People v. Massamillo

Decision Date09 November 2020
Docket NumberAppeal No. 3-19-0765
Parties The PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Joseph A. MASSAMILLO, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtUnited States Appellate Court of Illinois

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

¶ 1 Defendant, Joseph A. Massamillo, filed a petition for relief from judgment, alleging that his 2013 conviction for unlawful possession of cannabis with intent to deliver was void. The circuit court found that the conviction was not void and dismissed defendant's petition as untimely. We affirm.


¶ 3 The State filed an indictment on December 18, 2012, in which it charged defendant with two counts of unlawful possession of cannabis with intent to deliver ( 720 ILCS 550/5(f) (West 2012) (Class 1 felony); id. § 5(g) (Class X felony)).

¶ 4 On June 5, 2013, defendant pled guilty to a newly filed Class 2 felony charge of unlawful possession of cannabis with intent to deliver. Id. § 5(e). The court sentenced defendant to a term of three years' imprisonment, to be followed by a two-year term of mandatory supervised release. Defendant has not included the report of proceedings from his plea hearing in the appellate record.

¶ 5 On December 15, 2017, defendant filed a petition for relief from judgment pursuant to section 2-1401 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Code). ( 735 ILCS 5/2-1401 (West 2016) ). In his petition, defendant alleged that his conviction had been based upon a traffic stop effectuated on Interstate 80 by the State's Attorney's Felony Enforcement (SAFE) unit. Citing our supreme court's decision in People v. Ringland , 2017 IL 119484, 417 Ill.Dec. 816, 89 N.E.3d 735, defendant asserted that the SAFE unit was not a valid law enforcement entity and that the stop of his vehicle and his subsequent arrest were both unauthorized and illegal. Defendant concluded: "Applying the holding of Ringlnd [sic ] to The Circuit Court of La Salle County, La Salle County no longer has jurisdiction over any of the Defendants that were stopped, arrested and prosecuted by the State's Attorney of La Salle County." Defendant requested that the court vacate his conviction as void.

¶ 6 The State filed a response, alleging that defendant's petition was filed outside of the two-year limitations period contemplated by section 2-1401. The State argued that the holding in Ringland did not disturb circuit court jurisdiction and that defendant's conviction was therefore not void.

¶ 7 The circuit court entered an order on January 24, 2018, denying defendant's petition but granting leave to refile. The precise grounds for this order are unknown, as defendant has not included in the appellate record any report of proceedings relating to his original petition.

¶ 8 On June 14, 2018, defendant filed a petition for relief from judgment, raising the same claim: that his conviction was void because the unauthorized actions of the SAFE unit deprived the circuit court of jurisdiction. The State, now via a special prosecutor, filed a motion to dismiss, again asserting untimeliness.

¶ 9 The court ultimately dismissed defendant's petition for relief from judgment, finding that defendant's conviction was not void and that his petition was therefore untimely. This appeal follows.


¶ 11 On appeal, defendant raises the same arguments as those raised in the circuit court. Namely, he argues that because his stop and arrest were unauthorized, the circuit court lacked jurisdiction over him. He contends that the lack of jurisdiction renders his conviction void and that such a claim of voidness is not subject to the two-year limitations period applicable to petitions for relief from judgment under section 2-1401.

¶ 12 Section 2-1401 of the Code provides a statutory procedure for seeking vacatur of a final judgment that is more than 30 days old. 735 ILCS 5/2-1401 (West 2018) ; People v. Vincent , 226 Ill. 2d 1, 7, 312 Ill.Dec. 617, 871 N.E.2d 17 (2007). A petition for relief from judgment under this section must be filed within two years of the judgment being challenged. 735 ILCS 5/2-1401(c) (West 2018). The two-year limitations period, however, is inapplicable where the judgment being challenged is void.1 People v. Thompson , 2015 IL 118151, ¶ 29, 398 Ill.Dec. 74, 43 N.E.3d 984. We review the circuit court's dismissal of a petition for relief from judgment de novo . Vincent , 226 Ill. 2d at 14, 312 Ill.Dec. 617, 871 N.E.2d 17.

¶ 13 The State does not dispute that the traffic stop and subsequent arrest in this case were conducted by the SAFE unit. Nor does the State dispute that the SAFE unit was not authorized to take those actions.

This court previously held in People v. Ringland , 2015 IL App (3d) 130523, ¶¶ 24, 42, 48, 393 Ill.Dec. 276, 33 N.E.3d 1020, that the creation of a drug interdiction unit by the state's attorney exceeded the scope of section 3-9005(b) of the Counties Code ( 55 ILCS 5/3-9005(b) (West 2012)). Our supreme court affirmed that holding, finding that neither section 3-9005 nor the common law provided authority for the state's attorney or his unit to "patrol the highways, engage in law enforcement, and conduct drug interdiction." Ringland , 2017 IL 119484, ¶¶ 21, 24-25, 33, 417 Ill.Dec. 816, 89 N.E.3d 735.

