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Copyright (c) 2006 Loyola University Chicago School of Law
Loyola University Chicago Law Journal

Article: To Review or Not to Review: The Plain Truth About Illinois' Plain Error Rule

Spring, 2006

37 Loy. U. Chi. L.J. 455


Steven W. Becker*


I. Introduction
On May 19, 2005, the Illinois Supreme Court issued two important decisions, People v. Herron 2 and People v. Durr. 3 Both decisions confirmed the court's adherence to Illinois' traditional plain error test and defined the parameters of the rule's two prongs. Significantly, the court also explicitly rejected the institutional agenda of the State's Attorney's Office to abrogate Illinois' long-standing plain error test in favor of the prosecution-friendly federal plain error test. 4 In so doing, the Illinois Supreme Court reaffirmed its role "as guardian[] of constitutional rights and the integrity of the criminal justice system." 5

A correct understanding of the plain error rule - and how it differs from the federal rule - is essential because the question of the rule's applicability arises in almost every criminal appeal in Illinois. It is a rare case indeed in which the State does not assert that a defendant has "waived" the right to raise an issue in front of the reviewing court on account of defense counsel's failure to properly preserve the error in the trial court for purposes of appeal. However, even among seasoned practitioners, the doctrine of "plain error" remains an enigma. 6 Accordingly, the purpose of this Article is to clarify the plain error rule as it is applied in Illinois practice and to highlight its important role in ensuring the preservation of the integrity of the criminal appeal process in Illinois.

Part II of this Article will provide ...
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