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Poeple v. Vaughn

December 23, 2004

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
MARION VAUGHN, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. YA 428-704/706. Honorable Christopher J. Donnelly, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Greiman

Defendant Marion Vaughn appeals from jury trial convictions of driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) and driving with a suspended license. Specifically, defendant argues that: (1) the trial judge's remarks denied him his constitutional right to testify thereby depriving him of a fair trial; (2) the trial court's imposition of $205 in total fines was in violation of section 5-9-1(d)(1) of the Unified Code of Corrections (the Code) (730 ILCS 5/5-9-1(d)(1) (West 2002)); and (3) he was denied a fair trial because the jury consisted of 13 persons. Defendant has withdrawn his argument regarding the number of jury members; therefore, we only address the issues of whether the trial judge's remarks denied defendant his constitutional right to a fair trial and whether the imposition of $205 in fines was in violation of section 5-9-1(d)(1) of the Code (730 ILCS 5/5-9-1(d)(1) (West 2002)). For the following reasons, we affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand for new trial.

[9]     On July 14, 2002, Chicago Heights police officer Keith Applequist pulled defendant over in the 1500 block of Halsted Street in Chicago Heights. Applequist placed defendant under arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol and driving on a suspended license.

At trial, defense counsel indicated in opening statements that defendant would testify on his own behalf. Specifically, counsel stated that defendant would testify that he swerved into the southbound lane of traffic to pass a police car which had pulled over another motorist, that he volunteered to perform field sobriety tests, that his car did not "bounce" off of the curb when he pulled over, that his request that Officer Applequist give him a "break" referred to arranging for a friend to pick up his car rather than have it towed, and that he truthfully answered all of Applequist's questions, including telling the officer that he had been drinking earlier and that he had just purchased cigarettes.

Officer Applequist, the only witness for the prosecution, testified that he observed defendant traveling northbound on Halsted when his vehicle erratically swerved into the southbound lanes, then back into the northbound lanes. Applequist signaled with his police lights for defendant to pull over. As he did so, his car "bounced" off of the curb. Applequist then approached the car and observed that defendant appeared intoxicated. Defendant's eyes were bloodshot and watery, and defendant appeared unsteady as he was swaying back and forth while seated in the car. Defendant also smelled of alcohol and slurred his speech. When Applequist asked defendant if he had been drinking, defendant replied affirmatively. Applequist then asked to see defendant's driver's license. Defendant responded that he did not have it with him.

Officer Applequist asked defendant to exit the car so he could perform field sobriety tests. Defendant complied but stumbled as he exited the car. Applequist supported defendant because he was unsteady and swaying. Defendant attempted to take the field sobriety tests, but could not complete them because he was unable to stand on his own.

Officer Applequist placed defendant under arrest for DUI and transported him to the police station. Applequist assisted defendant into the squad car so he would not fall over. Once at the police station, Applequist attempted to administer a Breathalyzer test. However, defendant could not complete the test because he was unable to stand properly and had been burping, which likely would have led to an inaccurate reading.

A background check revealed that defendant had an outstanding warrant and a suspended driver's license. Throughout the incident defendant repeatedly asked Applequist, "Can you give me a break?" Applequist was not sure what defendant meant by the request.

On cross-examination, Officer Applequist stated that he did not remember if there was another police car in the area. He reiterated that defendant's vehicle, which was traveling northbound, erratically swerved into the southbound lanes. Although defendant agreed to perform field sobriety tests, he could not complete them because he was "unable to safely perform any physical motor skills."

Following Officer Applequist's testimony, the parties stipulated that defendant's driving abstract indicated that his license had been suspended at the time of his arrest.

Defendant testified that in the early hours of July 14, 2002, he went to a store to purchase cigarettes. Upon leaving the store, he noticed a police car had pulled over another motorist. He drove around these cars by moving into the southbound lane. When he saw a police car behind him signaling to pull over, he did so without hitting the curb. Defendant stated that Officer Applequist asked him for his license and proof of insurance. Defendant replied that his license was suspended.

At that point, the trial judge halted defense counsel's questioning of defendant. During a sidebar held in chambers, the following exchange occurred:

"Q: [The Court:] Mr. Vaughn, you can have a seat. Now, we're in chambers outside of the presence of the Jury. Obviously, the Defendant is now testifying that he has committed a crime. And, Mr. Vaughn, I want to first of all ask you a few questions. Your attorney discussed a trial strategy with you, is that true?

A: [Defendant:] Pardon?

Q: Your attorney, they talked about what you were going to testify to today, is that right?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: And, Mr. Vaughn, you understand that one of the charges that you're facing is driving on a suspended license, correct?

A: Yes, I know that.

Q: Okay. And that's a Class A misdemeanor. And you have just stepped forward and pretty much admitted to that courtroom, you said that you were driving. That you knew your license was suspended. That's essentially admitting to driving on a suspended license.

A: On a suspended license, yes.

Q: You had a discussion with your Attorneys about your testimony, is that right?

A: Yes.

Q: And you understand that by saying this, you're pretty much assuring yourself that you're going to be found guilty of this offense. You understand that, right?

A: What, of driving on a suspended -

Q: Yes, sir.

A: Yes.

Q: You understand that it's highly probable that a jury is going to find you guilty of that offense. ...


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