Illinois Supreme Court Rule 604(d)1 explains the procedure a defendant must follow to appeal a judgment entered on a guilty plea, including specific directions for the defendant’s attorney. The Illinois Supreme Court has issued several opinions in recent years explaining the application of Rule 604(d) and the consequences of noncompliance with this rule. These cases primarily deal with the two requirements of the rule: (1) the filing of certain motions prior to an appeal; and (2) the filing of a certificate by the defendant’s attorney. This article summarizes the recent Illinois Supreme Court cases that apply Rule 604(d).
I. RULE 604(d) MOTION REQUIREMENT:
"Open or Blind" Plea:
One Rule 604(d) issue the supreme court has examined is the nature and application of the rule’s motion requirement. In People v. Wilk,2 the Illinois Supreme Court consolidated four cases and addressed whether the appellate court properly dismissed appeals from judgments entered on guilty pleas in which the defendants filed notices of appeal without first filing motions to withdraw their guilty pleas. Two of the four defendants, however, did file motions to reconsider their sentences before raising sentencing challenges on appeal.
The court noted that the rules addressing guilty pleas, Rules 402,3 604(d) and 605(b),4 were constructed to protect a defendant’s constitutional rights while protecting the system from abuses by defendants. These rules are not merely suggestions in fact, "Rule 604(d) establishes a condition precedent for an appeal from a defendant’s plea of guilty."5 One purpose of Rule 604(d) is to reduce the high number of appeals from judgments entered on guilty pleas by ensuring that the trial judge who accepted the plea and sentenced the defendant has an opportunity to hear allegations of improprieties occurring outside the courtroom while witnesses are readily available. The trial court can conduct a Rule 604(d) hearing to make a record and findings of fact. If the defendant’s motion to withdraw the guilty plea is denied by the trial court, then this record is available for appellate review.
Given these considerations, the supreme court held that the appellate court properly dismissed the appeals by the two defendants who filed no Rule 604(d) motions prior to filing their notices of appeal of judgments entered on their guilty pleas.6 It would be inappropriate for the appellate court to address the merits of defendants’ appeals because that would permit Rule 604(d) to be ignored without consequences. Similarly, it would be inappropriate to remand the causes back to the trial court for filing of the proper motions because this remedy would allow the unproductive trips to the appellate court that the rule was designed to reduce. Yet, the harshness of dismissal is lessened because defendants are not barred from raising constitutional claims in post-conviction petitions pursuant to the Post-Conviction Hearing Act7.
However, the court reversed the dismissal of the appeals of the two defendants who filed motions to reconsider their sentences prior to filing their notices of appeal even though they did not file motions to withdraw their guilty pleas and vacate the judgments.8 Because these defendants challenged only their sentences, the trial court had reviewed the merits of their claim and no Rule 604(d) error occurred. In People v. Wallace,9 this distinction was affirmed through its holding that a motion to reconsider sentence must be filed before a notice of appeal in which a defendant who pled guilty only challenges his or her sentence.
The Wilk and Wallace cases did not fully clarify the motion requirement of Rule 604(d) because differences in the plea negotiation process have an impact on the application of this requirement. The court considered a series of cases that clarified the different types of plea agreements and precisely which motion(s) must be filed before appealing the judgment entered on guilty pleas under the rule.
"Fully Negotiated" Plea:
In People v. Evans10 the defendants appealed the judgments entered on fully negotiated pleas, i.e. pleas in which charges are reduced in exchange for agreement to a specified sentence. Here defendants filed motions to reconsider their sentences without filing motions to withdraw their guilty pleas and vacate the judgments prior to filing their notices of appeal.
The State argued that it was fundamentally unfair for the defendants to receive benefits from their plea agreements, while challenging the sentencing aspect of the agreements. The court agreed, noting that plea agreements are analogous to contracts, where it is inappropriate to hold one party, i.e., the State in this case, to the agreement while allowing the other party, i.e., the defendants in this case, to subsequently attempt to change the terms of the original agreement.
