People v. Johnson

Decision Date01 August 2019
Docket NumberDocket No. 123318
Citation160 N.E.3d 31,442 Ill.Dec. 458,2019 IL 123318
Parties The PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Appellant, v. Darren JOHNSON, Appellee.
CourtIllinois Supreme Court

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

¶ 1 Following a November 2014 jury trial in the Whiteside County circuit court, the defendant, Darren Johnson, was convicted of burglary and sentenced to eight years in prison. The appellate court reversed defendant's conviction on appeal. As a matter of law, it held that the facts did not support the conviction because defendant entered the premises of the store where the alleged crime occurred during business hours and therefore his entry was not "without authority" within the meaning of the burglary statute. We allowed the State's petition for leave to appeal. For the reasons that follow, we reverse the judgment of the appellate court and remand the cause to that court for consideration of the remaining issues that were not reached.


¶ 3 Defendant was charged by information with one count of burglary ( 720 ILCS 5/19-1(a) (West 2014)) and one count of retail theft (id. § 16-25(a)(1)). The burglary count alleged that on July 22, 2014, defendant, "without authority, knowingly entered a building of Wal-Mart, located at 1901 1st Avenue, Rock Falls, Whiteside County, Illinois, with the intent to commit therein a theft." The retail theft count alleged that defendant stole from Walmart various items of merchandise with a total value of less than $300.

¶ 4 The evidence presented at trial, including eyewitness testimony and video surveillance footage, showed that defendant and an accomplice entered the Walmart's vestibule area, placed two backpacks on top of a coin-exchange machine, and then entered the store. Inside, a customer observed the two men walking around with what looked like clothes in their hands and "veer[ing] off" when approached. Eventually, the two men returned to the vestibule area separately, each retrieving one of the backpacks from the top of the coin-exchange machine. They then met near some vending machines outside the building. The customer, who was by this time in the parking lot, saw defendant keeping a lookout as the other man removed items from his shirt and pants and stuffed them into one of the backpacks.

¶ 5 As the customer called the police, defendant and the other man returned to the vestibule, again placed their backpacks on top of the coin-exchange machine, and then reentered the store. Defendant later returned to the vestibule area alone, retrieved one of the backpacks from the coin-exchange machine, and exited the store. By this time, three police officers had arrived. Two of the officers observed defendant exit the store after retrieving the backpack, and they followed him on foot. The third officer pulled his car alongside defendant and got out to talk to him. The officer asked defendant if he had stolen items from Walmart, and defendant admitted that he had. The officers then escorted defendant to the store manager's office, where defendant removed from his backpack or person 14 purchasable items of girl's clothing with a total retail value of $76.91. Defendant stated that he had taken the items to give to his daughter.

¶ 6 The trial judge instructed the jury on the elements of burglary and retail theft. Those instructions included an explanation that a person "commits the offense of burglary when he, without authority, knowingly enters a building with the intent to commit therein the offense of theft." The jury was also given Illinois Pattern Jury Instruction, Criminal, No. 14.07A (4th ed. 2000), which states as follows with respect to the limited authority a person has to enter a building:

"The defendant's entry into a building is ‘without authority’ if, at the time of entry, the defendant has an intent to commit a criminal act within the building regardless of whether the defendant was initially invited in or received consent to enter.
However, the defendant's entry into the building is ‘with authority’ if the defendant enters without criminal intent and was initially invited in or received consent to enter, regardless of what the defendant does after he enters."

The instruction is consistent with this court's holding in People v. Weaver , 41 Ill. 2d 434, 243 N.E.2d 245 (1968), which set forth the limited authority a person has to enter a business building or other building open to the public. In Weaver , this court held, in the context of a charge brought under the same version of the burglary statute at issue in the present case, that "authority to enter a business building, or other building open to the public, extends only to those who enter with a purpose consistent with the reason the building is open." Id. at 439, 243 N.E.2d 245. The court further stated that "[a]n entry with intent to commit a theft cannot be said to be within the authority granted patrons." Id.

¶ 7 The jury returned verdicts finding defendant guilty of burglary and not guilty of retail theft. At sentencing, it was determined that burglary is generally a Class 2 felony with a sentencing range of 3 to 7 years ( 720 ILCS 5/19-1(b) (West 2014); 730 ILCS 5/5-4.5-35(a) (West 2014)), but defendant was subject to a Class X sentencing range of 6 to 30 years due to his criminal history ( 730 ILCS 5/5-4.5-95(b) (West 2014); id. § 5-4.5-25(a)). Defendant's lengthy criminal history included three separate convictions for robbery in 1987, burglary in 1992, separate theft and burglary convictions in 1994, resisting a peace officer in 1998, residential burglary in 1999, possession of cannabis in 2006, a conviction in 2007 for altering a lottery ticket for which he was sentenced to five years in prison in Iowa, convictions for assault and resisting a peace officer in 2009, and another resisting a peace officer conviction in 2012. The prosecutor noted that by his calculations defendant had been sentenced to 36 years in prison in all since 1987, yet he was only 44 years old at the time of sentencing in the present case. The prosecutor argued that defendant had never led a law-abiding life and that he continually commits offenses when he is released from the Department of Corrections. The State therefore recommended a 15-year, extended-term sentence. The trial court considered defendant's lengthy criminal history and the conduct involved in the instant offense, including its nonviolent nature, and sentenced defendant to eight years in prison.

