to impeach witnesses. Those rules included a provision that evidence of juvenile
adjudications are generally not admissible, except in limited circumstances to
impeach a witness other than an accused.
At the time of the adoption of the Montgomery rule, the Juvenile Court Act
prohibited the admission of a juvenile adjudication against a minor except in
subsequent proceedings under the Act concerning the same minor. Ill.Rev.Stat.
1965, Ch. 37, §702-9(1). The Act was subsequently amended to allow
impeachment of a witness with a juvenile adjudication “pursuant to the rules of
evidence for criminal trials,” Ill.Rev.Stat. 1983, Ch. 37, §702-10(1)(c), which was
interpreted to allow impeachment as provided by Montgomery. The Act now
permits admission of juvenile adjudications for impeachment of witnesses
“including the minor or defendant . . . pursuant to the rules of evidence for
criminal trials.” 705 ILCS 405/5-150(1)(c).
The Illinois Supreme Court found no conflict between §150(1)(c) and the
Montgomery rule. Courts had interpreted the language “pursuant to the rules of
evidence for criminal trials” in the Juvenile Court Act to incorporate the
Montgomery rule. The legislature retained that language in the present statute,
indicating that the present statute also incorporates Montgomery’s limitations.
The statute’s reference to a “minor or defendant” is not meaningless. It
incorporates an existing case law exception to Montgomery, which allows
introduction of a defendant’s otherwise inadmissible criminal record where the
defendant “opens the door” by attempting to mislead the trier of fact about his
2. At trial, to explain why he falsely admitted guilt to the police, defendant
testified that he was scared: “I’ve never been in a situation like this before. . . .
they were saying that I was looking at prison time and stuff like that. I’ve never
been in prison or nothing like that.” Defendant admitted on cross-examination
that he had given a typewritten statement to the police before, but testified that
the situation was different because he had been 16 and was questioned as a
The court concluded that defendant did not open the door to admission of
his juvenile adjudication because he was not attempting to mislead the jury about
his criminal background. At most, defendant’s testimony implied that he had
never been questioned by the police. Police questioning may occur in a variety of
circumstances and is not necessarily indicative of a criminal background. Thus,
defendant opened the door only to questioning about his prior experience with
police questioning, not to his prior criminal history. Although defendant also
stated he had never been in prison, this was a truthful statement.
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