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People v. Stevens





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Tazewell County; the Hon. William H. Young, Judge, presiding.


Rehearing denied August 22, 1984.

The defendant, John Finton Stevens, was convicted of driving while license suspended. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 95 1/2, par. 6-303). He was sentenced to 270 days' imprisonment in the Tazewell County Jail and a fine of $100. The defendant appeals his conviction, raising issues related to the Secretary of State's notice that the defendant's license was suspended.

On December 21, 1982, the defendant was issued a citation for driving while license suspended. The defendant filed a pretrial motion to dismiss alleging that the statute, both on its face and as applied, is void and unconstitutional as a violation of due process. The motion condemned the statute because it allows conviction regardless of whether the defendant received notice of revocation. On July 8, 1983, the trial court heard and denied the motion.

According to the defendant's report of proceedings, at the July 27, 1983, bench trial on the citation, the arresting police officer testified for the State. The State also introduced, over the defendant's objection, a certified copy from the Secretary of State (hereinafter Secretary), of an order suspending the defendant's driver's license from December 9, 1982, to June 9, 1983. The Secretary's order of suspension states that notice of the suspension was mailed to the defendant on December 2, 1982. The order bears no receipt for a prepaid postage mailing to the defendant's last known address.

At trial the defendant testified in his own behalf. He sought to give evidence regarding his lack of notice of the suspension. The State objected to the testimony, and the court sustained the objection. The court found the defendant guilty as charged.

In his first issue the defendant argues generally that a valid conviction for driving while license suspended requires that the defendant was given proper notice of the fact of his suspension. The specifics of his argument are a bit unclear. The State makes a reasonable interpretation of the defendant's opening brief and addresses the question whether the court properly excluded evidence that the defendant did not receive actual notice of suspension.

The State correctly argues that the offense of driving while license suspended involves absolute liability. Conviction requires only proof that the defendant drove in violation of the statute at the time his license was suspended. (People v. Espenscheid (1969), 109 Ill. App.2d 107, 249 N.E.2d 866.) The defendant's actual receipt of notice or knowledge of suspension is immaterial to the offense. People v. Twitty (1975), 25 Ill. App.3d 1065, 324 N.E.2d 222.

However, the State's argument does not dispose of the issue. It appears that, beyond the argument which the State addresses, the defendant takes the position that there is no suspension unless the Secretary complies with statutory notice requirements. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 95 1/2, pars. 6-206, 6-211.) The defendant argues, then, that the Secretary's record that his office mailed notice of suspension to the defendant merely raises a rebuttable presumption of proper notice. The defendant argues that he should have been allowed to challenge the suspension underlying the instant conviction by presenting evidence rebutting the presumption that the Secretary complied with statutory notice requirements.

We address the argument only briefly. The defendant relies in his argument on two opinions published only in abstract form. As the defendant does not provide this court with copies of the opinions' texts, we need not consider them. Uniform Appellate Rule 8, Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 110A, par. 908; Chapman v. Foggy (1978), 59 Ill. App.3d 552, 375 N.E.2d 865.

We now address the defendant's second issue. The defendant's precise theory is unclear. We determine, however, that the defendant presents alternative arguments. We interpret the argument as framed by the opening brief to be that due process of law under both the fourteenth amendment of the United States Constitution and the Illinois Constitution requires that a defendant receive actual notice of his suspension before he can be convicted under the instant statute. The defendant contends that he did not receive proper notice. He argues, then, that if his conviction and jail sentence stand, he will have been deprived of his elemental liberty interest without having had either notice of suspension or an opportunity to prove that he had no notice.

The defendant cites substantial authority on the due process roles of notice and hearing. We, however, are not persuaded by his presentation.

• 1 We note that the Supreme Court of Illinois has recently upheld the constitutionality of other statutes imposing strict liability. (People v. Brown (1983), 98 Ill.2d 374, 457 N.E.2d 6; People v. Ziltz (1983), 98 Ill.2d 38, 455 N.E.2d 70.) Based upon these cases, we conclude that due process does not require that a defendant convicted under the instant statute receive actual notice of suspension.

In Brown, the court upheld the constitutionality of section 4-102(a)(4) of the Illinois Vehicle Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 95 1/2, par. 4-102(a)(4)). That statute creates the offense of possessing a motor vehicle with its vehicle identification number removed or falsified. The statute applies to a possessor of such a vehicle who has no knowledge that the number is removed or falsified. In upholding the statute as a valid exercise of police power, the Brown court ...

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