APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Edgar County; the Hon.
RICHARD E. SCOTT, Judge, presiding.
MR. JUSTICE MILLS DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
At defendants' trial at bench, State Trooper J.E. Buckley testified that he was at the ICM Grain scales in Paris, Illinois, in the early morning hours of June 1, 1980. Defendants arrived at the scales, having received orders from a county deputy sheriff to go to ICM Grain to have their trucks weighed. Buckley testified that the scales were certified by the Illinois Department of Agriculture and that the sticker on the scales stated that they had been tested in September 1979. Buckley did not calibrate the scales but testified that they are "exactly with" a set of State-operated scales in Marshall, Illinois. The ICM Grain scales indicated that Jackson's and Bartow's trucks exceeded their 73,280-pound weight limit by 20,220 pounds and 24,920 pounds, respectively.
Following Trooper Buckley's testimony, the State rested. Defendants' attorney then moved "to dismiss the complaint" on the ground that the State had produced no evidence that the county deputy who ordered defendants to go to the scales had reason to believe that the trucks were overweight. The judge noted that the statute requires that an officer believe a vehicle is overweight before he stops it (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 95 1/2, par. 15-112(a)) and pointed out that the State had not produced any evidence as to the reasonableness of the deputy's belief. The prosecutor said that he had no response to the court's statement and that he had not known prior to trial that an officer other than Buckley had been involved. The trial judge, without any request from the State, decided to "allow the State a recess to try to contact the officer making the stop to get some kind of evidence by re-opening their case, over objection of defendant[s], some kind of evidence as to why the stop was made."
Following the recess, Deputy Sheriff Lyle Eaton testified that defendants' trucks had appeared to him to be "pulling heavy." Also, the manner in which the trucks jumped when starting from a stop sign and the noise they were making caused him to think the vehicles were overweight. Following Eaton's testimony, defendants renewed their motion to dismiss, contending that there still was insufficient evidence of a reason to believe that the trucks were overweight. The motion was denied, and following testimony by both defendants, they were found guilty of driving overweight vehicles.
Defendants contend that the trial judge abused his discretion when, on his own motion, he recessed the trial and informed the State that it should find the county deputy and have him testify. But before we address that contention, we must determine how an arresting officer's reason to believe that a vehicle is overweight fits into the scheme of enforcing statutory vehicle weight limitations and of prosecuting violators of those limitations.
Section 15-111(a) of the Illinois Vehicle Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 95 1/2, par. 15-111(a)) provides, in pertinent part, as follows:
"No vehicle or combination of vehicles equipped with pneumatic tires shall be operated, unladen or with load, upon the highways of this State when the gross weight on the road surface through any axle thereof exceeds 16,000 pounds; * * *."
Section 15-111(b) of the Code incorporates by reference the provisions of section 15-111(a) and sets forth the gross weights allowable for various vehicles, depending on the number of axles and the distance between the axles.
Section 15-112(a) of the Code contains the provision upon which defendants relied in seeking to ...