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People v. Beil

OPINION FILED SEPTEMBER 26, 1979.

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

MERVIN L. BEIL, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Sangamon County; the Hon. I.J. FEUER, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE MILLS DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Speeding charge.

Jury trial available?

Of course!

We reverse and remand.

The trial court, sitting at bench, found Mervin L. Beil guilty of the offense of speeding and imposed a fine of $35. In this appeal, he raises four issues which, he contends, require that his conviction be reversed. Although we agree with him on only two, the same issues may arise on retrial and we must necessarily address all four.

Prior to trial, the defendant requested a trial by jury and also filed a motion in limine seeking to have the officer who issued the citation ordered to appear in civilian clothing. The trial court denied both requests and the case proceeded to a bench trial.

FACTS

The evidence presented by the prosecution consisted of the testimony of Illinois State Trooper Larry Hemann. He testified that at approximately 8:05 p.m. on August 5, 1978, he was parked on the shoulder of the southbound lane of Interstate 55 just north of Old Toronto Road near Springfield. Upon arrival at that location he had tested his radar gun for accuracy by striking a 55-miles-per-hour tuning fork against the steering wheel of his vehicle. When the radar is operating correctly, a speed of 55 miles per hour will be indicated on the gun. At this time Hemann found the gun to be accurate.

An automobile traveling in the northbound lane of Interstate 55 at what appeared to be a faster rate of speed than the other traffic was observed by Hemann. When his radar gun was trained on that vehicle, it registered a speed of 67 miles per hour. As the vehicle passed Hemann's location, he noted that it was a white over blue 1974 Cadillac with a front license plate number of XXX229. An objection to the officer's conclusion as to the speed of this vehicle based upon an improper foundation was overruled and the officer further described his activities.

There were no obstructions located between the officer's position and that of the 1974 Cadillac which would impede or interfere with the performance of the radar. Noting that the area was a 55-miles-per-hour speed zone, the officer locked the 67 miles per hour reading in on the radar gun and pursued and stopped the vehicle. After issuing a traffic citation to the defendant, the officer again checked the accuracy of the radar device and found it to be operating properly.

During cross-examination of Hemann he testified that he received academy training on the use of the radar gun and had received a booklet concerning the device. Although part of his training included checking the accuracy of the tuning fork, he had not checked this fork. The radar gun used by the officer is a nondiscriminating device and he did not know if the signal transmitted was the same signal that was received. He also admitted that he had lost sight of the speeding vehicle for a few seconds but he had earlier testified that the unit he stopped was the same one that he had clocked at 67 miles per hour.

Motions to strike the officer's testimony and to dismiss were denied and the defendant was called to testify. His attempts to qualify himself as an expert in the field of radar were rejected by the trial court, and an offer of proof on this issue was then made.

The offer of proof showed that the defendant had been a pilot in the United States Navy and received instruction on the various types of radar devices. Defendant's flight training included instruction in the field of physics and on the principles of radar. He also had courses dealing with electronics and the construction, operation, and use of radar, both as a transmitter and as a receiver. Since then he has had the opportunity to view and work with more recent developments ...


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