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Hayes Freight Lines, Inc. v. Castle

OPINION FILED JANUARY 20, 1954.

HAYES FREIGHT LINES, INC., APPELLANT,

v.

LATHAM CASTLE, ATTORNEY GENERAL, ET AL., APPELLEES.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Marion County; the Hon. WARD HOLT, Judge, presiding.

MR. CHIEF JUSTICE SCHAEFER DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Section 132.02 of the Uniform Act Regulating Traffic on Highways (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1951, chap. 95 1/2, par. 229b,) provides for suspension of the privilege of operating a commercial vehicle upon the highways when habitual operation in violation of the maximum weight and load limits fixed by section 131 of the act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1951, chap. 95 1/2, par. 228,) is established. Plaintiff filed a complaint in the circuit court of Marion County in which it alleged that an action had been brought in that court charging plaintiff with 157 violations of section 131, and seeking to suspend its commercial operator's privilege for ninety days. On information and belief, plaintiff also alleged that a second such action was about to be instituted to suspend its privilege for either ninety days or one year because of 144 additional violations. Asserting that the suspension provisions violate the State and Federal constitutions in respects which will be discussed, plaintiff sought a declaratory judgment that they are invalid, and an injunction to restrain the defendants, the Attorney General and the State's Attorney of Marion County, from proceeding further against the plaintiff. The circuit court found the suspension provisions valid, granted defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint, and entered an order of dismissal against the plaintiff, who appeals directly to this court.

The complaint alleges that the plaintiff is a corporation engaged in the transportation of property by motor vehicle as a common carrier, both in interstate and intrastate commerce. It operates 1929 motor vehicles, employs 2059 persons, of whom 736 are utilized in its Illinois operations, and maintains terminals at thirty-five cities in eight States. It conducts interstate operations in ten States, including Illinois, under a certificate of public convenience and necessity issued to it by the Interstate Commerce Commission. It also operates in intrastate commerce within Illinois as a line-haul carrier, pursuant to a certificate of public convenience and necessity issued by the Division of Motor Carriers of the Department of Public Works and Buildings.

It is also alleged that during the time covered by the complaint in the suspension proceeding, plaintiff's vehicles operated approximately 60,000 vehicle trips over the highways of the State, traveling a total of 90,000,000 miles, and transporting daily 7,500,000 pounds of property, and that only two of the 157 violations charged involved "gross" overloads, as distinguished from "axle" overloads resulting from the shift of cargo during the course of operation of the vehicles.

Plaintiff further alleges that its business as a common carrier constitutes a valuable property right which requires, for its continuous existence, that a regular and uninterrupted service both in interstate and in intrastate commerce be performed, and that a suspension of its service for either ninety days or one year may result in financial ruin.

Section 132.02 alone is attacked here. Plaintiff concedes the validity of section 131, and of section 132.01 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1951, chap. 95 1/2, par. 229a,) which provides a schedule of fines, graduated according to the amount of excess weight, for violation of section 131.

Subsection (b) of section 132.02, which was added to the act in 1951, provides that the privilege of a commercial vehicle operator to operate upon the highways shall be suspended when he shall "habitually operate" in violation of the maximum load and weight limits of section 131. The "commercial vehicle operator's privilege" is defined by section 132.02(a)(3) as "the privilege, recognized or conferred by any law of this state, of any person * * * to operate * * * commercial vehicles * * * upon the public highways of this state." Section 132.02(c) provides that upon conviction of any person for a violation of section 131 the arresting officer shall report the circumstances of the arrest to the Director of the Department of Public Safety, who is required to mail a copy of the report to the person in whose name the offending vehicle is registered. Section 132.02(d) provides that the Director of the Department of Public Safety shall notify the Attorney General whenever a total of ten convictions has been entered during any twelve months' period with respect to vehicles operated by any one operator. It then becomes the duty of the Attorney General to bring a proceeding to suspend the operator's privilege. By subsection (e), the circuit courts and the superior court of Cook County are given jurisdiction of suspension proceedings.

