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People v. Sienkiewicz

June 6, 2002

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
MARIUSZ SIENKIEWICZ, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Lake County. No. 00-CF-2803 Honorable Christopher C. Starck, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Geiger

The defendant, Mariusz Sienkiewicz, appeals from the January 19, 2001, order of the circuit court of Lake County denying his motion to dismiss the indictment charging him with reckless homicide (720 ILCS 5/9--3(a) (West 2000)). The defendant argued that the State could not proceed against him on the reckless homicide charge because he had previously pleaded guilty to the offense of reckless driving (625 ILCS 5/11--503(a) (West 2000)) for the same conduct. The trial court denied the motion, finding that the prosecution did not violate double jeopardy and that the State was not estopped from prosecuting the reckless homicide charge. We reverse.

The facts relevant to the appeal are as follows. On July 16, 2000, the defendant lost control of his motorcycle and collided with another vehicle on the off-ramp from northbound Interstate 94 to westbound Route 132 in Gurnee. As a result of the accident, the defendant's passenger, Anna Jaruga, suffered serious head injuries and died.

Following the accident, the defendant received a traffic citation for reckless driving in violation of section 11--503(a) of the Illinois Vehicle Code (625 ILCS 5/11--503(a) (West 2000)). According to the ticket, the defendant violated this section by "improper stopping in traffic, failure to signal when required, improper lane usage, [and] traveling at 80 m.p.h. plus in a 55 m.p.h. zone." The ticket described the location of the offense as northbound Interstate 94 between mile markers 61 and 70.

On August 4, 2000, pursuant to a negotiated plea, the defendant pleaded guilty to the reckless driving offense. The defendant was sentenced to six months' probation and fined $250. It also appears that the State agreed to nol-pros other traffic citations that had been issued against the defendant, although the record does not indicate what additional offenses were alleged in these citations.

On September 6, 2000, the defendant was indicted for the offense of reckless homicide (720 ILCS 5/9--3(a) (West 2000)). The indictment alleged that on July 16, 2000, the defendant:

"while acting in a reckless manner, performed acts likely to cause the death of some individual, in that he operated a *** motorcycle on the off-ramp from northbound I-94 to westbound Route 132 in Gurnee *** at a speed which was greater than the posted speed limit and which was greater than was reasonable and proper with regard to the existing traffic conditions and the safety of persons properly upon the roadway, and he left the roadway, causing his motorcycle to strike a 1987 Ford Econoline van, thereby causing the death of Anna Jaruga, who was a passenger of said defendant's motorcycle."

On November 8, 2000, the defendant filed a motion to dismiss the indictment. The defendant argued that the indictment arose from the same facts that were the basis for his conviction of reckless driving. Accordingly, the defendant asserted that the State was precluded from prosecuting the indictment by the double jeopardy guarantees of both the United States and Illinois Constitutions. U.S. Const., amends. V, XIV; Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, §10. The defendant also argued that the State was estopped from prosecuting the indictment because it had entered into a plea agreement with him on the reckless driving charge.

Following a hearing, the trial court denied the motion to dismiss the indictment. The trial court found that the reckless driving and reckless homicide charges arose from separate and distinct acts committed by the defendant. The trial court therefore concluded that the prosecution did not violate double jeopardy. The trial court also found that the defendant's earlier guilty plea on the reckless driving charge did not estop the State from prosecuting the reckless homicide charge. Following the denial of his motion to reconsider, the defendant filed a timely notice of appeal pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 604(f) (188 Ill. 2d R. 604(f)).

The defendant's first contention on appeal is that the prosecution for reckless homicide is barred by double jeopardy principles. The defendant argues that he was placed in jeopardy when he pleaded guilty to the reckless driving charge and that he may not be prosecuted again for the same criminal offense. The defendant asserts that, because reckless driving is a lesser-included offense of reckless homicide, he may not be prosecuted for the latter offense.

Both the United States and Illinois Constitutions provide that no person shall be put in jeopardy twice for the same criminal offense. U.S. Const., amends. V, XIV; Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, §10. The double jeopardy clause protects a defendant from (1) a second prosecution after acquittal; (2) a second prosecution after conviction; and (3) multiple punishments for the same offense. People v. Stefan, 146 Ill. 2d 324, 333 (1992). The guarantee against double jeopardy expresses "a constitutional policy of finality for the defendant's benefit." United States v. Jorn, 400 U.S. 470, 479, 27 L. Ed. 2d 543, 553, 91 S. Ct. 547, 554 (1971).

As an initial inquiry to our double jeopardy analysis, we must first determine whether the reckless driving conviction and the reckless homicide charge arose from the same criminal act. If the prosecutions are predicated upon different criminal acts, then no double jeopardy problem arises. See Blockburger v. United States, 284 U.S. 299, 304, 76 L. Ed. 306, 309, 52 S. Ct. 180, 182 (1932). The defendant asserts that the two charges are predicated upon a single course of reckless conduct that commenced on Interstate 94 after mile marker 61 and ended when his motorcycle collided with the van on the off-ramp to westbound Route 132. The defendant asserts that there was no change in the nature of his criminal objective during this time and that there is no distinction between the acts of recklessness that form the basis for the reckless driving charge and those that form the basis for the reckless homicide charge.

The State, on the other hand, asserts that the two charges against the defendant were based on distinct criminal acts that occurred in distinct locations on the roadway. The State notes that the reckless driving charge was based on improper stopping in traffic, the failure to signal, improper lane usage, and traveling at more than 80 miles per hour in a 55 mile-per-hour zone. The State argues that the reckless homicide charge involved neither improper stopping in traffic, improper lane usage, nor improper signaling.

In determining whether the defendant's conduct consisted of single or multiple acts, courts will consider whether the conduct consists of discrete physical acts. People v. Harris, 182 Ill. 2d 114, 133-34 (1998). Our supreme court has explained that a separate act is " 'any overt or outward manifestation which will support a different offense.' [Citations.]" People v. Rodriguez, 169 Ill. 2d 183, 188 (1996). Although not determinative, relevant factors to consider in deciding whether the defendant's conduct constituted separate physical acts include (1) whether the defendant's acts were interposed by an intervening event; (2) the time interval between the successive parts of the defendant's conduct; (3) the identity of the victim; (4) the similarity of the acts ...


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