People v. P.H.

Decision Date31 October 1991
Docket NumberNo. 70875,70875
Citation164 Ill.Dec. 137,582 N.E.2d 700,145 Ill.2d 209
Parties, 164 Ill.Dec. 137 The PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Appellant, v. P.H., a Minor, Appellee.
CourtIllinois Supreme Court

Roland W. Burris, Atty. Gen., Springfield, Jack O'Malley, State's Atty., Chicago (Terence M. Madsen, Asst. Atty. Gen., Chicago, and Renee Goldfarb and Howard D. Weisman, Asst. State's Attys., of counsel), for the people.

Randolph N. Stone, Public Defender, Chicago (Tina Liebling, Asst. Public Defender, of counsel), for appellee.

Theodore Gottfried, State Appellate Defender, and Elizabeth Clark, Office of the State Appellate Defender, Chicago, and Michael B. Metnick, Metnick, Barewin & Wise, Springfield, for amici curiae Office of the State Appellate Defender et al.

Justice FREEMAN delivered the opinion of the court:

Defendant, P.H., a minor, was arrested and charged with two counts of attempted first degree murder, two counts of aggravated battery, two counts of aggravated battery with a firearm and one count of armed violence. (Ill.Rev.Stat.1989, ch. 38, pars. 8-4(a), 12-4(b)(1), 12-4.2(a), 33A-2.) Pursuant to the "gang-transfer" provision (Ill.Rev.Stat.1989, ch. 37, par. 805-4(3.1)) of the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 (the Act) (Ill.Rev.Stat.1989, ch. 37, par. 801-1 et seq.), the State filed a motion to permit prosecution of defendant under the criminal laws.

The circuit court of Cook County denied the State's motion and, finding that the "gang-transfer" provision contradicted the "discretionary-transfer" provision of the Act (Ill.Rev.Stat.1989, ch. 37, pars. 805-4(3)(a), (3)(b)), held the provision unconstitutional as violative of separation of powers. The State moved to stay the court's order (134 Ill.2d R. 609(c)), pending this direct appeal to this court (134 Ill.2d R. 603). The State Appellate Defender and the Illinois Attorneys for Criminal Justice filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of defendant. 134 Ill.2d R. 345(a).

The singular issue presented for review is whether the trial court erred in finding the "gang-transfer" provision unconstitutional. We answer the inquiry in the affirmative and, therefore, we reverse.

Section 5-4(3.1), the "gang-transfer" provision of the Juvenile Court Act, provides:

"If a petition alleges commission by a minor 15 years of age or older of an act which constitutes a forcible felony under the laws of this State, and if a motion by the State's Attorney to prosecute such minor under the criminal laws of Illinois for such alleged forcible felony alleges that: a) such minor has previously been adjudicated delinquent for commission of an act which constitutes a felony under the laws of this State or any other state; and b) the act which constitutes the offense was committed in furtherance of criminal activity by an organized gang, the Juvenile Judge, designated to hear and determine such motions shall, upon determining that both allegations are true, enter an order permitting prosecution under the criminal laws of Illinois." (Ill.Rev.Stat.1989, ch. 37, par. 805-4(3.1).)

Defendant asserts that the "gang-transfer" provision is unconstitutional as violative of the separation of powers clause of the Illinois Constitution (Ill. Const.1970, art. II, § 1), and the double jeopardy, due process and equal protection clauses of the Illinois and Federal Constitutions (Ill. Const.1970, art. I, §§ 10, 2; U.S. Const., amends. V, XIV). As an additional challenge, amici urge that the definition of "organized gang," as provided in the statute, is unconstitutionally vague and, further, that the "gang-transfer" provision is violative of procedural due process. Ill. Const.1970, art. I, § 2; U.S. Const., amend. XIV.

RIPENESS

The State asserts that this court's review should be limited to whether the statute violates separation of powers. It maintains that since there has been no transfer, no trial and no sentence imposed, our consideration of defendant's other alleged constitutional infirmities is premature. We disagree.

A controversy is ripe when it has reached the point where the facts permit an intelligent and useful decision to be made. (People v. Ziltz (1983), 98 Ill.2d 38, 74 Ill.Dec. 40, 455 N.E.2d 70.) In Ziltz, the defendant was charged with violating the Illinois Vehicle Code. The defendant filed a motion to dismiss one of the counts against her on the basis that the Code was unconstitutional. The trial court granted the defendant's motion and the State appealed.

On direct appeal to this court, the State argued that the challenge to the statute was premature and that damages were too speculative to adjudicate at that time. We noted there that the defendant had been arrested and charged with an offense; the facts had been presented to this court; and there was no need to speculate as to the harm the defendant would suffer if convicted. We therefore concluded that the case was ripe for judicial determination. Likewise, we conclude that the issues raised by defendant here are ripe for our determination.

