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The People of the State of Illinois v. Barbara Hambrick

July 24, 2012


Appeal from the Circuit Courtof the 21st Judicial Circuit, Kankakee County, Illinois, Circuit No. 08-CF-436 Honorable Clark E. Erickson, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Carter

JUSTICE CARTER delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices McDade and Wright concurred in the judgment and opinion.


¶ 1 After a jury trial, the defendant, Barbara Hambrick, was found guilty of two counts of aggravated driving while under the influence of alcohol (DUI) (625 ILCS 5/11-501(d)(1)(F) (West 2008)). The trial court merged count II into count I and sentenced the defendant to three years' imprisonment. The defendant appeals her sentence, arguing that the trial court: (1) applied the wrong legal standard in sentencing; and (2) abused its discretion in sentencing her to a prison term when extraordinary circumstances required a sentence of probation. For the following reasons, we affirm.


¶ 3 On July 11, 2008, the defendant was charged by indictment with two counts of aggravated DUI. The case proceeded to a jury trial, which ended in a mistrial. In November 2010, the case was called for a second jury trial. The trial evidence showed that on August 22, 2007, the defendant had consumed between three and eight shots of alcohol and part of a mixed drink at Heather's Tap in Kankakee. The defendant testified that she and the victim, Greg Kirkton, left Heather's Tap around 9 p.m. to return to her farm in Manteno, where the victim rented a room.

¶ 4 The defendant testified that during the trip, the victim allegedly began speaking of his deceased wife and attempted to jump out of the car. The defendant and the victim were traveling in a convertible, with the top down, and the victim purportedly grabbed the steering wheel while trying to climb out of the moving car. The defendant next remembered that the car veered off the road and struck an embankment. The force of the collision ejected the victim from the car. The Kankakee County coroner testified that the victim died from neck injuries sustained in the accident.

¶ 5 Immediately after the accident, the defendant was transported to the hospital where her injuries were treated. A hospital blood draw indicated that the defendant had a blood alcohol content of 0.137.

¶ 6 The jury found the defendant guilty of two counts of aggravated DUI.

¶ 7 On January 7, 2011, the case proceeded to a sentencing hearing. At the hearing, the State introduced evidence of the defendant's driving abstract, which only contained the statutory summary suspension and revocation related to this case. Teryn Robinson, the victim's niece, read a victim impact statement. Robinson felt that the defendant was responsible for the victim's death and did not believe the defendant's testimony that the victim was acting suicidal. She did not plead for a particular punishment but trusted that the court would set an appropriate sentence.

¶ 8 Defense counsel began its case with a letter from the defendant's daughter, Amelia Ann Brodie. In the letter, Brodie stated that the defendant was a loving person who cared for her five daughters while she maintained a prosperous business. Brodie was concerned that a harsh sentence would cause her family financial hardship and have a grave impact on her younger siblings, who were 9 and 10 years old. Brodie noted that the girls had lost their father in 2003.

¶ 9 Wanda Christenson testified that she was the defendant's mother and that she was very close to the defendant, who was helping her during her cancer treatment. Wanda stated that she and her husband would do their best to take care of the defendant's minor children, but that it would be difficult because of her cancer treatment and her husband's age. At the time, Wanda was 75 years old and her husband was 80 years old. Wanda noted that she and her husband were not in a position to financially maintain the family farm. Wanda stated that there were three houses on the farm and that she and her husband occupied one house. Ashley Christenson, the defendant's oldest daughter, and her eight-year-old son lived in the second house, and Wanda's son and his family lived in the third house.

¶ 10 Following Wanda's testimony, Ashley read a prepared statement to the court. In the statement, she expressed concern that a prison sentence would traumatize her two younger siblings, who lost their father in 2003. Ashley said that she, too, was dependant on the defendant for financial support because she was a single mother who was pregnant with twins and she had an eight-year-old son. As a result of her high-risk pregnancy, Ashley could not work full time and would be out of work for several months after she gave birth. Ashley pleaded for her mother to receive a sentence of probation, as a prison sentence would negatively impact her entire family.

ΒΆ 11 The defendant read a prepared statement to the court in which she apologized for the suffering that she had caused her family and the victim's family. She reemphasized that her children had already lost their father and that she had moved off the family farm so that her parents could financially provide for her brother. During arguments, defense counsel stated that the defendant would not ...

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