Thursday, July 20, 2017

Illinois Appellate Court Holds It Lacks Jurisdiction to Vacate Erroneously Assessed Fines and Fees Raised on Appeal for First Time from Collateral Proceeding

By Andrew Kwalwaser
Law Clerk to Hon. Thomas E. Hoffman, Illinois Appellate Court, First District

In People v. Grigorov, 2017 IL App (1st) 143274, a panel of the First District of the Illinois Appellate Court granted a defendant's request for presentencing detention credit but found that it lacked jurisdiction over other claims that he raised for the first time on appeal.
In April 2014, the defendant, George Grigorov, pleaded guilty to aggravated driving under the influence of alcohol and driving on a revoked or suspended license. The circuit court sentenced him to concurrent prison terms of six and three years, respectively, with "all mandatory fines, fees, and court costs." He did not file a Rule 604(d) motion to reconsider his sentence or withdraw his plea, nor did he file a timely notice of appeal. In August 2014, however, he filed a petition pursuant to section 5-9-2 of the Unified Code of Corrections (730 ILCS 5/5-9-2 (West 2014)), requesting that the circuit court vacate $6,000 in imposed "assessments" due to his inability to pay. In September 2014, the circuit court denied the petition.
On appeal, the defendant abandoned his claim that his fines should be revoked due to his inability to pay and argued, for the first time, that (1) he should receive $975 in presentencing detention credit against his fines pursuant to section 110-14 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963 (725 ILCS 5/110-14 (West 2012)), and (2) certain fines and fees were erroneously assessed.

As to his first claim of error, the appellate court granted the defendant presentencing detention credit. The court observed that, although the defendant's claims on appeal were "entirely new and unrelated" to his section 5-9-2 petition, section 110-14 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963 allows the award of presentencing credit "merely 'upon application of the defendant.' " 725 ILCS 5/110-14 (West 2012). As the supreme court explained in People v. Caballero, 228 Ill. 2d 79, 88 (2008), a defendant can apply for credit "at any time and at any stage of court proceedings, even on appeal in a postconviction proceeding." Based upon this language, the court found that the interests of justice permitted the defendant to raise his claim for presentencing detention credit for the first time on appeal from the denial of his section 5-9-2 petition.
As to the defendant's contention that certain fines and fees were erroneously assessed, the court declined to reach the merits of his argument for several reasons. First, the court found that it lacked jurisdiction over his claims because they were not raised in the trial court and, moreover, section 5-9-2 of the Unified Code of Corrections "only deals with fines, not fees." Second, the court observed that the defendant did not file a Rule 604(d) motion, a necessary step for attacking fines and fees on appeal. Third, the court held that, in light of the abolition of the void judgment rule in People v. Castleberry, 2015 IL 116916, unauthorized fees are not void. In so holding, the court followed a line of decisions reaching the same conclusion and rejected the defendant's reliance on the only opinion that has held otherwise, People v. McCray, 2016 IL App (3d) 140554.

Fourth, the court found that the plain-error rule did not apply because the fees imposed against the defendant were not defects that affected his substantial rights, but rather were mathematical mistakes that did not implicate his right to a fair sentencing hearing. Finally, the court noted that judicial economy did not favor considering the defendant's arguments on the merits because "notions of judicial economy, by themselves, cannot create jurisdiction where it does not otherwise exist." The court observed that judicial economy is best served when fines and fees are resolved at the circuit court level, particularly in situations like the case at bar, where the defendant is indigent and the possibility of collecting against him does not justify the resources expended in litigating the matter on appeal.

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