¶ 8 On appeal, defendant raised four issues. First, he argued that the evidence presented on the "without authority" element of the burglary count was insufficient to convict. Second, he maintained that the evidence was also insufficient to convict with respect to the element of burglary that requires that the defendant intend to commit a theft or a felony upon entry. Third, defendant sought a new trial because the trial judge prohibited jurors from taking notes during trial, contrary to section 115-4(n) of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963 ( 725 ILCS 5/115-4(n) (West 2014)). And finally, defendant sought to reduce the amounts assessed against him as part of his sentence from $557 to $490, contending that the trial court failed to grant the mandatory $5 per day credit against three of his assessments.

¶ 9 The appellate court reversed defendant's conviction outright based on the first issue noted above and found it unnecessary to reach the remaining issues as a result, although in dicta , it briefly addressed the fourth issue regarding jury note taking. 2018 IL App (3d) 150352, ¶¶ 38-41, 419 Ill.Dec. 751, 94 N.E.3d 289. With respect to its reversal based on the first issue, the appellate court refused to apply the "limited authority" doctrine of Weaver to the facts of this case because it felt that (1) Weaver was distinguishable on the facts ( id. ¶ 23 ), (2) the passage of the retail theft statute seven years after Weaver evinced a legislative intent to "occup[y] the field of shoplifting crimes" ( id. ¶ 31 ), and (3) this court's decision in People v. Bradford , 2016 IL 118674, ¶¶ 24-25, 401 Ill.Dec. 630, 50 N.E.3d 1112 (holding that there are two kinds of burglary—(a) entering a building without authority and (b) remaining in a building without authority—and Weaver 's definition of "without authority" for purposes of burglary by entering did not apply to burglary by remaining ), "changes the law and effectively overrules" application of Weaver to the facts of the present case ( 2018 IL App (3d) 150352, ¶ 28, 419 Ill.Dec. 751, 94 N.E.3d 289 ).

¶ 10 As noted above, we granted the State's petition for leave to appeal.


¶ 12 Before this court, the State argues that Weaver cannot be distinguished from the present case and that Bradford clearly did not overrule application of Weaver to cases where the burglary charge is based on an entry into a store with the intent to commit a retail theft inside. Moreover, the State maintains that there is absolutely no basis for the appellate court's conclusion that by passage of the retail theft statute seven years after Weaver , the legislature somehow intended to change the long-standing application of the limited authority doctrine in burglary cases where a defendant entered a store with the intent to shoplift some item of merchandise.

¶ 13 Defendant in response argues that he never exceeded the scope of his physical authority to be in the store given that he entered during normal business hours and at all times stayed in areas open to the public. He further contends that the Weaver rule is inconsistent with the retail theft statute and that Bradford should be extended to exonerate him in the present situation. He contends that the State therefore failed to prove the "without authority" element of the burglary statute.

¶ 14 The parties agree that the question presented is one of statutory construction, which involves an issue of law...

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4 cases
  • People v. Palmer
    • United States
    • Illinois Supreme Court
    • April 15, 2021
    ...against the State." Id. ¶ 53 An issue of statutory construction presents a question of law that is subject to de novo review. People v. Johnson , 2019 IL 123318, ¶ 14, 442 Ill.Dec. 458, 160 N.E.3d 31. The fundamental goal of statutory construction is to ascertain and give effect to the legi......
  • United States v. Glispie
    • United States
    • Illinois Supreme Court
    • September 24, 2020
    ...we presume that it has acquiesced in this court's construction of the statute and declaration of legislative intent. People v. Johnson , 2019 IL 123318, ¶ 14, 442 Ill.Dec. 458, 160 N.E.3d 31. "We assume not only that the General Assembly acts with full knowledge of previous judicial decisio......
  • People v. Irrelevant
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • December 8, 2021
    ...intent, and the best indication of that intent is the statutory language itself, giving it its plain and ordinary meaning." People v. Johnson , 2019 IL 123318, ¶ 14, 442 Ill.Dec. 458, 160 N.E.3d 31. "Unless the language of a statute is ambiguous, a court should not resort to further aids of......
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    • Illinois Supreme Court
    • January 24, 2020 conferring on health care providers a new exception to the exemption, it would have had to indicate a clear intent to do so. People v. Johnson , 2019 IL 123318, ¶ 42, 442 Ill.Dec. 458, 160 N.E.3d 31. No such intent is manifest in the provisions cited by the health care providers here. As......

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