People v. Wilson

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People v. Wilson, No. 82930 (1/23/98)

Docket No. 82930--Agenda 6--November 1997.
WILSON, Appellee.
Opinion filed January 23, 1998.

JUSTICE HARRISON delivered the opinion of the court:
The defendant, Brian Wilson, was charged in the circuit court of Lake
County with aggravated battery (720 ILCS 5/12--4(b)(8) (West 1994)) on October
20, 1994. On December 9, 1995, Wilson was also charged with unlawful
possession of a controlled substance (720 ILCS 570/402(c) (West 1994)). Wilson
posted bond for these two offenses on December 17, 1994. On February 22, 1995,
while Wilson was on pretrial release, he was charged with forgery (720 ILCS
5/17--3(a)(2) (West 1994)) and aggravated battery of a peace officer (720 ILCS
5/12--4(b)(6) (West 1994)).
At a hearing on July 28, 1995, defendant entered a negotiated plea of
guilty to all of the charges. The terms of the agreement between the State and
defendant provided that in exchange for Wilson's plea of guilty, the State agreed
to a nolle prosequi of the forgery charge and to recommend a sentence cap of nine
years' imprisonment for the three remaining counts. Then, in compliance with
Supreme Court Rule 402 (134 Ill. 2d R. 402), the trial court described the
sentencing possibilities to Wilson, admonished him of his rights, and examined
him to determine that his plea was knowingly and voluntarily made and that a
factual basis existed for the plea. The trial court accepted the plea of guilty and
continued the case for sentencing.
On September 15, 1995, Wilson filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea.
At this time, the trial court admonished Wilson that he was eligible for extended
terms and noted that he might face mandatory consecutive sentences as well. At
the sentencing hearing on October 2, 1995, Wilson withdrew his motion to
withdraw his guilty plea. The trial court then sentenced Wilson to three concurrent
terms of nine years on the aggravated battery offenses and the unlawful possession
of a controlled substance offense. Following the trial court's entry of judgment,
Wilson filed a pro se motion to reduce sentence. The trial court denied Wilson's
The appellate court reversed the trial court's denial of Wilson's motion to
reduce sentence and remanded the matter to the trial court for resentencing. 286
Ill. App. 3d 169. The appellate court determined that the trial court erred in
imposing a concurrent rather than a consecutive sentence on the count of
aggravated battery of a peace officer and erred in imposing a nine-year sentence
on the charge of unlawful possession of a controlled substance. 286 Ill. App. 3d
at 173-74. We granted the State's petition for leave to appeal. 166 Ill. 2d R. 315.
For the reasons which follow, we affirm.
The parties frame the issue in this case as whether our decision in People
v. Evans, 174 Ill. 2d 320 (1996), applies to guilty plea agreements where the State
and defendant agree to a sentencing cap, but not a specific sentence, in exchange
for a defendant's guilty plea. Evans holds that when a defendant pleads guilty in
exchange for a specific sentence, he must move to withdraw the guilty plea and
vacate the judgment prior to challenging his sentence. The State contends that
since Wilson failed to move to withdraw his guilty plea and vacate the judgment,
under Evans, he should be barred from protesting his sentence now.
The appellate court also addressed this case as an Evans issue, but
distinguished it from Evans noting that, here, only a sentencing cap was agreed
to, so the trial court had the discretion to determine an appropriate sentence for
defendant in relation to the cap. 286 Ill. App. 3d 172. Therefore, the appellate
court found that unlike the defendants in Evans, Wilson was not required to
withdraw his guilty plea and vacate the judgment in order to challenge his
sentences. The court went on to consider the sentencing issues raised by defendant
and found that two of the sentences did not conform to statutory requirements. 286
Ill. App. 3d at 173-74.
We agree with the appellate court's determination that the sentences
imposed on Wilson were improper. However, we find it unnecessary to reach the
issue of whether Evans applies to sentencing cap agreements, as opposed to a
specific sentence. In light of our recent decision in People v. Williams, No. 82333
(December 18, 1997), we find that Evans is inapplicable to this case and cannot
bar defendant's challenge to his sentences. As we pointed out in Williams, the
sentences in Evans conformed to statutory requirements and the defendants only
claimed that their sentences were excessive. Williams, slip op. at 2. In contrast, in
the instant case, Wilson argues that the trial court imposed sentences which
violated statutory requirements. According to our reasoning in Williams, Wilson's
claim of improper sentencing by the trial court is not barred and can be considered
regardless of whether Wilson complied with the requirements of Evans. Williams,
slip op. at 2. We find that under Williams, a challenge to a trial court's statutory
authority to impose a particular sentence is not waived when a defendant fails to
withdraw his guilty plea and vacate the judgment.
Therefore, we will address the merits of Wilson's claim of improper
sentencing. First, Wilson contends that the trial court erred in imposing concurrent,
rather than consecutive, sentences for the aggravated battery charges. As stated,
Wilson was first charged with aggravated battery, a felony, and posted bond for
the offense on December 17, 1994. While on release, he committed the felony of
aggravated battery of a peace officer. Wilson points out that under section 5--8--
4(h) of the Unified Code of Corrections (730 ILCS 5/5--8--4(h) (West 1994)) his
sentences for the aggravated battery counts were mandatory consecutive because
he committed a separate felony, the aggravated battery of a peace officer, while
on pretrial release. Section 5--8--4(h) provides that:
"If a person charged with a felony commits a separate
felony while on pre-trial release ***, the sentences imposed upon
conviction of these felonies shall be served consecutively regardless
of the order in which the judgments of conviction are entered." 730
ILCS 5/5--8--4(h) (West 1994).
Under section 5--8--4(h), the sentences had to be consecutive because defendant
committed the second offense of aggravated battery of a peace officer while he
was out on bond from the original count of aggravated battery. We agree that it
was error for the trial court to impose concurrent sentences for the two aggravated
battery felonies.
Defendant further claims that the trial court erred in sentencing him to nine
years' imprisonment for unlawful possession of less than 15 grams of cocaine.
This argument is also well taken. The subject offense is a Class 4 felony
punishable by a nonextended term of one to three years' incarceration (730 ILCS
5/5--8--1(a)(7) (West 1994)) and an extended term of three to six years'
incarceration (730 ILCS 5/5--8--2(a)(6) (West 1994)). Accordingly, the nine-year
term of imprisonment imposed by the trial court plainly exceeded the authorized
maximum extended term.
We conclude that the sentences imposed in this case violated statutory
requirements. For the foregoing reasons, we affirm the judgment of the appellate
court vacating the sentences imposed by the circuit court and remanding to the
circuit court for resentencing.