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The People of the State of v. Dennis A. Hackett

December 21, 2010

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF
ILLINOIS,
PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
DENNIS A. HACKETT,
DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of the Twelfth Judicial Circuit,Will County, Illinois, The Honorable Carla Alessio Policandriotes,Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice McDADE

Opinion

delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justice O'Brien concurred in the judgment and opinion.

Justice Schmidt dissented, with opinion.

OPINION

The State charged defendant, Dennis A. Hackett, with aggravated driving under the influence and aggravated driving while license revoked. The circuit court of Will County granted defendant's motion to quash arrest and to suppress evidence on the grounds police lacked probable cause to stop defendant's vehicle. For the following reasons, we affirm.

BACKGROUND

At the hearing on defendant's motion to quash arrest and suppress evidence, Deputy Michael Blouin of the Will County sheriff's police testified that he was driving his unmarked police vehicle northbound on Briggs Street near Maple in Will County when he observed defendant's vehicle traveling north on Briggs directly in front of him. Blouin described Briggs as a straight, four-lane roadway with two lanes of northbound traffic and two lanes of southbound traffic. The north and south lanes are marked by a divider and the two northbound lanes of traffic are divided by black and white stripes. Blouin first observed defendant's vehicle in the right-hand northbound lane of traffic. Defendant crossed into the left-hand northbound lane and Blouin maneuvered his vehicle to follow behind defendant.

Blouin testified that after entering the left-hand northbound lane, he observed defendant's vehicle move to the right. Blouin testified that defendant's vehicle's right-side tires crossed the black-and-white-striped lane divider between the two northbound lanes of traffic on Briggs. Defendant's vehicle then moved back into the left-hand lane. Blouin testified that five seconds later, defendant's right-side tires again crossed the black-and-white-striped lane divider. Blouin could not recall how far defendant's vehicle crossed into the right-hand lane of northbound traffic on Briggs. Blouin stated that defendant's tires "slightly" crossed the lane divider. Blouin testified that both times, defendant's vehicle "barely" went over the black-and-white-striped lane divider and that both times, defendant's tires crossed the line for a matter of seconds.

Based on his observations of defendant's vehicle crossing the lane divider between the two northbound lanes of traffic on Briggs, Deputy Blouin decided to stop defendant's vehicle for a traffic violation. Blouin testified that he did not stop defendant's vehicle after the first time he observed defendant's vehicle cross the lane divider but that he did decide to stop defendant after defendant "swerved a second time" because, in his opinion, if a vehicle "swerves" twice there is usually a problem with the driving. Blouin did not, however, stop defendant immediately after he "swerved a second time." Rather, he followed him. While Blouin did not specifically recall Hackett's turn indicators flashing or his stopping for lights, he testified that had he seen violations, he would have ticketed defendant for them. Thus the evidence supports finding that after defendant's two momentary swerves Blouin continued to follow him while defendant, without committing any traffic violation, negotiated (1) the move into the left turn lane, (2) two left turns, and (3) compliance with the laws concerning lane usage, speed limit, turn signals, and traffic signals.

ANALYSIS

Following the hearing on the motion, the trial court granted defendant's motion to quash arrest and suppress evidence.

"On appeal, a trial court's factual findings concerning a motion to suppress will be upheld unless they are against the manifest weight of the evidence. [Citation.] The ultimate decision, however, concerning whether the evidence should have been suppressed is a question of law, which we review de novo. [Citation.]

A peace officer may conduct a lawful traffic stop based on probable cause that the driver of the vehicle has committed a traffic violation. [Citation.]" People v. Matous, 381 Ill. App. 3d 918, 921-22 (2008), citing Illinois v. Caballes, 543 U.S. 405 (2005).

The State argues that Blouin had probable cause to believe that defendant violated section 11-709(a) of the Illinois Vehicle Code (Code) (625 ILCS 5/11-709(a) (West 2006)).

"Whenever any roadway has been divided into 2 or more clearly marked lanes for traffic the following rules in addition to all others consistent herewith shall apply.

(a) A vehicle shall be driven as nearly as practicable entirely within a single lane and shall not be moved from such lane until the driver has first ascertained that such movement can be made with safety." 625 ILCS 5/11-709(a) (West 2006).

Defendant argues, based on his testimony, that in the area he was driving, Briggs is in poor condition and that he may have been taking evasive action to avoid potholes. The State argues that Blouin testified that he did not see any potholes or obstructions that would cause a driver to deviate from a lane of traffic. The State argues that absent obstructions that would cause a driver to deviate from a lane of traffic, an officer's observation of a vehicle crossing the lane divider provides the officer with grounds for a traffic stop based on a violation of section 11-709(a).

In People v. Halsall, 178 Ill. App. 3d 617, 618 (1989), the officer testified that he observed the defendant's vehicle traveling on the left-hand side of the road. The car slowly drifted into the right lane. The defendant in that case drove his vehicle once across the center line and, after increasing his speed to an estimated 70 miles per hour, crossed the center line two more times. The testimony in that case was that when the defendant ...


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