Illinois Appellate Court Finds That Automatic Transfer of a Juvenile to an Adult Court Based on the Offense or the Record and Background of a Defendant is not in Violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Eighth Amendment or the Illinois Constitution

On Sept. 27, 2011, Darius Young, who was 15 at the time, participated in a dice game on a Chicago street with several individuals. One of them, Daniel Glen, who was in a wheelchair, won all of Young’s money during the game; however, he began to suspect that another individual, Jonathan Harris, was trying to cheat him.

When Glen rolled the wheelchair into an alley “to relieve himself,” he claimed that Harris approached him holding a 9 mm handgun and demanded money. Glen stated that Harris put the gun to his back and directed Young to search him for the money he lost. Young grabbed the money from Glen’s pocket, and he and Glen “tussled,” according to his trial testimony, knocking Glen out of his wheelchair. Glen testified that Young and Harris fled, but returned a few minutes later.

Young then put Glen back in his wheelchair and threw $45 at him stating, “I just wanted my birthday money back, my $120.” The incident was reported to the Chicago police by Glen, who identified Young by his nickname and Harris from a lineup.

Young testified at trial that when Glen entered the alley, Harris pointed the gun at him and said he needed Young’s help to get his money back. Young claimed to have been afraid of what Harris would do if he didn’t help and said that he didn’t inform the police that Harris had compelled his role in the robbery because he was more afraid of Harris than the police.

At the bench trial, Young was found guilty of robbery with a dangerous weapon, aggravated battery and unlawful restraint. Young was not found guilty of robbery with a firearm because there had been “insufficient proof the weapon used was a firearm.”

At the sentencing hearing, the judge noted that Young had previous convictions for attempted residential burglary, aggravated battery of a school employee and aggravated possession of a stolen motor vehicle. The judge sentenced Young to six years in the Illinois Department of Corrections. On appeal, Young’s counsel pointed out that he should be sentenced as a juvenile because the State failed to request a hearing as required under the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 to sentence him as an adult; 705 ILCS 405/5-130. In addition it was argued on appeal that the automatic transfer provision of the Juvenile Court Act is unconstitutional.

The State argued that the Illinois Supreme Court in People v. King, 241 Ill.2d 374 (2011), had found that a hearing was not required to sentence a juvenile as an adult. On appeal, Young argued that the automatic provision of the act was unconstitutional.

Young also argued that the automatic transfer violated the due process provision of the U.S. Constitution and the state constitution. Young acknowledged that the Illinois Supreme Court held the automatic transfer provision to be constitutional in 1984 but claimed that more recent Supreme Court cases dealing with the Eighth Amendment as applied to juvenile offenders prohibiting death sentences and life sentences without parole indicated that previous cases were wrongfully decided citing, Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S.__, 132 S.Ct. 2455 (2012).

The Illinois Appellate Court found that the comparison to either death or life without parole was unconvincing as those are “two of the most severe punishments allowed under the U.S. Constitution.”

Young argued that the transfer to the adult court brought with it a harsher sentence and was purely punitive, but he was unable to produce any legal support other than dicta. The appellate court acknowledged that sentencing as an adult results in more time served, but denied that this was “punitive” or in violation of the proportionate penalties clause of the Illinois state constitution, finding that the penalty is extended due to the age and background of the offender and nature of the offense.

In summary, the Illinois Appellate Court concluded that the adult transfer practice was constitutional and affirmed the decision of the court.

State of Illinois v. Darius Young, 2014 IL App (1st) 123290-U (Sept. 5, 2014).

Robert Kreisman of Kreisman Law Offices has been handling jury trials for more than 38 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Joliet, Naperville, Wheaton, Waukegan, St. Charles, Aurora, Romeoville, Brookfield, Bolingbrook, Marionette Park, Alsip, Antioch, Bellwood, Orland Park and Rolling Meadows, Ill.

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