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People v. Johnson

September 08, 2000

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS,
PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
V.
MICHAEL J. JOHNSON,
DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Ogle County. No. 99--DT--82 Honorable Michael T. Mallon, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Hutchinson

On May 1, 1999, defendant, Michael J. Johnson, was charged with driving under the influence (DUI) of a drug (625 ILCS 5/11--501(a)(4) (West 1998)). The arresting officer's sworn report states that defendant submitted to chemical testing that disclosed the presence of a drug in his blood or urine that resulted from unlawful use or consumption. As a result of the test, the Secretary of State, having determined that defendant was a first offender, issued a confirmation of the statutory summary suspension (the suspension) of defendant's driver's license for a period of three months, effective July 11, 1999.

On June 4, 1999, defendant filed a petition to rescind the suspension, alleging, inter alia, that the arresting officer did not properly warn him of the consequences of taking or refusing to take the test pursuant to section 11--505.1(c) of the Illinois Vehicle Code (the Code) (625 ILCS 5/11--501.1(c) (West 1998)) (see 625 ILCS 5/6--208.1 (West 1998) (providing for various periods of statutory summary suspension)). The trial court conducted a hearing on defendant's petition on July 1, 1999. The parties stipulated to certain facts. It appears undisputed that the arresting officer did not accurately warn defendant, that defendant submitted to the test, and that he was a first offender as defined by statute. The trial court granted defendant's petition to rescind the suspension. The State appeals. We affirm.

In its written order, the trial court found that defendant was given warnings that "were not in compliance with 625 ILCS 5/6--208.1 in that the officer advised the Defendant that if he was not a first time offender he would be suspended for twenty-four (24) months and in fact the statute provides for a three year suspension." The trial court also found that defendant was a first offender and that he was not materially affected by the officer's admonishments regarding a possible suspension.

Section 11--501.1(c) of the Code requires that a driver requested to submit to chemical testing be warned by the law enforcement officer requesting the test that a refusal to submit to the test will result in the statutory summary suspension of the person's driver's license as provided for in section 6--208.1 of the Code. 625 ILCS 5/11--501.1(c) (West 1998).

Effective January 1, 1999, section 6--208.1(a) of the Code provides for the following periods of license suspension starting from the effective date of the statutory summary suspension. Briefly summarized here, these periods are (1) six months for a refusal or failure to complete a test or tests to determine alcohol, drug, or intoxicating compound concentration pursuant to section 11--501.1; (2) three months following the person's submission to a chemical test that disclosed an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more, or any amount of a drug, substance, or intoxicating compound resulting from the unlawful use or consumption of cannabis, a controlled substance, or an intoxicating compound (as proscribed by statute); (3) three years for any person other than a first offender who refuses or fails to complete a test or tests; or (4) one year for any person other than a first offender following submission to a chemical test that disclosed an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more, or any amount of a drug, substance, or compound resulting from the unlawful use or consumption of cannabis, a controlled substance, or an intoxicating compound (as proscribed by statute). See 625 ILCS 5/6--208.1(a)(West 1998).

In reaching its decision to rescind defendant's license suspension, the trial court relied on and quoted People v. Engelbrecht, 225 Ill. App. 3d 550 (1992), a Second District case that states: "To hold that an inaccurate or deceptive warning may satisfy the requirement of section [11--501.1(c)] would disserve the purpose of the warning requirement and perhaps even make the requirement itself superfluous." Engelbrecht, 225 Ill. App. 3d at 557. The trial court declined to follow a case asserted by the State to be more applicable (People v. Diestelhorst, 253 Ill. App. 3d 867 (4th Dist. 1993) (concluding under the facts that the defendant was not misled by inaccurate warnings into believing that his submission to the test, whose result was over the legal limit, would subject him to a term of suspension less than the three-month term mandated by statute; the term of suspension imposed was in fact not greater than the term he was led to believe would be imposed; regardless of his choice, he would be subject to the suspension; rescission order reversed)).

In the present case, defendant has not filed an appellee's brief. As the record is simple and the claimed error can be readily addressed, this court will decide the issue in accordance with the guidelines of First Capitol Mortgage Corp. v. Talandis Construction Corp., 63 Ill. 2d 128 (1976).

According to the State, the issue here is whether an arresting officer's inaccurate warnings regarding the possible consequences of taking or refusing a test (i.e., the length of suspension), which do not materially affect the particular defendant receiving the warnings, will act to void the warnings given to the defendant and thus require the rescission of the suspension. Relying on Diestelhorst, the State posits that the rescission of a license suspension is not required "where the motorist has not been misled, by inaccurate warnings or police statements, that the consequences of his decision are less than are the actual consequences." In other words, the State argues that the defendant must receive an inaccurate warning and must be prejudiced as a result of the inaccurate warning before recission can be granted. The State asks this court to revisit and clarify its decision in Engelbrecht.

