Appellate Court: Subsequent Felony and Misdemeanor Charges Resulting from Same Traffic Accident Do Not Violate Compulsory Joinder Statute
In People v. Delhaye, 2021 IL App (2d) 190271, the Second District Appellate Court held that the state was not required to join a ticket for failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident, to which the defendant pleaded guilty, with subsequent charges for aggravated unlawful use of an electronic communication device that resulted from the same accident.
In Delhaye, the defendant collided with another vehicle on Route 47 on October 11, 2016. The collision caused the death of one passenger and caused serious injuries to the driver and the other passenger. 2021 IL App (2d) 190271 at ¶3.
On the date of the accident, the defendant was issued a traffic citation for failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident. On January 25, 2017, the defendant pleaded guilty to failure to reduce speed and received court supervision. In August 2017, the state indicted the defendant for felony aggravated unlawful use of an electronic communication device and filed a complaint for misdemeanor unlawful use of an electronic communication device. 2021 IL App (2d) 190271 at ¶¶5 – 7.
The defendant filed a motion to dismiss and argued that the state violated the compulsory joinder statute by filing the felony and misdemeanor charges after he pleaded guilty to failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident. At the hearing on the motion to dismiss, a detective testified that the defendant’s cell phone was extracted and a report was generated on October 18, 2016. The detective also explained that he received the Illinois State Police’s accident reconstruction report on June 20, 2017. 2021 IL App (2d) 190271 at ¶¶9, 11.
The trial court denied the motion to dismiss. 2021 IL App (2d) 190271 at ¶12. At trial, the officer testified that he issued the defendant a traffic citation for failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident on October 11, 2016. The state used the defendant’s certified copy of conviction from his guilty plea to show that he was driving. The officer obtained consent to search the defendant’s cell phone at the hospital and placed the phone into evidence. 2021 IL App (2d) 190271 at ¶22.
A detective testified that he and another officer conducted a Cellebrite extraction on the defendant’s cell phone on October 17, 2016. 2021 IL App (2d) 190271 at ¶29. The Cellebrite report showed that there were 13 deleted texts between the defendant and his girlfriend. 2021 IL App (2d) 190271 at ¶33. The Cellebrite extraction report also showed that there were 10 Snapchat videos created on the day of the collision that showed the defendant driving. The report showed that 5 of the Snapchat videos were deleted later that day. 2021 IL App (2d) 190271 at ¶35.
An Illinois State Police traffic investigator testified that an accident reconstruction report takes around six months to be completed. 2021 IL App (2d) 190271 at ¶38. The trial court found the defendant guilty of both felony and misdemeanor aggravated unlawful use of an electronic communication device. 2021 IL App (2d) 190271 at ¶43.
On appeal, the defendant argued that the separate prosecutions for failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident and aggravated unlawful use of an electronic communication device violated the compulsory joinder statute. The appellate court affirmed the convictions and explained why the charges were not subject to compulsory joinder. 2021 IL App (2d) 190271 at ¶55.
The Delhaye court noted that the compulsory joinder statute, 720 ILCS 5/3-3, states in part that “[w]hen the same conduct of a defendant may establish the commission of more than one offense, the defendant may be prosecuted for each such offense” and “[i]f 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, except as provided in Subsection (c) . . . if they are based on the same act.” 2021 IL App (2d) 190271 at ¶56.
Next, 720 ILCS 5/3-4(b)(1) states that a prosecution is barred if the defendant was formerly prosecuted for a different offense if that offense resulted in a conviction or an acquittal and the subsequent prosecution was for an offense with which the defendant should have been charged on the former prosecution. 2021 IL App (2d) 190271 at ¶57.
The Delhaye court concluded that the scenario before it was controlled by the Illinois Supreme Court’s decision in People v. Jackson, 118 Ill.2d 179, 514 N.E.2d 983, 113 Ill.Dec. 71 (1987), overruled on other grounds by People v. Stefan, 146 Ill.2d 324, 586 N.E.2d 1239, 166 Ill.Dec. 910 (1992). In Jackson, the Supreme Court ruled that reckless homicide charges were not required to be joined with DUI traffic citations. 514 N.E.2d at 986 – 989. The Supreme Court held that the compulsory joinder statute did not apply to traffic offenses that were charged by a citation or a complaint. 514 N.E.2d at 988.
