Trial Court Oversteps Authority In Directing Notice Of Appeal To Be Filed For Defendant

Walter Lofton pleaded guilty to charges of aggravated battery and criminal damage to government-supported property. He was sentenced to four years imprisonment on the battery count, and three concurrent years on the damage to property count.

After sentencing, Lofton was admonished about his right to appeal. When told of his right to appeal, he immediately expressed his desire to do so. About a week later, based upon Lofton’s stated desire to appeal, the trial court directed the clerk to file a notice of appeal on Lofton’s behalf, which the clerk did. However, Illinois Supreme Court Rule 604(d) requires that (1) a motion to reconsider the sentence or (2) a motion to withdraw the guilty plea and to vacate the judgment be filed in the trial court as a condition to appealing. Lofton filed neither.

The Fourth District Illinois Appellate Court remanded the case with directions to strike the notice of appeal and to confirm whether Lofton wanted to file a post-trial motion. The court ruled that “… the trial court acted without authority by directing the clerk to file a notice of appeal. Although defendant had initially expressed a desire to appeal, he did not indicate that he wanted to appeal after he had received the appeal admonitions. Defendant was deprived of approximately three weeks’ time in which to determine whether to file a posttrial motion.”

The whole case, People v. Lofton, No. 4-06-0382 (10/11/07), is available by clicking here.