Recent Traffic Law Changes Motorists Should Know

The laws effecting drivers change rapidly and often without sufficient notice to motorists. The changes in the law can often make the difference in whether a motorist is guilty of a petty offense punishable by a fine only or a misdemeanor that result in substantial fines, jail time and or the suspension or revocation of a motorist’s driving privileges.

The purpose of this article is to inform Illinois motorists of some recent changes in the law that effect drivers. It is strongly advised that you consult with and retain an experienced criminal/traffic attorney when facing traffic charges in that most drivers are not aware of the consequences that a conviction can carry and prosecutors are under no obligation to inform a motorist of the potential ramifications of a motorist’s actions in court. What may seem like a minor matter could result in a suspension of your license if not handled properly. The following are some recent changes to the law that every motorist should be aware of.

TICKET QUOTAS

With the Illinois Legislature’s passing of Public Act 98-650, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Conservation Police, Illinois State Police, counties, or municipalities are expressly prohibited from requiring officers to write a minimum number of tickets within a specific period and prohibits those agencies from evaluating officers based on how many tickets they issue compared to others.

RECISSION OF SUMMARY SUSPENSION DOES NOT APPLY RETROACTIVELY

In People v. Elliott, 2014 IL 115308, the defendant was arrested for DUI and issued a summary suspension. The defendant was then later arrested for driving while license suspended for driving while his summary suspension was in effect. Soon after being arrested for driving while license suspended, the court granted his petition to rescind summary suspension and removed the summary suspension from his record.

The defendant then moved to dismiss the driving-while-suspended charge, arguing that a rescission relates back to the date of the suspension’s entry. The defendant essentially argued that he could not be guilty of driving on a suspended license because he should not have received a summary suspension in the first place as indicated by the court granting his petition to rescind the summary suspension. The appellate court agreed, reversing and vacating the defendant’s conviction. The state appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court.

The court spent a lengthy time considering what the term “rescission” meant and concluded it has only a prospective effect in this case, and so his suspension was in effect when he was arrested. The court reversed the appellate court’s decision and reinstated the defendant’s conviction. So the moral of the story is even if a motorist has reason to believe he should not have received a summary suspension and believes the suspension will be overturned he should not drive while suspended because the charge of driving on a suspended license will be deemed to be a violation of the law at the time the suspension was effective.

POLICE MUST SHARE VIDEO WITH DEFENDANTS BUT FAILURE TO AUDIO RECORD DOES NOT CARRY THE SAME CONSEQUENCES

In People v. Kladis, 2011 IL 110920, the Illinois Supreme Court allowed misdemeanor defendants to ask for police videos as part of discovery in DUI cases. The court also held that the trial court’s decision to bar the arresting officer from testifying about events that would have been shown by the recording in question – which was destroyed after the defendant requested it – was reasonable.

The courts have recently placed a limit on Kladis. In People v. Strobel, 2014 IL App (1 st) 130300, after a timely defense discovery motion, the state produced a squad car video of the defendant’s field sobriety tests and subsequent arrest. However, the video was silent because, according to the state, the officer didn’t turn the audio on. The defendant argued that this constituted “destruction of evidence” and was sanctionable under Kladis.

The trial court agreed with the defense's request to extend the Kladis ruling to the lack of audio and entered sanctions barring the state from presenting testimony or the video of the arrest process. The appellate court reversed, holding that because no audio ever existed, no discovery violation occurred.

U-TURNS AT ROADBLOCKS ARE NOT VALID JUSTIFICATION FOR A TRAFFIC STOP

A “roadside safety check”, which is a polite term used by law enforcement for a roadblock, is often located so there’s no easy way to avoid it. If the area has cross streets, or a rest stop, police patrol looking for people trying to avoid the roadblock.

In People v. Timmsen, 2014 IL App (3d) 120481, the police put a roadside safety check about 50 feet from a railroad crossing. The crossing was not barricaded and this was the only place drivers could turn around to avoid the check. The defendant made a U-turn at the tracks, and the police stopped him for driving left of center at a railroad crossing. That’s when they discovered that his driver’s license was suspended.

The defendant filed a motion to suppress, arguing that his U-turn wasn’t suspicious activity that justified the stop. The state argued otherwise and won the hearing on the motion to suppress. The defendant was found guilty of driving while license suspended.

At oral argument, the state conceded that defendant’s making a U-turn at the railroad crossing did not violate any laws (a U-turn is not illegal in Illinois if it can be made safely and without interfering with other traffic – 625 ILCS 5/11-802). But prosecutors argued that it provided a reasonable articulable suspicion of illegal activity and thus justified the stop.

The court ruled that a U-turn by itself – without other behavior, such as stopping to switch drivers – does not justify a stop.

MOTORISTS NO LONGER NEED TO POST THEIR LICENSE AS BOND AFTER BEING ISSUED A TRAFFIC CITATION

Thanks to Pub. Act 98-870, beginning January 1, 2015, motorists who get a traffic citation for a petty-offense violation (one that is punishable by a fine only) of the vehicle code or local ordinance will no longer have to post their driver’s license as bond. Motorists will effectively make a written promise to comply with the assigned court date by signing the ticket and won’t have to surrender a form of ID that makes life much easier at the airport, the pharmacy, and elsewhere.

CONCLUSION

The preceding are just a few of the recent changes to the Illinois Motor Vehicle Code and the Appellate Court’s interpretation of the traffic laws that have become effective or will be implemented in 2015.

 

Posted in Criminal Law

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