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People v. Neville





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Sangamon County; the Hon. SIMON A. FRIEDMAN, Judge, presiding.


In a jury trial Clarence Neville was found guilty of three counts of possessing component parts of motor vehicles with knowledge that the identification numbers had been removed. The defendant was sentenced to 2 years' probation and fined $7,500. The conviction was for a violation of section 4-103(d) of the anti-theft provisions of the Illinois Vehicle Code which makes it a violation for:

"(d) a person to buy, receive, possess, sell, or dispose of a motor vehicle or other vehicle, or any component part thereof, with knowledge that the identification number of the motor vehicle or other vehicle or any component part thereof having an identification number has been removed or falsified." Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 95 1/2, par. 4-103(d).

In 1974, defendant was a licensed auto parts dealer whose business, Neville Auto Parts, was located in Springfield, Illinois. In January and February of 1974 defendant made several visits to the Cut Rate Auto Salvage Company of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, a junk yard operated by Joe Cecil. On his visit of February 2, 1974, defendant purchased from Joe Cecil various component pick-up truck parts, including the truck cabs from a 1972 green and white Chevrolet, a 1971 maroon Ford, and a 1972 brown Ford. These cabs were missing manufacturer's plates bearing sequential identification numbers whose absence is the basis of the conviction.

Agents of the National Auto Theft Bureau (NATB) had maintained surveillance of Cut Rate Auto Salvage, a suspected headquarters of an auto-theft ring, and specifically for trucks belonging to defendant after being alerted by the Illinois Secretary of State's Junking Certificate Bureau. On February 3, 1974, an agent of the NATB noted two of defendant's trucks leaving the junk yard. Upon request of the Illinois Secretary of State's office, surveillance of the trucks was maintained from Oklahoma City to Springfield, Illinois.

The cabs were transported to Springfield by defendant and Charles Spoor, an employee of defendant. When Spoor arrived at defendant's place of business he was met by agents of the Secretary of State's office who asked to see and did examine the cabs and the bills of sale for the cabs. The agents noted that identification numbers, usually found on a plate affixed to the chassis of the cabs, had been removed. Thereupon the State investigators went to the State's Attorney's office and procured a search warrant while other agents remained at defendant's business. The search warrant was issued on the affidavits of the investigators that information had been received from the NATB that the cabs were from stolen trucks. When the agents returned with the search warrant they found that defendant had arrived. He stated to the agents at that time: "Them's my parts. I paid good cash for them."

At trial, counsel for defendant admitted in his closing argument that defendant had been in actual possession of the cabs but that he did not know that the vehicle identification numbers had been removed. The only direct testimony of defendant's knowledge concerning the removal of the numbers was that of a self-confessed truck thief, Georgianne Kyser, who testified that defendant had been present during the removal of identification numbers and dismantlement of recently stolen trucks. She also testified that she witnessed defendant giving cash to Joe Cecil who in turn gave the money to one of the truck thieves.

On appeal, defendant challenges his conviction on several grounds; (1) that he had not violated the statute; (2) that the statute is unconstitutional; (3) that he was not proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt; (4) that his Miranda rights had been violated, and (5) that evidence had been improperly admitted into the record.

• 1 Dealing with defendant's last contention first, defendant argues that evidence gained through the search of Neville Auto Parts was illegally and unconstitutionally obtained, and the subsequent seizure of the cabs should not have been admitted into the record. Defendant made a pre-trial motion to suppress this evidence but it was denied. At no other time before this appeal did defendant raise these evidentiary objections. It is a well-recognized maxim that the failure to preserve error at trial or in the post-trial motions constitutes a waiver of those objections on appeal. People v. Curry (1973), 56 Ill.2d 162, 306 N.E.2d 292; People v. Rogers (1975), 32 Ill. App.3d 788, 336 N.E.2d 784.

• 2 If error is not properly preserved it is waived unless the error complained of constitutes plain error, or involves jurisdictional questions. For the error complained of to be considered plain error, the error must be so prejudicial to defendant that the failure to object is not a waiver. (People v. Pickett (1973), 54 Ill.2d 280, 296 N.E.2d 856.) We cannot so find in this case.

Two of defendant's proposed grounds for reversal revolve around the definition of "identification number" found in section 4-103(d) of the Illinois Vehicle Code. The defendant first argues that the term "identification number" as defined in section 1-129 governs and thereby precluded his knowing what identification number the section 4-103(d) referred to. Identifying number is defined at section 1-129 of the Illinois Vehicle Code as:

"The numbers and letters, if any, on a vehicle designated by the Secretary [of State] for the purpose of identifying the vehicle." (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 95 1/2, par. 1-129.)

The defendant contends the Secretary of State has not complied with this statute by failing to designate an identifying number and as a result of that failure he could not possess scienter or knowledge of the crime and, therefore, could not be found guilty.

We disagree. In section 1-101 of the Illinois Vehicle Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 95 1/2, ...

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