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Illinois Appeals Court Holds Guilty Plea Waives Non-Jurisdictional Defects

The Illinois Court of Appeals for the Third District recently reiterated that a guilty plea waives non-jurisdictional errors.

In December 2011, defendant Chad Morse was charged in Whiteside County with aggravated DUI, reckless homicide, and DUI. The indictment alleged that Morse was driving under the influence of alcohol on November 26, 2011 when he fatally struck a pedestrian.

In November 2012, Morse waived his right to a jury trial, and the case was set for a bench trial. In March 2013, Morse entered an open guilty plea to one count of aggravated DUI in exchange for the prosecution promising to drop the other charges. The circuit court accepted the plea, and the case was set for sentencing.

During a May 2013 hearing, the circuit court noted for the first time while reviewing the pre-sentence report that an early motion for a fitness examination had been filed. The court continued the case for a fitness examination.

At the July fitness hearing, defense counsel stipulated to the doctor’s opinion that the defendant was fit to stand trial. The court agreed. Thereafter, Morse again entered an open guilty plea to aggravated DUI, which the court accepted, finding it knowing and voluntary. At the September sentencing hearing, Morse was sentenced to 14 years in prison.

In October 2013, Morse filed a motion to withdraw the guilty plea. He argued that his plea was not knowing or voluntary because the Rule 402(d) conference was held without his permission or his being admonished by the court.

At the hearing on the motions, the circuit court acknowledged that the Rule 402(d) conference was held outside Morse’s presence and that it erroneously failed to admonish Morse in accordance with Rule 402. The court concluded, however, that any errors were cured by the events that took place after the Rule 402 hearing, up to and including Morse’s guilty plea. Accordingly, the court denied the defendant’s motion to withdraw his guilty plea. The court also denied the defendant’s motion to reconsider.

Morse appealed, arguing the following:  (1) his counsel was ineffective in disclosing private communications during the Rule 402(d) conference; (2) the prosecutor’s participation in the Rule 402(d) conference interfered with the attorney-client relationship and violated the defendant’s right to a fair trial; (3) the circuit court’s participation in the Rule 402(d) conference prejudiced Morse, denied him due process, and made his guilty plea involuntary; (4) his counsel was ineffective in failing to move to withdraw the defendant’s waiver of a jury trial; and (5) the circuit court erred when it denied the defendant’s motion to withdraw his guilty plea.

The Illinois appellate court first quoted the Illinois Supreme Court’s holding that “it is well established that a voluntary guilty plea waives all non-jurisdictional errors or irregularities, including constitutional ones.” Thus, the appeals court concluded, any non-jurisdictional errors that occurred prior to Morse’s entry of his guilty plea were waived.

The only one of Morse’s arguments that wasn’t waived by his pleading guilty was his fifth argument that the circuit court erred when it denied his motion to withdraw his guilty plea.

On appeal, Morse made no claim that his counsel gave him incompetent advice about the guilty plea. Instead, he argued that his counsel failed to file a motion to substitute the judge for cause and that “[i]nstead, he scheduled a guilty plea.” The appeals court found these arguments insufficient to establish counsel’s incompetence. Moreover, the court found that given the weight of the evidence against the defendant, there was nothing to suggest that counsel’s advice to the defendant regarding the guilty plea was incompetent. Accordingly, the appeals court held that the circuit court did not err in denying Morse’s motion to withdraw his guilty plea.

If you have been charged with a DUI crime in Illinois, or you need a driver’s license, it is crucial to speak to an experienced Illinois DUI lawyer as soon as possible. Harvatin Law Offices, PC provides knowledgeable representation to people in Springfield and throughout Illinois. We have considerable experience defending individuals charged with DUI offenses and representing revoked drivers before the Illinois Secretary of State. To learn more, and to set up a free initial consultation, contact us online or call us at 217.525.0520.

More Blog Posts:

Illinois Appellate Court Holds Reasonable Suspicion Justifies Traffic Stop, Illinois DUI Lawyer Blawg, March 1, 2016.

Illinois Appellate Court Upholds DWLS Because Officer Had Reasonable Suspicion, Illinois DUI Lawyer Blawg, February 12, 2016.

Illinois Court Upholds Nine-Year Sentence for Aggravated DUI, Illinois DUI Lawyer Blawg, February 1, 2016.

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