Supreme Court Summaries

Opinions filed November 29, 2012





People v. Hughes, 2012 IL 112817

Appellate citation: 2011 IL App (2d) 090992.


      JUSTICE THEIS delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

      Chief Justice Kilbride and Justices Thomas, Garman, and Karmeier concurred in the judgment and opinion.

      Justice Freeman dissented, with opinion, joined by Justice Burke.


      This Lake County defendant pled guilty in 2006 to one count of aggravated criminal sexual abuse of a minor and received a 14-year term. He had originally been indicted for offenses involving several minor victims arising at various times between 1995 and 1998. Some of the charged were nol-prossed in 1999, but there was then a break in the criminal proceedings while the State attempted to have defendant involuntarily committed as sexually dangerous under the Sexually Dangerous Persons Act (725 ILCS 205/0.01 et seq.). In 2000, a jury so found, but, after the appellate court reversed for evidentiary error and remanded in 2004, the State did not seek civil commitment as sexually dangerous a second time, but proceeded with the criminal prosecution. Plea negotiations began, and the State agreed to dismiss all of the remaining counts except the one at issue here, to which the defendant pled guilty. Considering the amount of time he had already spent in custody, it was anticipated that the defendant would be sent to the penitentiary as a mere formality, and, after calculation of his good-time credit, would soon be sent home, disposing of the entire matter.

      However, two weeks after the plea, the Attorney General (not the State’s Attorney) filed a petition under a different statute to have the defendant civilly committed as sexually violent under the Sexually Violent Persons Commitment Act (725 ILCS 207/1 et seq.). Hughes then made a motion to withdraw his guilty plea, which was denied, and the appellate court affirmed. Hughes argued that he had not been advised that, because of the offense to which he had pled guilty, he could be subject to a petition for his civil commitment as sexually violent upon completion of his prison term. Such a commitment is not automatic, and before it can occur, an evaluation of the individual must take place pursuant to criteria provided by the statute. There is then a separate civil proceeding, which the individual in question has an opportunity to contest.

      In this decision, the supreme court held that, where an accused pleads guilty, as the defendant did here, to an offense which could trigger application of the Sexually Violent Persons Commitment Act, defense counsel has a minimal duty to advise him that, after completing his prison term, he will be evaluated and may risk eventual involuntary commitment as sexually violent.

      However, the supreme court held here that Hughes had failed to meet his burden of showing that he was denied effective assistance of counsel under the facts of this case. He had been less than clear as to any discussions with counsel concerning a sexually-violent-person petition, thereby failing to establish that counsel was deficient. In addition, he could not meet his burden of proof by simply alleging that he would not have pled guilty but for counsel’s alleged deficiency. He must also establish prejudice by asserting actual innocence or a plausible defense, which would be indicative of likely success at trial. This Hughes did not do. He failed to establish the showing necessary to merit plea withdrawal.

      The supreme court also rejected the defendant’s challenge to the subject matter jurisdiction of the circuit court to accept the plea.

      The appellate court, which had found no abuse of discretion in the circuit court’s denial of the motion to withdraw the plea, was affirmed.