The court acknowledged the Wilk and Wallace holding that the defendants had complied with Rule 604(d) when similarly filing only motions to reconsider sentence. The Wilk and Wallace cases were distinguishable, however, because they both involved open guilty pleas in which the defendants had not accepted specific sentences as part of the plea agreements. Thus, the defendants in Wilk and Wallace were not reneging on terms of their plea agreements by challenging only their sentences. In Evans, the court explained: "following the entry of judgment on a negotiated guilty plea, even if a defendant wants to challenge only his sentence, he must move to withdraw the guilty plea and vacate the judgment so that, in the event the motion is granted, the parties are returned to the status quo."11
The supreme court was confronted with additional cases that reflected a need for further guidance about the distinction in Evans between open and negotiated plea agreements. Following Evans, the court outlined the four different plea scenarios that typically occur, the characteristics of which can affect the application of Rule 604(d):12 (1) the "open" or "blind" plea, found in Wilk and Wallace, where the defendant pleads guilty without negotiating anything in return from the State: (2) the "negotiated as to charge" plea, where the defendant can plead guilty in exchange for the State’s dismissal or reduction of certain charges with no agreement about sentencing: (3) the "negotiated as to charge and sentence range" plea, where the defendant may plead guilty in exchange for the State dismissing and reducing charges and recommending a sentencing range or cap; and (4) the "fully" negotiated plea, found in Evans,13 where the defendant pleads guilty in exchange for the State’s reduction and/or dismissal of charges and the trial court’s acceptance of a specific sentence.
"Negotiated As To Charge And Sentence Range" Plea:
In People v. Linder14 the defendants negotiated plea agreements included dismissal of certain charges and acceptance of sentence caps. The defendants filed motions to reconsider sentence despite the fact that the sentences entered were under the caps; the defendants did not file motions to withdraw their guilty pleas and vacate the judgments. The court concluded that the reasoning in Evans applies equally to partially negotiated pleas with sentencing caps because "[b]y agreeing to plead guilty in exchange for a recommended sentencing cap, a defendant is, in effect, agreeing not to challenge any sentence imposed below that cap on the grounds that it is excessive."15 As a result, the court found that the appellate court correctly dismissed these appeals because the defendants failed to follow the Rule 604(d) requirement of filing of motions to withdraw the guilty plea and vacate the judgment.
"Negotiated As To Charge" Plea:
In People v. Lumzy,16 the defendant filed a motion to reconsider the sentence but not a motion to withdraw the guilty plea and vacate the judgment. The court confirmed that for the purposes of Rule 604(d), the important characteristic of a plea agreement is not simply whether it is negotiated but instead, whether it is negotiated concerning sentencing: "Accordingly, where the record is clear that absolutely no agreement existed between the parties as to defendant’s sentence, defendant manifestly cannot be breaching such a nonexistent agreement by arguing that the sentence which the court imposed was excessive."17 Lumzy was distinguishable from Evans and Linder because in Lumzy the plea agreement contained no agreement about sentencing. Thus, the defendant’s appeal should not be dismissed because the defendant filed only a motion to reconsider sentence.
