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People v. Indiana Harbor Belt R.r. Co.

OPINION FILED DECEMBER 1, 1981.

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

v.

INDIANA HARBOR BELT RAILROAD COMPANY, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT. — (BALTIMORE AND OHIO RAILROAD COMPANY ET AL., AMICI CURIAE.)



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. WILL E. GIERACH, Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE PERLIN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

This is a consolidated appeal of two cases involving a total of five instances in which the defendant, Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad Company (defendant), was charged with obstructing public travel at a railroad highway grade crossing for a period in excess of 10 minutes in violation of section 14 of "An Act in relation to fencing and operating railroads" (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 114, par. 70). A bench trial was held in each of the five cases. In each case the railroad was found guilty and a fine was assessed. The defendant appeals in each case from the judgment of the circuit court.

The following issues are presented for review: (1) whether by failing to file any post-trial motions, the defendant has waived all errors on appeal; (2) whether a moving train which obstructs public travel at a railroad highway grade crossing for a period in excess of ten minutes violates section 14; and (3) whether an interpretation of section 14 to include "moving trains" renders the statute unconstitutional as an unreasonable burden on interstate commerce.

For the reasons set forth herein, we affirm the decision of the circuit court in each of the cases involved in this consolidated appeal.

The facts pertinent to this appeal are undisputed. On each of five occasions a patrolman for the Village of Dolton, Illinois, observed a moving train owned by defendant obstructing traffic at a railroad highway grade crossing, located in Dolton, for a period in excess of 10 minutes. At the bench trial of each of the violations with which the defendant was charged, counsel for defendant argued that "a train moving through a grade crossing without stopping cannot be in violation of section 70 [section 14]."

The trial court, in finding defendant guilty, ruled that the statute in question must be construed to include moving trains which obstruct public travel for more than 10 minutes.

Defendant did not file any post-trial motions, but it appeals in each of the five cases from the judgment of the trial court.

I

The first issue presented for review is whether the railroad by failing to file any post-trial motions has waived all errors on appeal.

The underlying premise of the waiver rule is that the trial court be given an opportunity to correct any alleged errors. (People v. Lain (1980), 80 Ill. App.3d 1136, 1137, 400 N.E.2d 1033.) It has been generally held, however, that in a bench trial a post-trial motion is not necessary to preserve for review claims of error if such errors were in some manner brought to the attention of the trial court. See People v. Eatherly (1979), 78 Ill. App.3d 777, 780, 397 N.E.2d 533.

• 1 In the case at bar, defendant maintains that the only error was the interpretation of section 14 by the trial judge. The record indicates that in each of the five bench trials, defendant argued that the statute should be construed not to include "moving" trains. Thus, the trial court was made aware of defendant's claim of error, and we shall consider the facts underlying defendant's argument.

II

• 2 The second issue presented is whether a moving train which obstructs public travel at a railroad highway grade crossing for a period in excess of 10 minutes violates section 14 of "An Act in relation to fencing and operating railroads." Section 14 provides in pertinent part:

"It is unlawful for a railroad corporation to permit any train, railroad car or engine to obstruct public travel at a railroad-highway grade crossing for a period in excess of 10 minutes, except where such train, railroad car or engine cannot be moved by reason or circumstances over which the ...


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