The Delhaye court emphasized that compulsory joinder requires knowledge about the possibility of additional charges when the defendant is initially charged. Although the defendant gave his cell phone to the officer on the day of the accident, that alone did not provide the requisite knowledge that the defendant had deleted relevant text messages. The charging officer did not have the Cellebrite report or the accident reconstruction report when he issued the ticket for failure to reduce speed. 2021 IL App (2d) 190271 at ¶67.
Therefore, the Delhaye court held that the misdemeanor and felony aggravated unlawful use of an electronic communication device charges were not required to be joined with the failure to reduce speed ticket. Id.
Length of Life Sentence for Juveniles Contingent on Good Conduct Credit
The Illinois Supreme Court recently filed its opinion in People v. Dorsey, 2021 IL 123010, in which the defendant had sought to appeal his original conviction, arguing that the sentencing term violated his Eighth Amendment rights because he was a minor at the time the crime was committed. Notwithstanding his original 76-year sentence, the court ruled that “good-conduct credit is relevant and that a sentence imposed pursuant to a statutory scheme that affords a juvenile an opportunity to be released from prison after serving 40 years or less of the term imposed does not constitute a de facto life sentence” and thus is not a violation of the Eighth Amendment. 2021 IL 123010 at ¶1.
Since the defendant could theoretically earn day-for-day good conduct credit, the court found that he could potentially be released after serving 38 years of his sentence. 2021 IL 123010 at ¶50. Accordingly, the Illinois Supreme Court affirmed the lower court decisions and denied the defendant’s motion for leave to file a successive postconviction petition.
At the original trial in 1998, the defendant in Dorsey was convicted of one count of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted first-degree murder after having opened fire with a gun at four customers inside a Chicago restaurant. 2021 IL 123010 at ¶5. At the defendant’s sentencing hearing, the court heard victim impact testimony from the family members of the children who were shot (a 16-year-old was killed, and a 13-year-old and 16-year-old were severely injured). 2021 IL 123010 at ¶3, ¶¶8 – 10. The court also heard mitigation from the defendant’s family members and took into consideration the defendant’s age before rendering a final decision. 2021 IL 123010 at ¶¶11 – 12. Although he was only 14 years old at the time of the shooting, the defendant was sentenced to a total of 76 years in prison. 2021 IL 123010 at ¶19.
Defining a “Life Sentence” for Juveniles
A major component of this appeal raises the question how a court should determine whether a sentence qualifies as a “life sentence” with respect to minors. Specifically, the defendant cited the United States Supreme Court decision Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460, 183 L.Ed.2d 407, 132 S.Ct. 2455, 2460 (2012), which held that “mandatory life without parole for those under the age of 18 at the time of their crimes violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on ‘cruel and unusual punishments.’ ” 2021 IL 123010 at ¶26. In Miller, supra, the Supreme Court reasoned:
By requiring that all children convicted of homicide receive lifetime incarceration without possibility of parole, regardless of their age and age-related characteristics and the nature of their crimes, the mandatory-sentencing schemes before us violate this principle of proportionality, and so the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. 132 S.Ct. at 2475.
As recognized by the Illinois Supreme Court in Dorsey, the same court had stated in People v. Buffer, 2019 IL 122327, ¶40, 137 N.E.3d 763, 434 Ill.Dec. 691, “In determining when a juvenile defendant’s prison term is long enough to be considered de facto life without parole, we choose to draw a line at 40 years.” In reaching that figure, the court in Buffer relied heavily on 730 ILCS 5/5-4.5-105, which was introduced and became effective in Illinois after the United States Supreme Court had decided Miller. 2019 IL 122327 at ¶36. The court specifically relied on subsection (c) of the juvenile sentencing statute, which states that
[n]otwithstanding any other provision of law, if the defendant is convicted of first degree murder and would otherwise be subject to [a term of natural life imprisonment] . . . the court shall impose a sentence of not less than 40 years of imprisonment. 2019 IL 122327 at ¶37, quoting 730 ILCS 5/5-4.5-105(c).