People v. Clark18 addressed the question of how to classify a plea agreement that did not discuss whether a specific sentence was to be served concurrently or consecutively. The court observed that even though the State and the defendant disagreed about how the sentence would be served, section 5-8-4(h) of the Unified Code of Corrections19 mandated that the circuit court impose a consecutive sentence. Because the trial court had discretion only about the duration of the sentence, a fact that had been "fully negotiated" by the parties, the Evans rule applied.20
A. MOTION REQUIREMENT IN JUVENILE DELINQUENCY PROCEEDINGS:
The Illinois Supreme Court has addressed the issue of whether a post admission Rule 604(d) motion is a jurisdictional prerequisite to taking a delinquency appeal. In In re William M.,21 the State filed a four-count delinquency petition against the juvenile respondent. The respondent agreed to admit to one count in exchange for the dismissal of three other counts. The trial court admonished respondent, examined the voluntariness of the admission, and found respondent to be a delinquent minor. The trial court committed him to the juvenile division of the Department of Corrections for an indeterminate period. Respondent’s attorney filed a notice of appeal without filing a motion to withdraw the guilty plea or a motion to reconsider the sentence.22
After discussing relevant adult cases, the supreme court concluded that failure to file a Rule 604(d) motion does not deprive the appellate court of jurisdiction in either adult or juvenile proceedings. For adult defendants, Wilk held that a Rule 604(d) motion is a condition precedent to an appeal from a judgment entered on a guilty plea. The Wilk holding, however, does not remove jurisdiction from the reviewing court but instead removes the evaluation of whether waiver bars the appeal of a defendant who failed to file a Rule 604(d) motion.23 The court noted that dismissal of an appeal for failure to file a Rule 604(d) motion does not preclude a remedy because adult defendants can raise constitutional claims under the Post-Conviction Hearing Act.
In contrast, the Act has never been held to apply to juvenile proceedings. Because a juvenile respondent would be left without an adequate remedy, the dismissal of the respondent’s appeal would be too harsh. The court concluded that the appellate court must remand the case to the circuit court for strict compliance with Rule 604(d) when the respondent’s attorney fails to file a Rule 604(d) motion prior to filing notice of appeal in a juvenile case.24
II. RULE 604(d) CERTIFICATE REQUIREMENT:
Rule 604(d) requires defense attorneys to file a certificate confirming that the attorney has, (1) consulted with the defendant to ascertain defendant’s claims regarding the guilty plea; (2) reviewed the record about the plea proceedings; and (3) amended the motion(s) if necessary. In People v. Janes,25 defense counsel had not reviewed the transcript of a hearing that had occurred only one week prior, but the transcript showed that the guilty plea had been voluntary.
The State argued that remand was unnecessary in this case because the error was harmless due to substantial compliance with the certificate requirement. The court rejected this argument, emphasizing that strict compliance with the certificate requirement is essential because issues not included in defendant’s Rule 604(d) motion are deemed waived. As a result, the assistance of counsel mandated through the certificate provides important protection of defendant’s due process rights.26 In addition, imposing a strict compliance requirement avoids creating disputes on appeal about whether substantial compliance exists.27
The court held that remand to the circuit court was the proper remedy for noncompliance with all Rule 604(d) requirements except the motion requirements addressed in the Wilk and Wallace cases.28 Unlike the motion requirements, the rule does not explicitly require dismissal of an appeal because of noncompliance with the certificate requirement. Although Rule 604(d) requires strict compliance with the certificate requirement, the court has declined to interpret the rule as requiring any actions by defense attorneys beyond the three explicitly listed.29
CERTIFICATE REQUIREMENTS IN JUVENILE DELINQUENCY PROCEEDINGS:
In In re A.G.,30 the court resolved the question of whether and to what extent Rule 604(d) applies in juvenile delinquency proceedings. In In re A.G., the State filed a five-count delinquency petition against the juvenile respondent. The State agreed to dismiss three counts in exchange for the respondent’s admission to two counts. The trial court admonished the respondent, received the factual basis for the admission, and found the admission was made knowingly and voluntarily. The trial court adjudicated the respondent a delinquent minor and committed him to the juvenile division of the Department of Corrections until age 21.
