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People v. Sikes

OPINION FILED MARCH 26, 1986.

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

v.

JAMES J. SIKES, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Champaign County; the Hon. Donald R. Parkinson, Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE GREEN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

On June 7, 1985, defendant, James J. Sikes, was charged in the circuit court of Champaign County, by a uniform traffic ticket (103 Ill.2d R. 552), with the offense of making an improper right turn on June 4, 1985, in violation of section 11-801 of the Illinois Vehicle Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 95 1/2, par. 11-801). He was found guilty at a subsequent bench trial at which he was not represented by counsel. Subsequently, counsel entered an appearance and filed, on behalf of defendant, timely motions for acquittal, a new trial, and an arrest of judgment. The trial court denied the motions. Defendant has appealed contending: (1) The traffic ticket was insufficiently specific to advise him of the nature of the offense with which he was charged; (2) the proof did not support the conviction; and (3) his constitutional and statutory rights were violated when he was forced to go to trial in the absence of an attorney. We affirm.

The problem in regard to the sufficiency of the charge arises because the uniform traffic ticket with which defendant was charged merely stated that, at a specified time at Bloomington Road and Mattis Avenue in Champaign County, defendant committed a violation stated as "IMPROPER TURN AT INTERSECTION in violation of I.V.C. X, I.R.S. , Chap. , Sec. , Par. 11-801." The charge clearly referred to a violation of section 11-801 of the Illinois Vehicle Code, which involves improper turns at intersections. However, section 11-801 is divided into subsections (a), (b), (c), and (d)(1), (2), each prohibiting slightly different types of conduct. In its entirety, section 11-801 states:

"Required position and method of turning at intersections. The driver of a vehicle intending to turn at an intersection shall do so as follows:

(a) Both the approach for a right turn and a right turn shall be made as close as practical to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway.

(b) The driver of a vehicle intending to turn left at any intersection shall approach the intersection in the extreme left-hand lane lawfully available to traffic moving in the direction of travel of such vehicle, and after entering the intersection, the left turn shall be made so as to leave the intersection in a lane lawfully available to traffic moving in such direction upon the roadway being entered. Whenever practicable the left turn shall be made in that portion of the intersection to the left of the center of the intersection.

(c) The Department and local authorities in their respective jurisdictions may cause official traffic control devices to be placed within or adjacent to intersections and thereby require and direct that a different course from that specified in this Section be traveled by vehicles turning at an intersection, and where such devices are so placed no driver of a vehicle shall turn a vehicle at an intersection other than as directed and required by such devices.

(d) Where a special lane for making left turns by drivers proceeding in opposite directions has been indicated by official traffic-control devices, allowing for exceptions which are normal traffic engineering standards:

(1) A left turn shall not be made from any other lane.

(2) A vehicle shall not be driven in the lane except when preparing for or making a left turn from or into the roadway or when preparing for or making a U turn when otherwise permitted by law." Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 95 1/2, par. 11-801.

Supreme Court Rule 552 (103 Ill.2d R. 552) provides for the use of uniform traffic tickets for offenses of the nature involved here. The only supreme court case to speak to the sufficiency of such a ticket is People v. Tammen (1968), 40 Ill.2d 76, 237 N.E.2d 517. There, such a ticket charged a defendant with the offense of "drag racing in violation of section 48" of the then Uniform Act Regulating Traffic on the Highways. Section 48 of that Act concerned reckless driving and section 48.1 prohibited drag racing (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1967, ch. 95 1/2, pars. 145, 145.1). As with the instant offense of "Improper Turn at Intersection," drag racing could be committed in more than one way. Defendant contended that the ticket was insufficient to support the conviction, but the court refused to overturn the conviction on appeal. The court stated:

"Inasmuch as the Uniform Traffic Ticket is only used for misdemeanors, is written by an arresting officer rather than a State's Attorney and is generally written at the time the offense is committed, we believe that naming the offense and citing it is sufficient and will generally be understood by the person charged. Under section 111-6 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1967, chap. 38, par. 111-6), the accused may request a bill of particulars which will enable him `to prepare his defense.' We hold that a conviction based on a Uniform Traffic Ticket naming an offense and citing the statutory provision, where there is no objection to the sufficiency of the ticket or request for a bill of particulars, will not be set aside for failure to comply with section [111-3(a)(3)]." (People v. Tammen (1968), 40 Ill.2d 76, 78-79, 237 N.E.2d 517, 518-19.)

Then, as now, section 111-3(a) of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963 required a charge to "[set] forth the nature and elements of the offense charged." Ill. Rev. Stat. 1967, ch. 38, par. 111-3(a).

In People v. Domovich (1980), 91 Ill. App.3d 870, 414 N.E.2d 290, the Second District held a uniform traffic ticket, which charged a defendant with driving a vehicle at a particular time and a particular place when he committed the offense of "Leaving the Scene — Accident" and gave the statutory section of the offense, was sufficient to support a conviction. The court recognized that the defendant had made a motion to dismiss at the close of the evidence alleging the failure of the ticket to state a crime. The Domovich court interpreted Tammen to hold that in the "narrow class of traffic cases" the rights of a defendant to ...


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