In Engelbrecht, the defendant was arrested for DUI (alcohol). The warning given to him provided that either the refusal to take the test or submission to a test revealing a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) in excess of the legal limit (if defendant was not a first offender) would result in the suspension of his driver's license for a minimum of 12 months. While this warning was consistent with an earlier version of the Code, it was inconsistent with the version in effect at the time of the arrest. At the time of the arrest, the period of suspension for a repeat offender who refused to submit to a test had increased from one year to two years. The defendant was not a statutory first offender. He refused to take the test, and his license was later suspended for the minimum two-year term. At the close of the hearing on his petition to rescind, the trial court granted the State's motion for a directed finding. We reversed the directed finding and remanded the cause for further proceedings. We concluded that the defendant had made a prima facie case for rescission because the warning misstated the consequences of a refusal to submit to the required test and it did not comply with the requirements of section 11--501.1(c) of the Code.

We pointed out in Engelbrecht that section 11--501.1(c) imposed a mandatory obligation on the arresting officer to warn the motorist that the driver's refusal to submit to testing would result in the statutory summary suspension of the driver's license as provided by section 6--208.1 of the Code. We stated that, at the very least, the language of the section appeared "to obligate arresting officers to avoid giving materially inaccurate or misleading warnings." Engelbrecht, 225 Ill. App. 3d at 556. We noted that the failure to give the required warnings is a ground for the rescission of the suspension. The ostensible purpose of the warning requirement is to allow a motorist to make an informed decision between being tested and refusing testing; therefore, the motorist must be warned of the consequences of either choice. Engelbrecht, 225 Ill. App. 3d at 556-57; Ill. Rev. Stat. 1989, ch. 95½, par. 2--118.1(b)(4) (now 625 ILCS 5/2--118.1(b)(4) (West 1998)). We caution here, however, that this does not mean the defendant must subjectively understand all of the possible consequences of refusing to take a blood-alcohol test before the State may summarily suspend his or her driver's license. See People v. Wegielnik, 152 Ill. 2d 418, 424-27 (1992); People v. Hart, 313 Ill. App. 3d 939, 941 (2000). Rather, section 11--501.1(c) requires only that the driver be informed that refusing a test will result in the summary suspension of his or her driving privileges for a period of time outlined in section 6--208.1 of the Code. Hart, 313 Ill. App. 3d at 941-42.

We observed in Engelbrecht that the defendant's state of mind at the time of the arrest is not a relevant consideration; rather, "the test is whether the defendant was issued a warning that was objectively accurate and informative." Engelbrecht, 225 Ill. App. 3d at 557, relying in part on People v. Znaniecki, 181 Ill. App. 3d 389, 392 (1989) (stating that an incomplete warning required rescission).

In People v. Estrada, 313 Ill. App. 3d 245 (2000), the defendant, Steven Estrada, was charged with driving under the influence of cannabis on January 29, 1999. He was subsequently notified of the six-month suspension of his driver's license. He petitioned to rescind the suspension and alleged, inter alia, that the arresting officer read him a "warning to the motorist" that incorrectly stated the law. The warning informed him that, if he was a first offender and he refused to take a chemical test, his license would be suspended for a minimum of six months; if he was a first offender and he submitted to testing that revealed a BAC of 0.08 or above, or any amount of cannabis, his license would be suspended for a minimum of three months; and that a motorist was not considered a first offender if, in the five years prior to his arrest, he submitted to chemical testing that revealed a BAC of 0.08 or more. The warning also noted that a nonfirst offender who refused chemical testing would receive a two-year summary suspension of his license. See 625 ILCS 5/6--208.1(a)(3) (West 1996). Finally, the warning informed the defendant that, if he was under the age of 21, he was a first offender unless he had a previous suspension for refusing a chemical test or he had submitted to a test that disclosed a BAC greater than 0.00. See 625 ILCS 5/11--501.8 (West 1996). His response to the warning was taken as a refusal. Estrada, 313 Ill. App. 3d at 246.

At the hearing on Estrada's petition to rescind, the trial court ultimately found that the warning given to him was defective because it did not reflect the January 1, 1999, change in the law calling for a three-year, rather than a two-year, suspension for a nonfirst offender who refused chemical testing. See 625 ILCS 5/6--208.1 (West ...


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