The respondent’s attorney filed a motion to reconsider the disposition, but counsel failed to file a Rule 604(d) certificate. The appellate court allowed the respondent’s motion requesting a remand to the circuit court for Rule 604(d) proceedings because of his counsel’s omission. The State petitioned for leave to appeal, arguing that Rule 604(d) does not apply to juvenile proceedings.31
The Illinois Supreme Court noted that admissions in juvenile cases are the equivalent of guilty pleas in the adult system. According to Rule 660(a),32 appeals in juvenile cases are subject to the rules for criminal cases except as otherwise specified. Recent amendments to the Juvenile Court Act33 reflect adding the goal of holding juvenile offenders accountable to the initial purpose of rehabilitation. This policy shift has been accompanied by incorporation in juvenile delinquency proceedings of virtually all constitutional safeguards required in adult criminal trials. After weighing these factors, the court concluded that an attorney is required to file a 604(d) certificate in juvenile proceedings.34
III. OTHER IMPLICATIONS OF RULE 604(d)
The Illinois Supreme Court has addressed several additional issues when applying Rule 604(d) that merit brief discussion. Rule 605(b) admonishments specify the detailed guidance that the trial court must provide to a defendant about appellate procedure upon entering a judgment and sentence on a guilty plea. Rule 605(b) explicitly states that such admonishments are required only for guilty pleas that are not negotiated about sentencing, whether through a specific sentence, sentence range, or sentence cap. In Wilk, the court reasoned that an attorney who hears the Rule 605(b) admonishments in court but then fails to adhere to Rule 604(d) falls below the standard of competent representation. Where this noncompliance causes dismissal of an appeal, through no fault of the defendant, the defendant’s constitutional right to effective assistance of counsel claim is implicated.35
The court has also recognized an admonition exception to the Rule 604(d) motion requirement. In People v. Foster,36 the court reasoned that a defendant’s due process rights would be violated by holding the defendant responsible for noncompliance with Rule 604(d) where a trial court fails to issue Rule 605(b) admonishments. Regardless of the subjective knowledge of defendant or defense counsel, the unadmonished defendant’s appeal should not be dismissed because of his failure to file a written motion as required by Rule 604(d). Instead, the appellate court should remand the case for Rule 604(d) compliance.37
Finally, in People v. Jamison,38 the court examined whether Rule 604(d) was fully applicable in capital cases. Appeals in capital cases are automatic. Nonetheless, the court noted that the requirements of Rule 604(d) must be followed in capital cases to preserve issues about the guilty plea for appellate review.39
Rule 604(d) is an important component in the framework the Illinois Supreme Court has established to implement constitutional standards in our State’s criminal justice system.40 Careful attention by attorneys and courts to the application of Rule 604(d) helps ensure the proper incorporation of guilty pleas into the judicial process.
1 Rule 604(d) reads as follows:
"No appeal from a judgment entered upon a plea of guilty shall be taken unless the defendant, within 30 days of the date on which sentence is imposed, files in the trial court a motion to reconsider the sentence, if only the sentence is being challenged, or, if the plea is being challenged, a motion to withdraw the plea of guilty and vacate the judgment. No appeal shall be taken upon a negotiated plea of guilty challenging the sentence as excessive unless the defendant, within 30 days of the imposition of sentence, files a motion to withdraw the plea of guilty and vacate the judgment. ... The defendant’s attorney shall file with the trial court a certificate stating that the attorney has consulted with the defendant either by mail or in person to ascertain defendant’s contentions of error in the sentence or the entry of the plea of guilty, has examined the trial court file and report of proceedings of the plea of guilty, and has made any amendments to the motion necessary for adequate presentation of any defects in those proceedings."
2 124 Ill.2d 93, 529 N.E.2d 218, 124 Ill. Dec. 398 (1988).
3 177 Ill.2d R. 402.
4 Official Reports Advance Sheet No. 21 (October 17, 2001), R. 605(b), eff. 10/1/01.
5 Wilk, 124 Ill.2d at *105, 529 N.E.2d at **222, 124 Ill.Dec. at ____.
6 Id. at *107, 529 N.E.2d at **223, 124 Ill.Dec. at ____.
7 725 ILCS 5/122–1 et seq. (West 2002).
8 Wilk, 124 Ill.2d at *110, 529 N.E.2d at **224, 124 Ill.Dec. at ____.
9 143 Ill.2d 59, 60-61, 570 N.E.2d 334, 335, 155 Ill. Dec. 821 (1991).
10 174 Ill.2d 320, 673 N.E.2d 244, 220 Ill. Dec. 332 (1996).