Subsection (g) provides that proof of a total of ten or more convictions for violation of section 131 during any twelve months' period by any one operator constitutes prima facie evidence that the operator has habitually operated in violation of section 131. Subsection (g) further provides that "the court shall not find that a defendant has habitually operated one or more commercial vehicles in violation of Section 131 of this Act unless and until the court shall have considered the evidence to the contrary, if any, offered by the defendant, and such evidence may include, but shall not be limited to, evidence relating to the character and gravity of such violations and the extent of the operations of commercial vehicles by or on behalf of such defendant upon the public highways of this state which did not involve any such violations."

Subsection (i) provides that whenever the court shall find from the evidence that an operator has habitually operated one or more commercial vehicles in violation of section 131, it shall enter an order suspending the operator's privilege for a period of ninety days. If at any time thereafter, in another suspension proceeding, the court shall find that the operator has again habitually operated in violation of section 131, it shall enter a similar order of suspension for a period of one year. An order of suspension is enforceable by contempt proceedings, (subsection (j),) and operation after suspension is a misdemeanor (subsection (1).)

The plaintiff contends that section 132.02 is invalid under the Federal and State constitutions. The Federal grounds relied upon are the due process, equal protection, commerce and supremacy clauses. The State grounds are the due process and separation of powers clauses, and the requirement of section 11 of article II that all penalties be proportioned to the offense. We shall defer consideration of the contentions raised under the commerce and supremacy clauses of the Federal constitution until the other issues have been discussed.

Statutory provisions for suspension or revocation of licenses of all types upon proof of violation of law are so familiar as not to warrant citation. In the motor vehicle field, the Illinois provision for revocation of the ordinary driver's license for specified statutory violations (among them three convictions for violation of speed limits) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1951, chap. 95 1/2, par. 35j,) is typical of provisions which are uniformly regarded as permissible regulations of the use of the highways. (People v. Kobylak, 383 Ill. 432; In Re Probasco, 269 Mich. 453, 257 N.W. 861; Commonwealth v. Harris, 278 Ky. 218, 128 S.W.2d 579; LaPlante v. State Board, 47 R.I. 258, 131 A. 641; Commonwealth v. Funk, 323 Pa. 390, 186 A. 65; Prichard v. Battle, 178 Va. 455, 17 S.E.2d 393.) That such provisions generally aim to foster public safety, while the primary bearing, at least, of the present provision is the protection of the highways from abuse by excessively heavy loads, cannot be a material difference. Plaintiff would also distinguish these cases on the ground that the suspension here "is directed precisely to a prohibition upon the right to engage in a lawful business." But one who uses the public highways for the conduct of his business certainly cannot on that account claim a preferred position. Bode v. Barrett, 412 Ill. 204; Weksler v. Collins, 317 Ill. 132.

Plaintiff, however, asserts that that portion of section 132.02(g) which requires the court to consider evidence relating to the character and gravity of the violations and the extent of the operations of the defendant in determining whether there has been habitual operation in violation of the act fails to provide a "reasonable ascertainable standard" and therefore violates both due process and the separation of powers required by article III of the constitution of Illinois. Insofar as the suspension provision is conditioned upon the occurrence of a statutory offense, there is, of course, no question of indefiniteness, for the statutory maximum weight and load limits are expressed in precise units of physical measurement. But it is argued that the terms "character" and "gravity" lack precision, and that they afford no standard by which an operator who has been convicted of a violation of a statutory load limit can tell whether that violation falls "within or without the type of violation for which an operator's privilege may be suspended." As to the factor of "extent of operations," which the plaintiff describes as the "percentage relationship of violations to nonviolations," it is said that no measure is prescribed for either the court "or the operator to adjudge or determine that distinctive percentage which falls within the prohibited category, and that which falls without it." In support of this argument plaintiff relies upon Connally v. General Construction Co. 269 U.S. 385; Small Company v. American Sugar Refining Co. 267 U.S. 233; United States v. Capital Traction Co. 34 App. D.C. 592, and other cases in which statutes have been invalidated for want of definiteness.

Neither proposition is sound. It may be conceded, as the plaintiff suggests, that the standards provided do not permit an operator to know in advance whether or not his conduct, admittedly in violation of the law, will be determined to warrant a finding that he has habitually operated in violation of the act with resulting suspension. From the point of view of the operator it would obviously be desirable to know the precise conditions under which he may violate the law without incurring the risk of suspension of his license. But the desire of the operator is not equivalent to a command of the constitution. Many years ago it was pointed out that "the law is full of instances where a man's ...


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