as well as both bags.
Inside one bag was a clear bag containing 53 smaller bags of suspected crack cocaine and one “knotted bag” containing suspected crack cocaine. Inside the other bag was a clear plastic bag containing 92 bags of suspected heroin. Drugs were also recovered in other areas of the room, including suspected heroin recovered from the refrigerator. The police also recovered cash currency, ammunition, and narcotics packaging materials.
The parties stipulated that a chemist verified the contents of the plastic bags defendant was holding, which contained over 15 grams of heroin.
The parties also stipulated to defendant’s prior convictions for robbery and aggravated robbery.
Split In The District
There is a conflict between the Second District decision in People v. Williams, 302 Ill. App. 3d 975 (1999), and the Fourth District’s decision in People v. White, 311 Ill. App. 3d 374 (2000). 2016 IL App (1st) 142028-U, ¶¶ 25-27 on whether the armed violence should have merged with the armed habitual criminal offense.
We first consider whether a one-act, one-crime error occurred. In People v. King, 66 Ill. 2d 551, 566 (1977), this court held that a criminal defendant may not be convicted of multiple offenses when those offenses are all based on precisely the same physical act.
This is an opinion pertaining to Illinois sentencing.
Although this rule is not derived from the constitutional prohibition against double jeopardy, we have continued to reaffirm and adhere to it over the last four decades based on the prejudice that results when there are multiple convictions for precisely the same criminal conduct.
Two Step Analysis
In making that determination, this court has long followed a two-step analysis. People v. Rodriguez, 169 Ill. 2d 183, 186 (1996).
First, the court ascertains whether the defendant’s conduct consisted of a single physical act or separate acts.
Second, if it is determined that the defendant committed multiple acts, the court then moves to the second step and determines whether any of the offenses are lesser-included offenses. If none of the offenses are lesser-included offenses, then multiple convictions are proper.
Same Physical Act
We must first determine whether defendant’s conduct consisted of separate physical acts or a single physical act.
Defendant maintains that his armed violence conviction was carved from precisely the same physical act as his armed habitual criminal conviction because they both arose from his act of possessing the handgun.
In clarifying the one-act, one-crime rule from King, the supreme court explained that a court must first determine whether Smith’s conduct consisted of a single physical act or separate acts. People v. Rodriguez, 169 Ill. 2d 183, 186 (1996).
A defendant can be convicted of two offenses where a common act is part of both crimes. But, where two offenses share a common act, there must be another separate act to sustain the two convictions. As long as there are multiple acts as defined in King, their interrelationship does not preclude multiple convictions.
The facts of this case reveal that defendant’s conduct consisted of two physical acts: possession of the handgun and possession of the drugs.
Although the two offenses shared the common act of possession of the handgun, which served as a basis for both convictions, defendant’s armed violence conviction involved a separate act, possessing the drugs. That act was applicable only to the armed violence offense.
Since the possession of the handgun was only part of the conduct which formed the basis for the separate armed violence conviction, the two offenses were not carved from precisely the same physical act.
Consequently, based on this court’s precedent, Williams misapplied the one-act, one-crime rule. We therefore expressly overrule it.
In sum, under the first step in the one-act, one-crime analysis, defendant’s conduct consisted of multiple acts. We next consider the second step. Being an armed habitual criminal is not a lesser included offense of armed violence, therefore, we conclude that defendant’s convictions were proper under the one-act, one-crime rule.
Accordingly, because we find no error, there is no plain error. We affirm the judgment of the appellate court, which affirmed the judgment of the circuit court.
Episode 451 – People v. Smith, 2017 IL App (1st) 151312 (October) (a single punch to the gut constituted one act)