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People v. Carron

August 24, 1998

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
WILLIAM CARRON, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Hopkins delivered the opinion of the court:

IN THE APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS FIFTH DISTRICT

Appeal from the Circuit Court of St. Clair County.

No. 95-CF-937

Honorable James W. Campanella, Judge, presiding.

The defendant, William Carron, was charged by indictment with two counts of aggravated reckless homicide and two counts of reckless homicide. The jury also was instructed on the lesser-included offense of driving while under the influence of alcohol (DUI), a misdemeanor (625 ILCS 5/11-501(a)(1) (West 1994)). The jury found defendant not guilty of the felony offenses and guilty of the DUI. The court sentenced defendant to serve a periodic term of imprisonment of 364 days in the county jail (730 ILCS 5/5-7-1(a) (West 1996)), which allowed defendant's release during the day to enable him to continue his employment, and to pay a $1,000 fine. The court denied defendant the good-behavior allowance as provided in the County Jail Good Behavior Allowance Act (730 ILCS 130/1 et seq. (West 1996)), because the trial court specifically found "that physical harm upon another person was committed during the course of the DUI." See 730 ILCS 130/3 (West 1996). On appeal, defendant contends as follows: (1) the trial court erred in admitting victim-impact statements at the sentencing hearing, (2) the trial court erred in failing to specify on the record the particular evidence, information, factors in mitigation and aggravation, or other reasons that led to the sentencing determination, (3) the sentence was excessive, and (4) the trial court abused its discretion by imposing a sentence which did not provide for an allowance for good behavior.

Although defendant's appeal addresses only sentencing issues, a brief statement of the facts is necessary to understand this case. On May 24, 1995, at approximately 7:30 p.m., a two-vehicle collision occurred on Illinois Highway 158 near Millstadt, Illinois. Kara Morton, the driver of a Chevrolet automobile, and her two-year-old daughter, Lauren, died in the accident. Defendant was the driver of the other vehicle. Evidence was presented that defendant's blood-alcohol level was .247 at the time of the accident. Testimony from defendant's treating physician and a nurse in the emergency room of the hospital, as well as the testimony of the radiology technician who administered defendant's CAT scans the night of the accident, established that defendant emitted a strong odor of alcohol that night. Conversely, other evidence was presented that there was no indication of defendant's intoxication. Conflicting evidence was presented concerning the location of the accident. One officer testified that the accident occurred in the center of the road, while another officer testified that the collision occurred in defendant's lane of traffic. Lastly, evidence was presented that Kara may have taken evasive action immediately prior to the collision.

Defendant first contends that the court erred in admitting victim-impact statements at sentencing because the jury determined, through defendant's acquittal on the felony charges, that defendant was not the proximate cause of the accident, because the victims who made statements were not "crime victims" as defined in the statute, and because this was not a "violent crime" as defined in the statute. See 725 ILCS 120/3(a),(c) (West 1996). We disagree with defendant's reading of the statute.

Section 3(a) of the Bill of Rights for Victims and Witnesses of Violent Crime Act defines a "victim" in pertinent part as follows:

"(3) *** the spouse, parent, child[,] or sibling of a person killed as a result of a violent crime perpetrated against the person killed ***." 725 ILCS 120/3(a) (West 1996).

Additionally, section 3(c) of the Bill of Rights for Victims and Witnesses of Violent Crime Act defines a "violent crime" in pertinent part as follows:

"`Violent Crime' means *** any violation of *** Section 11-501 of the Illinois Vehicle Code, or a similar provision of a local ordinance, if the violation resulted in personal injury or death ***." 725 ILCS 120/3(c) (West 1996).

When construing the meaning of a statute, a court must ascertain and give effect to the intent of the legislature. People v. Robinson, 172 Ill. 2d 452 (1996). One of the most reliable indicators of the legislature's intent is the language of the statute itself, and the statute's language must be given its plain and ordinary meaning. Robinson, 172 Ill. 2d at 457. If the language of the statute is clear and unambiguous, no further construction aids are needed to apply the statute. Robinson, 172 Ill. 2d at 457.

Defendant would have this court find that the jury's acquittal on the manslaughter/reckless homicide charges leads to the irrefutable conclusion that Kara's death was in no way the result of defendant's violation of section 11-501(a) of the Illinois Vehicle Code (625 ILCS 5/1-101 et seq. (West 1994)). Therefore, defendant argues, his conviction for a misdemeanor DUI does not qualify as a violent crime under the clear and unambiguous language of the statute. Defendant's position is an untenable effort to require the trial court, and this court, to ignore the forest of logic by exclusively concentrating on the trees of the different verdicts. The evidence of DUI as presented herein, and accepted by the jury in its conviction for DUI, was that the defendant suffered the impairment to his driving skills of nearly 2½ times the statutory definition of intoxication. We therefore find that there was a sufficient relationship between defendant's crime of DUI and Kara's death to permit the application of sections 3(a) and (c) of the Bill of Rights for Victims and Witnesses of Violent Crime Act and allow the trial court to consider Kara's parents and two brothers as "victims." The statutory definition of "crime victim" clearly applied to them. At the sentencing hearing, only Kara's mother and father read their statements into the record. The trial court's admittance of the victim-impact statements at defendant's sentencing hearing was not error.

Defendant contends that the court erred when it failed to specify on the record the basis for his sentence, as required by section 5-4-1(c) of the Unified Code of Corrections (730 ILCS 5/5-4-1(c) (West 1996)). Section 5-4-1(c) applies to defendant, since that section applies to sentencing for a violent crime, which includes a DUI conviction wherein someone sustains personal injury. However, we find that defendant has waived this provision. At the sentencing hearing, defendant failed to request a statement of the court's reasons for the sentence. The failure to make a request at sentencing waives the requirement. People v. Burton, 121 Ill. App. 3d 182 (1984). Further, the court stated in its sentencing order that the sentence was based "upon consideration of the pre[]sentence investigation report, facts in evidence, ...


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