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People v. Sass

OPINION FILED JUNE 3, 1986.

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

v.

ROBERT R. SASS, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Livingston County; the Hon. Charles H. Frank, Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE MORTHLAND DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

The defendant, Robert R. Sass, was convicted of driving while driver's license revoked in violation of section 6-303(a) of the Illinois Vehicle Code (Code) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 95 1/2, par. 6-303(a)). He was sentenced to one-year conditional discharge, ordered to serve a seven-day term of incarceration in the Livingston County jail, and fined $100 plus court costs. On appeal, defendant contends he was improperly charged and convicted under section 6-303.

In March of 1982, the defendant, then a resident of Illinois, had his driver's license revoked pursuant to section 6-205(a)(2) of the Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 95 1/2, par. 6-205(a)(2)) following his conviction for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. That revocation was extended to September of 1983 upon his conviction in September 1982 for driving while license revoked; he was therefore not eligible to be reissued an Illinois driver's license until September 1983. In December of 1982, the defendant applied for, and was denied, a restricted driving permit. In January of 1984, after the period of revocation had expired, his application for a license was likewise denied. At some point during 1984 the defendant moved to Wisconsin, where he was issued a valid Wisconsin driver's license.

The arrest and charge which is the subject of this appeal occurred in Illinois on March 12, 1985. The defendant was apparently stopped for a safety equipment violation; a routine check indicated the defendant's Illinois license was still revoked. He was therefore ticketed for a violation of section 6-303(a) of the Code. The defendant's Wisconsin driver's license was valid and in effect at that time, as was the order of revocation against his Illinois license entered by the Illinois Secretary of State.

At trial, the defendant challenged the sufficiency of the charging instrument, claiming he should have been charged instead with a violation of section 6-210 of the Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 95 1/2, par. 6-210) concerning nonresidents with revoked Illinois licenses. However, the trial court refused to accept this argument and defendant was convicted of violating section 6-303(a). Again, he was sentenced to seven days in jail, fined $100 plus costs, and given one year of conditional discharge.

• 1 Defendant presents the same contention on appeal: that he was improperly charged and convicted of violating section 6-303(a). However, defendant's novel argument must fall upon a review of the overall statutory scheme and the relevant case law.

Section 6-303(a) reads:

"Any person who drives or is in actual physical control of a motor vehicle on any highway of this State at a time when such person's driver's license, permit or privilege so to do or the privilege to obtain a driver's license or permit is revoked or suspended as provided by this Code or any other law, except as may be specifically allowed by a restricted driving permit issued under this Code, shall be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor." (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 95 1/2, par. 6-303(a).)

Moreover, section 6-303(c) provides that any person convicted under this section, whose underlying revocation was the result of a conviction for driving under the influence in violation of section 11-501 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 95 1/2, par. 11-501), may be ordered to serve a minimum seven-day term of imprisonment. Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 95 1/2, par. 6-303(c)(1).

The statute under which defendant advances he should have been charged, section 6-210, states in relevant part:

"No operation under Foreign license during suspension or revocation in this State. Any resident or nonresident whose driver's license or permit or privilege to operate a motor vehicle in this State has been suspended or revoked as provided in this Act shall not operate a motor vehicle in this State:

(2) After such revocation until a license is obtained when and as permitted under this Act, except as permitted by a restricted driving permit issued under the provisions in paragraph (a) of Section 6-205 of this Act." (Emphasis added.) Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 95 1/2, par. 6-210.

Defendant contends that section 6-303(a) is a general statute directed at any driver who operates a vehicle on an Illinois highway while his driver's license is revoked. On the other hand, defendant continues, section 6-210 is applicable to a more limited class of drivers, including nonresidents with suspended or revoked Illinois licenses who have obtained valid foreign licenses. Because it is generally accepted that a specific statute controls over a general statute (Sierra Club v. Kenney (1981), 88 Ill.2d 110, 429 N.E.2d 1214; Emulsicoat, Inc. v. City of Hoopeston (1981), 99 Ill. App.3d 835, 425 N.E.2d 1349), defendant reasons that section 6-210 was the appropriate charging statute here, and his conviction under 6-303 was error. As further support for his contentions, defendant calls our attention to the elementary rule of statutory construction that penal statutes are to be strictly construed against the State and in favor of the accused. People v. Rink (1983), 97 Ill.2d 533, 541, 455 N.E.2d 64, 68.

Continuing, defendant points to the general penalty provision of the Code, which makes it a petty offense punishable by a maximum fine of $500 to violate any section of the Code which does not specifically declare the offense articulated therein to be a misdemeanor or a felony. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 95 1/2, par. 6-601(a), (b).) As section 6-210 by its terms does not specifically allow for prosecution as a felony or misdemeanor, defendant maintains that the general penalty provision applies to any offense under this section. It is therefore defendant's belief that a court may only mete out a fine for any violation of section 6-210. According to the defendant, this comports with the lesser culpability of an offense under 6-210, where a driver possesses a valid license issued by the State of his residence and innocently believes that he may legally drive in other States. In ...


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