A leading appellate attorney reviews the Illinois Supreme Court opinion handed down Thursday, October 5.

People v. Reyes, 2023 IL 128461

By Kerry J. Bryson, Office of the State Appellate Defender

In 2012, Jorge Reyes was convicted of aggravated driving under the influence. In additional to a prison sentence, Reyes was ordered to pay various fines and fees. Subsequently, Reyes filed a petition to revoke the fines in his case, pursuant to 730 ILCS 5/5-9-2.Section 5-9-2 states that “[e]xcept as to fines established for violations of Chapter 15 of the Illinois Vehicle Code, the court, upon good cause shown, may revoke the fine or the unpaid portion or may modify the method of payment.” The circuit court denied Reyes’s petition 15 days after it was filed, concluding that he had failed to show good cause for revocation of his fines. Reyes was neither present nor represented by counsel.

On appeal, Reyes first argued that the denial was premature because his petition was not yet ripe for adjudication. Specifically, Reyes asserted that the procedural rules applicable to Section 2-1401 petitions for relief from judgment are also applicable to petitions to revoke fines under Section 5-9-2, and thus the petition was not ripe until 30 days had passed from its filing. Reyes pointed to People v. Mingo, 403 Ill. App. 3d 968 (2010), where the court described Section 5-9-2 petitions as “freestanding collateral actions” like 2-1401 petitions, and to People v. Vincent, 226 Ill. 2d 1 (2007), where the Illinois Supreme Court held that the 30-day requirement applied to 2-1401 proceedings.

The Illinois Supreme Court rejected Reyes’s argument. The Court observed that Mingo did not hold that 2-1401’s procedural rules apply to Section 5-9-2 petitions, only that both were freestanding collateral actions. Further, Section 5-9-2 contains no indication that such procedures should be employed. Indeed, Section 5-9-2 contains no procedural requirements at all. And, the rules of civil practice in question – Illinois Supreme Court Rules 105 and 106 – are simply inapplicable to Section 5-9-2 petitions.

Reyes also argued that the circuit court abused its discretion in denying his petition to revoke fines on its merits because he showed good cause for his request. The Illinois Supreme Court held, however, that because Reyes was only assessed mandatory fines, the circuit court actually had no discretion to revoke or modify them regardless of whether he established good cause. Section 5-9-2 simply refers to “the fine” in discussing its scope. The Court held that the statute is ambiguous on its face as to whether it applies to all fines – both discretionary and mandatory – that may be imposed or whether it refers only to any discretionary penal fine. The Court then concluded that Section 5-9-2 must apply only to discretionary penal fines and not all fines because it would be contrary to the intent of the legislature to give the circuit court discretion to revoke a fine where it had no discretion as to whether to impose the fine in the first instance. In other words, application of Section 5-9-2 to mandatory fines would essentially convert them into discretionary fines after the fact. Because Reyes was assessed only mandatory fines and not a discretionary penal fine, he could not obtain revocation of his fines under Section 5-9-2. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the denial of Reyes’s petition.

 1Reyes actually filed multiple, successive petitions under Section 5-9-2, each of which was denied. This appeal was concerned with the last of those.