11 Id. at 332, 673 N.E.2d at **250, 220 Ill.Dec. at _____.
12 People v. Lumzy, 191 Ill.2d 182, 185-87, 730 N.E.2d 20, 21-22, 246 Ill. Dec. 340 (2000); People v. Linder, 186 Ill.2d 67, 77-78, 708 N.E.2d 1169, 1174, 237 Ill. Dec. 129 (1999) (Freeman, J., specially concurring).
13 Post-Evans cases examined whether the types of negotiated guilty pleas are treated in the same manner under Rule 604(d).
14 186 Ill.2d 67, 708 N.E.2d 1169, 237 Ill.Dec. 129 (1999).
15 Id. at *74, 708 N.E.2d at **1172, 237 Ill.Dec. at _____.
16 191 Ill.2d 182, 730 N.E.2d 20, 246 Ill.Dec. 340 (2000).
17 Id. at 187, 730 N.E.2d at **22, 246 Ill.Dec. at ____ (emphasis in original).
18 183 Ill.2d 261, 700 N.E.2d 1039, 233 Ill.Dec. 331 (1998).
19 730 ILCS 5/5-8-4(h) (West 1994).
20 Clark, 183 Ill.2d at *266-68, 700 N.E.2d at **1042-1043, 233 Ill.Dec. at ____.
21 No. 93760, 2003 Ill. LEXIS 1407 (Ill. June 18, 2003).
22 Id. at *1.
23 Id. at *2, (citing People v. McKay, 282 Ill.App.3d 108, 111, 668 N.E.2d 580, 583, 218 Ill. Dec. 96 (2nd Dist. 1996)).
24 William M., 2003 Ill. LEXIS 1407, at *5.
25 158 Ill.2d 27, 630 N.E.2d 790, 196 Ill. Dec. 625 (1994).
26 Id. at 35, 630 N.E.2d at 793, 196 Ill.Dec. at ____, (citing People v. Dickerson, 212 Ill.App.3d 168, 171, 570 N.E.2d 902, 904, 156 Ill. Dec. 426 (2nd Dist. 1991)).
27 Janes, 158 Ill.2d at *34-35, 630 N.E.2d **793, 196 Ill.Dec. 625.
28 Id. at 33, 630 N.E.2d at 792, 196 Ill.Dec. at ____.
29 See, e.g., People v. Fitzgibbon, 184 Ill.2d 320, 326, 704 N.E.2d 366, 369, 235 Ill. Dec. 17 (1998) (declining to interpret Rule 604(d) as requiring defense attorney to certify that he or she reviewed the transcript from the original sentencing hearing).
30 195 Ill.2d 313, 746 N.E.2d 732, 253 Ill.Dec. 911 (2001).
31 Id. at *314-15, 746 N.E.2d at **733-**734, 253 Ill.Dec. at ____.
32 134 Ill.2d R. 660(a).
33 705 ILCS 405/1-1 et seq.
34 A.G., 195 Ill.2d at *322, 746 N.E.2d at **737, 253 Ill.Dec. at ______.
35 Wilk, 124 Ill.2d at *105-06, 746 N.E.2d at **222, 253 Ill.Dec. at _____.
36 171 Ill.2d 469, 665 N.E.2d 823, 216 Ill. Dec. 565 (1996).
37 Id. at *473-74, 665 N.E.2d **825-**826, 216 Ill.Dec. 565 at ____.
38 181 Ill.2d 24, 690 N.E.2d 995, 228 Ill. Dec. 920 (1998).
39 Id. at *28, 690 N.E.2d at **997, 228 Ill.Dec. at ____.
40 Wilk, 124 Ill.2d at *103-04, 746 N.E.2d at **221, 253 Ill.Dec. at _____.
Leah C. Myers is a judicial clerk for Justice Rita B. Garman of the Illinois Supreme Court. She received her B.A., cum laude, from Duke University in 1999, and her J.D., cum laude, from the University of Illinois in 2002.