¶ 14 This appeal calls on us to consider whether defendant's unauthorized arrest at the hands of the SAFE unit renders his subsequent criminal conviction void. Illinois law recognizes two types of void judgments. Thompson , 2015 IL 118151, ¶¶ 31-32, 398 Ill.Dec. 74, 43 N.E.3d 984. First, a judgment is void where "the court that entered the final judgment lacked personal or subject matter jurisdiction." Id. ¶ 31. Second, a judgment is void where it is based upon a facially unconstitutional statute, which is void ab initio .2 Id. ¶ 32.

¶ 15 This case presents no issue relating to the circuit court's subject matter jurisdiction. Article VI, section 9, of the Illinois Constitution provides that "Circuit Courts shall have original jurisdiction of all justiciable matters * * *." Ill. Const. 1970, art. VI, § 9. "With the exception of the circuit court's power to review administrative action, which is conferred by statute, a circuit court's subject matter jurisdiction is conferred entirely by our state constitution." Belleville Toyota, Inc. v. Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. , 199 Ill. 2d 325, 334, 264 Ill.Dec. 283, 770 N.E.2d 177 (2002). There can be no doubt that defendant's prosecution for unlawful possession of cannabis with intent to deliver was a justiciable matter. See id. at 335, 264 Ill.Dec. 283, 770 N.E.2d 177 ; see generally People v. Glowacki , 404 Ill. App. 3d 169, 172, 344 Ill.Dec. 576, 937 N.E.2d 282 (2010) ("Under this rule, most void judgments occur when the trial court lacks personal jurisdiction; failures of subject matter jurisdiction are unusual.").

¶ 16 Accordingly, defendant argues only that the circuit court lacked personal jurisdiction over him. More specifically, he claims: "Defendant's stop by a SAFE unit investigator was unlawful; therefore, personal jurisdiction was never acquired over Defendant. Defendant's court appearances and conduct thereafter, including his guilty plea, were done without proper personal jurisdiction over Defendant * * *." Similarly, in his reply brief, defendant repeatedly asserts that personal jurisdiction was lacking because he "was never properly brought before the court" and never voluntarily submitted to the court's jurisdiction.

¶ 17 Defendant, like the dissent, fails to provide citation to any authority that supports his assertions. This failure likely stems from the fact that his assertions are incorrect. Our supreme court declared in 1970:

"The general rule is that if a defendant is physically present before the court on an accusatory pleading, either because held in custody after arrest or because he has appeared in person after giving bail, the invalidity of the original arrest is immaterial, even though seasonably raised, as far as the jurisdiction of the court to proceed with the case is concerned. [Citations.] Due process of law is satisfied when one present in court is convicted of crime after having been fairly apprised of the charges against him and after a fair trial in accordance with constitutional procedural safeguards. Accordingly it is held that the power of a court to try a person for crime is not impaired by the fact that he has been brought within the court's jurisdiction by reason of a forcible abduction." People v. Bliss , 44 Ill. 2d 363, 369, 255 N.E.2d 405 (1970).

Even 50 years ago, that particular statement of the law was not new or novel. See People v. Rose , 22 Ill. 2d 185, 186, 174 N.E.2d 673 (1961) ("We find it unnecessary to consider the defendant's contention that she was illegally arrested for it is settled that illegal arrest, in itself, in no way affects a judgment of conviction [citation].").

¶ 18 It is well settled that "a defendant's appearance before the trial court on a criminal charge ordinarily confers personal jurisdiction over the defendant." People v. Johnson , 2015 IL App (2d) 140388, ¶ 7, 390 Ill.Dec. 911, 29 N.E.3d 1181 ; see also, e.g. , People v. Speed , 318 Ill. App. 3d 910, 915, 252 Ill.Dec. 928, 743 N.E.2d 1084 (2001) ; United States v. McLaughlin , 949 F.3d 780, 781 (2d Cir. 2019) (per curiam ) ("When a District Court has subject matter jurisdiction over the criminal offenses charged, it has personal jurisdiction over the individuals charged in the indictment and present before the court to answer those charges."). In the instant case, there is no dispute that defendant was properly charged and appeared before the circuit court. While defendant claims that he was not "properly brought before the court," Bliss makes clear that the concept of personal jurisdiction is subject to no such caveats.

¶ 19 Defendant also argues that his case is distinguishable from the more common situation in which arrests...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT