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People v. Perlman

OCTOBER 21, 1957.

PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, APPELLEE,

v.

HENRY PERLMAN, APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Municipal Court of Chicago; the Hon. ALFONSE F. WELLS, Judge, presiding. Judgments reversed.

PER CURIAM.

Defendant, Henry Perlman, was convicted in the Municipal Court of Chicago on two charges, contained in separate informations, one charging him with violation of section 49, the other with a violation of section 103, of the Uniform Act Regulating Traffic on Highways for the State of Illinois. The cases were consolidated and tried at the same time by the court without a jury. The court found the defendant guilty on both charges and assessed fines totaling $13. The defendant takes this appeal from the judgments entered therein.

Cases of this character, which involve a violation of the Traffic Act, seldom, if ever, come before courts of review. Ordinarily the amount of the fine is small and the expense and time which would be consumed in an appeal is obviously too great a burden for the ordinary defendant. When such a case comes before a reviewing court the rules of law should be clearly enunciated for the guidance of the trial courts in deciding future cases which may come before them. The traffic court is an extremely important court. It is the only contact which a great majority of our citizens have with any court. Hence it is extremely important that the court's interpretation and application of the governing legal principles and the procedure followed in the trial be painstakingly correct and accurate.

The defendant contends that there was not sufficient credible evidence to convict him under section 49 of driving at an excessive speed, and that there was a total lack of evidence to convict him under section 103 of driving a motor vehicle without lamps visible 500 feet in front of said vehicle.

On September 1, 1956, at approximately 11:15 p.m., the defendant was driving west on Peterson avenue, a public highway in the city of Chicago, when he was stopped by a police officer and given two traffic tickets. At the trial the officer testified that at the time in question he was traveling in an easterly direction on Peterson avenue in the vicinity of the 4100 block, where the posted speed limit was 35 miles an hour; that he observed a car being driven by the defendant in a westerly direction and believed that the defendant was driving faster than the posted speed limit; that he turned his vehicle around and followed the defendant's car for approximately two blocks, 4500 to 4700; that the posted speed limit changed to 30 miles an hour at the 4500 block; that he clocked defendant's rate of speed at 42 miles an hour; that at the time when he stopped defendant's car he noticed that the defendant had on his parking lights instead of his regular headlights. The officer further testified that traffic conditions were normal at the time and place in question, the weather was clear and there were about 8 to 10 cars going in each direction in an eight block area.

The defendant testified that he has been a member of the bar since 1922 and had served as a master in chancery of the Circuit Court; that at the time and place he was driving with his roadlights on instead of his headlights because he was previously informed that one of his headlights was burned out; that he was driving a Cadillac car and that on such car there were three sets of lights: parking, roadlights and headlights; that at the time he was using the roadlights, which had a beam of 250 feet and were visible for a distance of two miles. The State introduced no evidence to contradict this testimony. The officer testified that in his opinion at the time and place in question the defendant was driving at a speed which placed his life, limb and property in danger.

Section 49 of the Uniform Act Regulating Traffic on Highways (par. 146, chap. 95 1/2, Ill. Rev. Stat. 1955) provides:

"(a) No person shall drive a vehicle of the first division as described in Article 1 of this Act, upon any public highway in this State at a speed greater than is reasonable and proper having regard to the traffic and the use of the way or so as to endanger the life or limb or injure the property of any person. . . ."

Section 50 (par. 147) provides:

". . . whenever the local authorities in cities exceeding 500,000 in population shall determine upon the basis of an engineering and traffic investigation . . . said local authorities shall determine and declare a reasonable and safe prima facie speed limit thereat which shall be effective when appropriate signs giving notice thereof are erected at such intersection or other place or part of the street, but in no instance shall the speed exceed 45 miles per hour."

Section 103 (par. 200) provides:

"When upon any highway in this State, during the period from sunset to sunrise, every motorcycle shall carry one lighted lamp and every motor vehicle two lighted lamps showing white lights, or lights of a yellow or amber tint, visible at least five hundred (500) feet in the direction toward which each motorcycle or motor vehicle is proceeding. . . ."

We shall first consider the charge that the defendant was violating section 103 of the Uniform Act Regulating Traffic on the Highways. The information charged in the words of the statute that the defendant was driving the said vehicle after sunset and before sunrise without two lamps showing two white or amber lights visible 500 feet in front of said vehicle. The defendant testified that the lights he was using at the time had a visibility of two miles. This testimony was not contradicted in any way by any evidence put forward by the State. The State failed to prove the defendant guilty not only by evidence beyond a reasonable doubt but by any evidence at all. The judgment of the trial court finding defendant guilty on the information charging a violation of section 103 of the Uniform Act Regulating Traffic on Highways was in error.

We will next consider the charge against the defendant of violating section 49 of the Uniform Act Regulating Traffic on Highways; and while this Act has since been amended, the charge must be ...


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