As the court reasoned in its analysis of the statute, “[t]he legislature evidently believed that this 40-year floor for juvenile offenders who commit egregious crimes complies with the requirements of Miller.” Buffer, 2019 IL 122327 at ¶39. Operating under this precedent, the court in Dorsey, supra, evaluated the question whether the defendant’s 76-year sentence should be considered in its entirety or whether the appropriate measure of the defendant’s actual sentence is instead the theoretical 38-year sentence (accounting for day-for-day good conduct credit, or half of the 76-year sentence). 2021 IL 123010 at ¶99. Significantly, if the court followed the defendant’s position, his 76-year sentence would be considered de facto life without parole and a violation of his Eighth Amendment rights. Conversely, if the court followed the state’s position that the defendant’s potential day-for-day good conduct credit is relevant to the analysis (thus rendering the defendant’s 76-year sentence to a minimum of 38 years), the trial court’s original sentence would not be a violation of the defendant’s Eighth Amendment rights.
Potential Good Conduct Credit Means a “Life Sentence” of More Than 40 Years Is Not Always a “Life Sentence”
In Dorsey, the state maintained that since the defendant was eligible for day-for-day good conduct credit, he had the opportunity to be released after serving 38 years of his sentence, which is below the 40-year threshold for a life without parole functional equivalence. 2021 IL 123010 at ¶50. Specifically, the state argued that “good-conduct credit must be taken into account because the focus is rightly on the sentencing scheme in its entirety, not just the sentence imposed, as Miller forbids a ‘sentencing scheme’ that results in life in prison without the possibility of parole for juvenile homicide offenders.” Dorsey, 2021 IL 123010 at ¶49, quoting Miller, supra, 132 S.Ct. at 2469.
On appeal, the defendant in Dorsey argued that the court should consider his total 76-year sentence when determining whether his sentence was effectively “life without parole.” 2021 IL 123010 at ¶28. The defendant argued that although he could theoretically be released after serving half of that sentence (which would put his total time served below the 40-year threshold), there were three reasons why that theoretical early release should be irrelevant to the Eighth Amendment analysis:
(1) the trial court has no control over the way a defendant’s good-conduct credit might be lost, and there is no certainty he will earn it or avoid serving the full sentence imposed; (2) the Department of Corrections can revoke good-conduct credit with “little to no due process afforded”; and (3) complying with prison rules and obtaining good-conduct credit does not show that an offender is ready to reenter society. 2021 IL 123010 at ¶55.
The Illinois Supreme Court, however, found “each of these contentions to be without merit.” 2021 IL 123010 at ¶56. In addressing the defendant’s arguments, the court held that “it is the defendant who has it entirely within his power to shorten his sentence based on good-conduct credit.” Id., citing United States v. Mathurin, 868 F.3d 921, 935 (11th Cir. 2017). In addressing the Department of Correction’s ability to revoke good conduct credit, the court relied on extensive caselaw that provided that “Illinois law provides for a multistep process before an inmate’s good-conduct credit can be revoked,” and that said process “[has] been found to comport with due process and thus protect against arbitrary revocation of sentence credit.” Dorsey, supra, 2021 IL 123010 at ¶60, citing Lucas v. Taylor, 349 Ill.App.3d 995, 812 N.E.2d 72, 76, 78, 285 Ill.Dec. 483 (4th Dist. 2004), and Rodriguez v. Illinois Prisoner Review Board, 376 Ill.App.3d 429, 435, 876 N.E.2d 659, 665, 315 Ill.Dec. 347 (5th Dist. 2007). In response to the defendant’s third argument challenging the correlation between good conduct in prison and readiness to reenter society, the Illinois Supreme Court held that “[a]n inmate’s behavior in prison tends to be indicative of his or her readiness for release,” stating that “it can be evidence that a person has changed and learned to conform his or her conduct to a set of rules.” Dorsey, supra, 2021 IL 123010 at ¶63.
The Illinois Supreme Court — much like the trial court — noted numerous times throughout its opinion that the young age of juveniles charged with egregious crimes certainly plays a factor at sentencing. Id. Notwithstanding this special consideration, the court’s position maintains that even if a juvenile is sentenced to over 40 years imprisonment, such a sentence is permissible if there remains a potential for the defendant to be released or become eligible for parole at a time below the 40-year threshold.
For more information about criminal law, see FEDERAL CRIMINAL PRACTICE (IICLE®, 2019). Online Library subscribers can view it for free by clicking here. If you don’t currently subscribe to the Online Library, visit www.iicle.com/subscriptions.
For more information about criminal law, see DEFENDING CRIMINAL CASES: PRETRIAL ISSUES, GUILTY PLEAS, AND DEFENSES (IICLE®, 2021). Online Library subscribers can view it for free by clicking here. If you don’t currently subscribe to the Online Library, visit www.iicle.com/subscriptions.