STANDING

Intertwined with the State's ripeness argument is the issue of whether defendant has standing to raise issues of double jeopardy, equal protection and due process. The State correctly asserts, relying on People v. Rogers (1989), 133 Ill.2d 1, 139 Ill.Dec. 714, 549 N.E.2d 226, that a court will limit its inquiry into the constitutionality of a statute to the extent required by the case before it, and will not formulate a rule broader than that necessitated by the precise situation in question. The State points out that the trial court declared the "gang-transfer" provision unconstitutional based upon separation of powers. Therefore, the State admonishes, for this court to consider defendant's other constitutional challenges requires us to act in contravention of established principles of constitutional law. We disagree.

A party may question the constitutional validity of a statutory provision if he or she has sustained or is in immediate danger of sustaining some direct injury as a result of enforcement of the statute. (People v. Esposito (1988), 121 Ill.2d 491, 512, 118 Ill.Dec. 396, 521 N.E.2d 873; see also Cramp v. Board of Public Instruction (1961), 368 U.S. 278, 82 S.Ct. 275, 7 L.Ed.2d 285.) Unquestionably, defendant is in immediate danger of sustaining harm by enforcement of the allegedly unconstitutional provision. Application of the "gang-transfer" provision to him could result in criminal prosecution with all of its inherent stigmas. Therefore, even absent a transfer, trial, or sentencing, we conclude that defendant has standing. See People v. Watson (1987), 118 Ill.2d 62, 65-66, 112 Ill.Dec. 701, 514 N.E.2d 167; People v. Mayberry (1976), 63 Ill.2d 1, 8, 345 N.E.2d 97.

Finally, the State points out that the trial court did not rule that the statute was violative of the double jeopardy clause, equal protection or due process. Therefore, it maintains that those issues are not properly before us. Again, we must disagree.

The reasons assigned by the trial court for its judgment are immaterial if the decision is correct. Therefore, although the scope of review for an appellant is limited by his assignment of errors, an appellee is not so restricted. An appellee may raise any argument or basis supported by the record to show the correctness of the judgment, even though he had not previously advanced such an argument. In re Estate of Leichtenberg (1956), 7 Ill.2d 545, 549, 131 N.E.2d 487; Hoffman v. Nustra (1986), 143 Ill.App.3d 259, 265, 97 Ill.Dec. 322, 492 N.E.2d 981; see also People ex rel. Jendrick v. Allman (1947), 396 Ill. 35, 37, 71 N.E.2d 44.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

There is a basic presumption that all statutes are constitutional (People v. Bales (1985), 108 Ill.2d 182, 188, 91 Ill.Dec. 171, 483 N.E.2d 517), and the party challenging a statute bears the burden of establishing its invalidity (People v. Felella (1989), 131 Ill.2d 525, 539, 137 Ill.Dec. 547, 546 N.E.2d 492). Our duty, if it can reasonably be done, is to construe enactments so as to sustain their constitutionality and validity. (People v. Davis (1982), 93 Ill.2d 155, 161, 66 Ill.Dec. 294, 442 N.E.2d 855.) Where their meaning is doubtful, that doubt will be decided in favor of the validity of the law challenged. (Davis, 93 Ill.2d at 161, 66 Ill.Dec. 294, 442 N.E.2d 855.) However, it is equally our duty to declare invalid an unconstitutional statute, no matter how desirable or beneficial the attempted legislation may be.

JUVENILE COURT JURISDICTION

The State argues, at length, that the legislature has the power to determine the age limit for juvenile court jurisdiction (People v. M.A. (1988), 124 Ill.2d 135, 124 Ill.Dec. 511, 529 N.E.2d 492; People v. J.S. (1984), 103 Ill.2d 395, 83 Ill.Dec. 156, 469 N.E.2d 1090). Defendant, noting that the "gang-transfer" provision affects minors already within the court's jurisdiction, concedes this issue. Accordingly, we give the issue no consideration.

SEPARATION OF POWERS

Defendant first contends that the statute violates the separation of powers provision because it is an infringement on the court's power to "adjudge, determine and render a judgment." (Agran v. Checker Taxi Co. (1952), 412 Ill. 145, 150, 105 N.E.2d 713.) He maintains that the court, after "hearing the evidence and making extensive findings of fact," must relinquish jurisdiction over the minor. This, defendant maintains, deprives the court of the jurisdiction vested in it by the Illinois Constitution.

Preliminarily, we note that the Illinois Constitution provides that all circuit courts have original jurisdiction over all justiciable matters except where the supreme court is specified to have original and exclusive jurisdiction. (Ill. Const.1970, art. VI, § 9.) We have previously held that the juvenile court is merely a division of a single unified circuit court. (People v. DeJesus (1989), 127 Ill.2d 486, 498, 130 Ill.Dec. 471, 537 N.E.2d 800; In re Greene (1979), 76 Ill.2d 204, 213, 28...

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