Appellate Court holds that trial court can dismiss petition on standing grounds at first stage

The appellant in People v. Johnson, 2019 IL App (1st) 163169 appealed the trial court’s order dismissing his pro se petition for post-conviction relief on standing grounds. The First District affirmed the decision of the trial court.

Recardo Johnson pled guilty to unlawful restraint in exchange for a sentence of two years’ imprisonment. Upon entering his plea, Johnson stated that he understood he was giving up certain rights by pleading guilty, including his right to plead not guilty and have a jury trial. Johnson confirmed that he was not threatened or promised anything in exchange for his plea. Id. at ¶ 4.

Johnson, pro se, moved to file a late postconviction petition, arguing that the age of the victim in his case was never stated in court, the court never informed him that he would need to register under the Child Murderer and Violent Offender Against Youth Registration Act, and that his plea counsel was ineffective for failing to tell him he would need to register under the Act. Id. at ¶ 6. The petition was summarily dismissed as he had not withdrawn his plea, appealed the conviction, and had already served the term of imprisonment and MSR to which he was sentenced.

The court noted that at the time of filing, Johnson was serving a two-year sentence for failing to register under the Act. Id. at ¶ 7. The circuit court concluded that the Act and its remedies are not available to petitioners who have completed their sentences and merely seeking to purge their criminal records, rendering the petition frivolous and patently without merit. This appeal followed.

On appeal, Johnson argued that the circuit court erred in dismissing the petition at the first stage on the basis of standing. The court noted this argument gave rise to two separate questions: (1) whether standing is ever an appropriate consideration at the first stage of postconviction proceedings and, if so, (2) whether, in this case, appellant’s argument that he has standing is frivolous or patently without merit. Id. at ¶ 11.

Johnson argued that standing is never an appropriate basis for dismissal at the first stage of proceedings, however, the court agreed with the State that the circuit court properly dismissed the petition based on standing because “if it is clear a defendant lacks standing, his petition is necessarily frivolous and patently without merit.” Id. at ¶ 12. The court reasoned that, in accordance with previous rulings, standing related to the “substantive virtue” of a post-conviction claim and therefore may be an appropriate consideration for first stage of post-conviction proceedings. Id. at ¶ 19.

Because the court found the trial court’s consideration of appellant’s standing proper, it considered appellant’s standing argument frivolous and patently without merit. Id. at ¶ 23. As a post-conviction petition should be summarily dismissed if it is found to be frivolous or patently without merit, the court found that the trial court had properly dismissed appellant’s petition. Id. at ¶ 29.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s