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People v. Utsinger

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Third District

May 30, 2013

LYLE D. UTSINGER, Defendant-Appellant.

Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 9th Judicial Circuit, No. 11-TR-1416 Knox County, Illinois, Honorable S. Scott Shipplett, Judge, Presiding.

PRESIDING JUSTICE WRIGHT delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Lytton and Schmidt concurred in the judgment and opinion.



¶ 1 Following a bench trial, the trial court found defendant guilty of reckless driving and sentenced defendant to six months of court supervision. 625 ILCS 5/11-503(a) (West 2010). Defendant appeals on the grounds that the State failed to prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and he had an unfair trial. Initially, the State argues this court lacks jurisdiction to consider an appeal from an order of court supervision. We reject the State's contention and exercise our jurisdiction to address the merits of this appeal. We affirm the trial court's decision finding defendant guilty of reckless driving.


¶ 3 On March 4, 2011, defendant and his current girlfriend were traveling in defendant's truck during a heavy rainstorm when defendant noticed he was being closely followed by another vehicle, driven by his ex-girlfriend, Carla Dorethy. Defendant unexpectedly applied his brakes causing Carla's vehicle to collide with defendant's truck. Shortly thereafter, Knox County Sheriff's Deputy Keith King arrived at the scene. After a brief investigation of the incident, the officer issued defendant a citation for reckless driving and issued a citation to Carla for following too closely. Defendant pled not guilty and requested a bench trial.

¶ 4 During the bench trial, Deputy King testified that it was pouring rain when he arrived on the scene of a traffic accident around 6 p.m. and observed people arguing in the roadway. During his investigation at the scene, King learned Carla Dorethy was defendant's ex-girlfriend, who had become upset after observing defendant with another woman in his truck. According to Deputy King, he determined Carla was following defendant's vehicle too closely and, consequently was unable to stop her vehicle to avoid a collision when defendant suddenly applied his brakes.

¶ 5 At the scene, both defendant and his current girlfriend told the officer that defendant suddenly applied his brakes in response to the unexpected appearance of a deer on the roadway immediately before the collision. While on the scene, defendant told the officer that Carla was driving approximately one foot behind his truck, when the deer ran in front of his truck, requiring him to suddenly apply his brakes.

¶ 6 Based on his investigation, King surmised the incident involved a "domestic situation" and concluded defendant "brake-checked" Carla because defendant wanted to cause Carla "trouble and be issued a citation." King issued a ticket to Carla for following too closely and also issued a ticket to defendant for reckless driving.

¶ 7 Carla testified that on March 4, 2011, she was driving her own vehicle, in a heavy rain, following defendant's truck, shortly after an argument with defendant. According to Carla, defendant suddenly slammed on his brakes, causing Carla's vehicle to collide with defendant's truck. Carla did not observe anything in the roadway that may have caused defendant to apply his brakes.

¶ 8 The trial court denied defendant's request for a directed verdict, stating:

"[I]f [defendant] did brake, which appears to be the evidence, in the highway, then he needed to have a reason; and until – if he offers a reason, that would make – but that would perhaps explain why you would brake in the middle of the highway. I mean, I don't think the evidence was from her that she didn't see anything – or any reason in front of him to brake and he braked."

¶ 9 Following the ruling on the directed finding, defendant testified on his own behalf. Defendant explained he knew Carla was following him while he drove along Knox County Highway 10 after having an argument with her. During his testimony, defendant stated he applied his brakes when a "deer or a coyote or somethin' " ran out in front of his truck. Defendant testified that he did not intentionally cause the collision, and he stated during his cross-examination he was unaware of how close Carla was to his truck when he applied his brakes.

ΒΆ 10 At the close of all the evidence and following arguments, the court found defendant's testimony was not credible, in part, because he originally told King that Carla's vehicle was approximately one foot from his rear bumper, but at trial, he stated he could not remember how far Carla was behind him. The trial court entered a finding of guilty ...

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