Supreme Court Summaries
Opinions filed February 21, 2014
People v. Tousignant, 2014 IL 115329
Appellate citation: 2012 IL App (4th) 120650-U.
JUSTICE FREEMAN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.
Chief Justice Garman and Justice Burke concurred in the judgment and opinion.
Justice Thomas specially concurred, with opinion.
Justice Karmeier dissented, with opinion, joined by Justices Kilbride and Theis.
In Livingston County, this defendant was sentenced in April 2012 to 12 years in prison after entering an open plea of guilty to drug offenses. The trial court had entered a conviction for unlawful possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver. On May 3, 2012, a motion to reconsider the sentence as excessive was filed. At the hearing which was held, it was brought out that the defendant sought a reduction of sentence to seven years so that he would be immediately eligible for a drug treatment program. He was not successful, his motion was denied, and he appealed.
An appeal from a judgment entered on a plea of guilty is governed by Supreme Court Rules. In connection with such an appeal, counsel must certify that he or she consulted with the defendant to ascertain the contentions of error in the sentence or the entry of the plea of guilty and make any necessary amendments so as to adequately present any defects in the proceedings. The appellate court found counsel’s certificate in this instance to be inadequate for addressing the sentencing issue only and not referring to any consultations concerning error outside of the motion to reconsider sentence. The appellate court reversed and remanded for strict compliance with the procedural rules. The State appealed.
The rule language requiring counsel to ascertain “defendant’s contentions of error in the sentence or the entry of the plea of guilty” was construed by the State to be disjunctive, based on the use of the word “or.” According to this reasoning, where a defendant filed only a motion to reconsider sentence, only consultation about contentions of error in the sentence would be required and subject to certification that counsel had consulted with the accused. With this proposition, the Illinois Supreme Court did not agree, holding that the word “or” is not disjunctive in all circumstances and is not here.
In this decision, the supreme court said that the word “or,” in this context, is properly construed in the conjunctive so as to effectuate the intent of the rule. The goal of the rule is to allow the trial court to address, before an appeal is taken, any alleged improprieties which may have produced a guilty plea before an appeal is taken. If there is certification only as to sentencing issues, the possibility remains that the defendant might have had contentions of error about the guilty plea but failed to mention them. Possibly, a defendant might have concerns about the guilty plea which were not discussed with counsel and were, therefore, omitted from the postplea motion. The purpose of the certification requirement is to enable the trial court to immediately correct, before an appeal is taken, any improprieties which might have produced the guilty plea.
The appellate court’s remand was affirmed.