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People v. Baie

September 11, 2001


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Ogle County. Nos. 00--TR--2367, 00--TR--5921 Honorable Michael T. Mallon, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Bowman.


The State appeals from the judgment of the circuit court of Ogle County dismissing a traffic charge against defendant, Barton Baie, because of the State's alleged failure to comply with Supreme Court Rules 504 and 505 (134 Ill. 2d Rs. 504, 505). On appeal, the State contends that the trial court erred in dismissing the case, as defendant failed to abide by the requirements of Rule 505 that he notify the clerk of the circuit court prior to his first appearance that he intended to plead not guilty and demand a jury trial.

Defendant was charged by uniform traffic citation with failure to reduce speed (625 ILCS 5/11--601(a) (West 1998)). The arresting officer set defendant's initial appearance date on April 26, 2000. On that date defendant appeared, pleaded not guilty to the charge, and made a jury demand. The trial court set June 12, 2000, for a pretrial conference. On June 12 defendant appeared with counsel, who informed the court that defendant was waiving a jury trial and asked for a date for a bench trial. Defendant filed a "Jury Trial Waiver" form, which stated he was voluntarily waiving his right to a jury and pleading not guilty to the offense charged. The court set trial for August 10, 2000.

On August 10 the State requested a continuance. The State informed the court that the case involved a fatality and that a witness, who was working on a roadside crew and witnessed the accident, was not available. As a result, the State had "called off" its other witnesses. Defense counsel objected to the continuance, stating that defendant was ready for trial and misrepresenting that the State had already had two continuances, i.e., from April 26 to June 12 and from June 12 to the present date. The trial court denied the State's motion for a continuance, finding that no good cause was shown for the continuance because the subpoenas for the State's witnesses were not issued until August 2, 2000, although the case had been set in June for trial on the present date. The court dismissed the case without prejudice and indicated that the State could refile the charge against defendant.

Subsequently, on August 16, 2000, the State refiled the charge by information. Arraignment was set for September 8, 2000. On September 8, defendant was not present and defense counsel asked that the case be reset for another date. Counsel alerted the court and the State that he intended to prepare and present a motion to dismiss under Supreme Court Rule 504. As a result of this pronouncement, the court set November 9, 2000, for a hearing on the motion.

On that date defense counsel argued that the case should be dismissed based on Rule 504 and the holding in People v. Nelson, 18 Ill. App. 3d 628 (1974). Counsel contended that the procedural history in the instant case was identical to that in Nelson and that in Nelson the appellate court determined that the State's refiling of the charges against defendant after a denial of its motion to continue and the dismissal of the case was barred by Rule 504.

The State disagreed that Nelson was identical to the instant case. Additionally, the State argued that the progression of the instant case removed it from the scope of Rules 504 and 505. The State contended that the rules were designed to speed up the resolution of petty traffic tickets but applied only if a defendant followed the procedures set forth in the rules. The State maintained that the facts in People v. Brookbank, 79 Ill. App. 3d 412 (1979), were more similar to the present case than those in Nelson. The State stressed that in Brookbank the appellate court determined that the purpose of Rule 504 was to give a defendant the right to have his case disposed of on the first court date and that nothing in the language of the rule indicated it was intended to have effect beyond the initial appearance date.

The State also took issue with defense counsel's portrayal that the State was responsible for dragging out the case. The State pointed out that defendant's choice in pleading not guilty and asking for a jury trial on his initial appearance date and then, subsequently, asking for a bench trial instead of a jury trial also prolonged the case.

In making its ruling, the trial court initially stated that the State had not "dragged its feet" prior to the hearing on August 10 when it sought a continuance. The court clarified its August 10 ruling, pointing out that it had not felt good cause had been shown for a continuance. Additionally, the court commented that, in giving the State leave to refile at that time, it had also stated that it did not know whether Rule 505 applied to the case. The court then determined that it believed Rules 504 and 505 applied to the particular circumstances of the instant case and granted defendant's motion to dismiss the case. The State timely appealed. On appeal the State contends that the trial court erred in dismissing the case based on a violation of Supreme Court Rules 504 and 505. Rules 504 and 505 provide a framework of times and limits governing appearances and trials for traffic and conservation offenses. People v. Thompson, 190 Ill. App. 3d 678, 680 (1989). Rule 504 states:

"The date set by the arresting officer or the clerk of the circuit court for an accused's appearance in court shall be not less than 14 days but within 49 days after the date of the arrest, whenever practicable. It is the policy of this court that an accused who appears and pleads 'not guilty' to an alleged traffic or conservation offense punishable by fine only should be granted a trial on the merits on the appearance date or, if the accused demands a trial by jury, within a reasonable time thereafter. Except as provided in Rule 505, an arresting officer's failure to appear on that date, in and of itself, shall not normally be considered good cause for a continuance." 134 Ill. 2d R. 504.

Rule 505 states in relevant part:

"When issuing a Uniform Citation and Complaint, a conservation complaint or a Notice to Appear in lieu of either, the officer shall also issue a written notice to the ...

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