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The People of the State Illinois v. Judy C. Geier

February 22, 2011

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE ILLINOIS,
PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
JUDY C. GEIER,
DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of OF Boone County. Honorable John H. Young, Judge, Presiding. No. 09-DT-145

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Jorgensen

PRESIDING JUSTICE JORGENSEN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Hudson and Birkett concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

The State charged defendant, Judy C. Geier, with driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI). 625 ILCS 5/11-501(a)(2) (West 2008). Prior to trial, defendant moved to quash her arrest and suppress evidence obtained when a sheriff's deputy stopped her vehicle. The trial court granted defendant's motion, and the State appeals. We reverse and remand.

I. BACKGROUND

On May 16, 2009, at about 10 p.m., defendant, age 68, was arrested by Boone County Sheriff's Deputy Adam Stark. On the same day, she was charged with DUI and issued a notice of summary suspension of her driver's license (for 12 months). 625 ILCS 5/11-501.1 (West 2008). The traffic citation describes the road conditions as dry with clear visibility.

On June 4, 2009, defendant petitioned to rescind the statutory summary suspension (625 ILCS 5/2-118.1 (West 2008)), alleging that Stark stopped her vehicle without reasonable grounds to believe that she was operating her vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. On August 19, 2009, following a hearing, the trial court granted defendant's petition. It found that Stark did not have sufficient cause to effect a traffic stop.

On September 23, 2009, defendant moved to quash her arrest and suppress evidence, arguing that the officer lacked probable cause to make the initial stop of her vehicle prior to her arrest. On November 23, 2009, a hearing was held on defendant's motion. Defendant called Stark. Stark testified that, at 9:55 a.m. on May 16, 2009, he was on duty, traveling south on Route 76. As he approached Woodstock Road, he observed defendant's silver Chevy Blazer a little more than a quarter-mile away on Woodstock Road. The vehicle was moving "a little fast" as it approached the intersection, and it abruptly stopped at the intersection, which was controlled by a stop sign and situated on a downhill curve.

After the vehicle stopped, it turned left onto southbound Route 76. Stark then observed the vehicle cross over the white fog line on the right-hand side of the road. At one point, all four tires passed over the fog line. The vehicle next turned right onto Spring Creek Road. Stark observed no problems with that turn. The vehicle then turned north onto Riverside Road. It continued to travel within its lane. However, after the vehicle passed Olson Road, the vehicle's left front wheel crossed over the center line. When asked whether the tire completely crossed over the center line, Stark replied, "I don't really recall. I remember it's a double line there. I know it crossed over at least the one." At this point, Stark stopped defendant's vehicle.

Stark testified that the distance between Woodstock and Olson Roads is about two miles but that it could be four or five miles. Addressing the vehicle's driving speed, Stark explained that he could not "run any radar on it" because his vehicle was also moving; however, when his vehicle kept the same pace as defendant's vehicle, it exceeded the speed limit. He was trying to catch up to defendant's vehicle.

Stark stated that, when he first observed defendant's vehicle, i.e., as it approached the stop sign at Woodstock Road and Route 76, Stark slowed down. Thereafter, he tried to catch up to defendant's vehicle. He had not caught up to defendant's vehicle before he reached Spring Creek Road, but had caught up to it by the time it reached Riverside Road.

Stark did not issue defendant a ticket for crossing the center line (after her vehicle passed Olson Road while on Riverside Road), but he did ticket her for driving over the fog line. 625 ILCS 5/11-709(a) (West 2008) ("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."). Addressing why he did not pull over defendant between Spring Creek and Olson Roads, Stark testified that there is no safe place to stop a car in that area; there are curves and hills. He was concerned for both defendant's and his own safety. "The rest of the time I was trying to catch up to her, and I am not going to put on my-my take down lights when there's a number of-space in between us." Stark stated that he preferred to have a short distance in front of him because, if a car is too far ahead, the driver does not necessarily know that the officer is trying to effect a stop. Stark conceded that the shoulder on southbound Route 76 is the width of a car. Stark stated that, on southbound Route 76 toward Woodstock Road, the road slopes down a hill.

The road also curves to the west, with Caledonia Road crossing Route 76 at an angle. The intersection of Caledonia Road and Route 76 is also at a curve.

The State presented no witnesses. Following arguments, the trial court granted defendant's motion to quash and suppress. The court first noted its familiarity with People v. Leyendecker, 337 Ill. App. 3d 678 (2003) (affirming granting of motion to suppress where vehicle momentarily crossed fog line for about one foot around a curve and with poor visibility), which defendant's counsel had cited. The court found that defendant crossed the fog line at Woodstock Road and Route 76 and, therefore, violated the Illinois Vehicle Code (Vehicle Code) (625 ILCS 5/11-709(a) (West 2008)). However, addressing probable cause, the court found that there were between two and four miles from the point of the violation to where Stark stopped defendant. The court stated that the testimony showed that defendant's vehicle passed several intersections before Stark ...


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