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The City of Rockford v. Elliott

November 17, 1999

THE CITY OF ROCKFORD, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
V.
RICHARD G. ELLIOTT, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Winnebago County. No. 96--DT--24816 96--DT--24817 96--DT--24818 Honorable Edward J. Prochaska, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Galasso

Following a jury trial, the defendant, Richard G. Elliott, was found guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol (625 ILCS 5/11--501(a)(2) (West 1996)) and driving the wrong way on a one-way street (625 ILCS 5/11--708(b) (West 1996)). After denying the defendant's motion for a new trial, the trial court sentenced the defendant to a 12-month term of conditional discharge, 14 days in the work release program, and participation in substance abuse counseling; it also imposed fines and court costs in the sum of $500. The defendant appeals.

The sole issue raised on appeal is whether the trial court erred in permitting the State to present evidence of the civil penalties imposed upon a motorist as a result of refusing the breath test following an arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol.

Over the continuing objection of the defendant, the prosecutor was permitted to question Robert Woodford, one of the arresting officers, about the "Warning to Motorist" document. Specifically, Officer Woodford testified as follows:

"Q. What type of information is contained in the Warning to Motorist?

A. It explains the penalties if you do or don't take a breath test in regard to your driving privileges.

Q. With regard to potential suspensions of driving privileges, what are the ramifications outlined in the Warning to Motorist regarding either refusing a test, a breath test, or taking a test and failing?

A. The penalties would be twice as much if you did not take a breath test as if you would take a breath test and fail it."

Later, during a conference with the trial court and the prosecutor, defense counsel argued that while the evidence of a refusal to submit to a breath test was admissible, evidence of the consequences of the refusal was not admissible.

The trial court stated as follows:

"I think it's on that I overruled that objection based on, I do believe this has some relevance to showing that the defendant was aware what the penalty is. Actually, the civil penalty is actually greater for refusing to take the test than it is for taking it and failing it. There is some relevance then as to his motivation in either taking or not taking the test, and that was the argument made by Mr. Alexander [the prosecutor] which I accepted."

The trial Judge offered to instruct the jury that they were not to consider the civil consequences and penalties arising out of either the refusal or nonrefusal with regard to the penalty stage.

After further Discussion, the trial Judge stated as follows:

"Well, there isn't any case law on that particular issue. But it's the Court's belief that it has some relevance based on whether or not the defendant, what his rationale or motive was in either refusing or ...


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