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The People of the State of Illinois, Appellant v. Dennis Hackett

July 6, 2012

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, APPELLANT,
v.
DENNIS HACKETT, APPELLEE.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Karmeier

JUSTICE KARMEIER delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

Chief Justice Kilbride and Justices Freeman, Thomas, Garman, Burke, and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

¶ 1 Defendant, Dennis Hackett, was charged in the circuit court of Will County with aggravated driving under the influence of alcohol (625 ILCS 5/11-501(a)(2), (d)(1)(A) (West 2008)) and aggravated driving while license revoked (625 ILCS 5/6-303(d-3) (West 2008)). Defendant filed a motion to quash arrest and suppress evidence, arguing that the arresting officer lacked "probable cause" to stop defendant's vehicle and, as a result, evidence gathered after the "improper stop" constituted fruit of an unlawful search. The avowed basis for the traffic stop was a violation of section 11-709(a) of the Illinois Vehicle Code (Code) (625 ILCS 5/11-709(a) (West 2008) (improper lane usage)). After a hearing, the circuit court granted defendant's motion, finding that defendant's "momentary crossings" of a highway lane line did not give the officer "reasonable grounds" to make the stop. The State appealed, and a divided appellate court affirmed, the majority acknowledging this court's decision in People v. Smith, 172 Ill. 2d 289 (1996), while seeking to distinguish that case on the ground that this defendant had not driven in more than one lane for a "reasonably appreciable distance." 406 Ill. App. 3d 209, 214. We allowed the State's petition for leave to appeal (Ill. S. Ct. R. 315 (eff. Feb. 26, 2010)). We now reverse the judgment of the appellate court and remand this cause to the circuit court for further proceedings.

¶ 2 PRINCIPAL STATUTE INVOLVED

¶ 3 Section 11-709(a) of the Code provides as follows:

"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 2008).

¶ 4 MOTION HEARING AND RULING

¶ 5 At the hearing on defendant's motion to suppress, defendant testified that on August 19, 2008, he drove to a gas station on Briggs Street in Joliet, Illinois. His route home took him north on Briggs Street, which has two lanes northbound and two lanes southbound. At one point, he changed from the right to the left lane, using his turn signal. He was traveling the posted speed limit. Defendant testified the roadway was "in need of repair like many other roads in the Joliet area." Asked if he noticed any potholes as he proceeded northbound on Briggs, defendant stated: "There were several of them." Defense counsel asked: "Did you have to take any evasive action in your pickup truck to avoid driving straight into potholes?" Defendant responded: "There is a possibility, yes." Defendant testified, after turning off Briggs Street, and up to the moment he was stopped, he had not committed any traffic violations.

¶ 6 On cross-examination, the prosecutor inquired regarding defendant's consumption of alcohol prior to the traffic stop. Over a defense objection, the court allowed evidence of alcohol consumption only as it bore upon defendant's ability to recall events and his perception of his own conduct. In response to the prosecutor's questioning, defendant initially testified that he had "a couple" of beers from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Later, defendant testified: "A couple, three. I'm not certain." Asked if it was more than three, defendant responded: "I don't believe so but-." Defendant acknowledged everything was working on his truck and it was not disposed to drift. Defendant admitted, after he changed from the right to left lane on Briggs, it was possible that his tires "may have touched or crossed over that line again." He did not think it happened twice. The prosecutor asked: "But one time it is possible?" Defendant answered: "Well, with the potholes and different things. I-I would imagine that I probably did move towards the center of the road."

¶ 7 Following defendant's testimony, the State moved for a "directed verdict." The court denied the motion.

¶ 8 The State then called Deputy Michael Blouin to testify. Blouin, a Will County deputy for 19 years, testified that on August 19, 2008, at approximately 4:15 p.m., he was northbound on Briggs Street in Joliet when he observed a white GMC pickup truck-which he later determined was driven by defendant-in the right lane directly in front of him. At some point, the truck moved into the left lane, and Deputy Blouin followed. Blouin described the roadway as dry, straight, four lanes, with a divider between the northbound and southbound lanes, and a black-and-white striped lane line between the right and left lanes running in each direction. Blouin could not recall any potholes or other obstructions in the roadway. He testified that he did not move his car to avoid any potholes, and he did not hit any potholes.

ΒΆ 9 As he followed the truck, he saw it move to the right. Blouin stated: "[I]t crossed over with both right tires, the black-and-white striped line. It went slightly over the black-and-white striped line. It didn't go halfway into the right-hand lane." Continuing, Blouin testified: "I just remember seeing that the tires separated from the black-and-white stripe, and then it came back to the left. It did that twice." The encroachments into the right lane occurred four or five seconds apart. There were no cars in the right lane at the time of the deviations. Blouin saw no reason why the truck needed to move from the left lane into the right. After those deviations, the truck made a left turn onto Third ...


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