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People v. Utsinger

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Third District

May 30, 2013

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
LYLE D. UTSINGER, Defendant-Appellant.

Held [*]

On appeal from defendant’s conviction for reckless driving and sentence to court supervision, the appellate court rejected the State’s contention that the appellate court lacked jurisdiction because court supervision was not a “sentence” and defendant had nothing to appeal, since Supreme Court Rule 604(b) gave defendant the right to appeal the “finding of guilt” made by the trial court prior to entering the order of court supervision, and the appellate court also rejected defendant’s claim that the trial court improperly shifted the burden of proof to him when, in denying his motion for a directed finding at the close of the State’s case, the court observed that he had not refuted the State’s evidence, because at that point in the trial, defendant could have rested his case and argued that the State had not proved his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, but in any case, the trial court’s finding that defendant was guilty was supported by proof beyond a reasonable doubt, especially in view of defendant’s inconsistent versions of the incident leading to the citation.

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Knox County, No. 11-TR-1416; the Hon. S. Scott Shipplett, Judge, presiding.

Melissa Maye and Verlin R. Meinz (argued), both of State Appellate Defender's Office, of Ottawa, for appellant.

John T. Pepmeyer, State's Attorney, of Galesburg (Terry A. Mertel and Laura E. DeMichael (argued), both of State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor's Office, of counsel), for the People.

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

OPINION

WRIGHT PRESIDING JUSTICE

¶ 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.

¶ 2 FACTS

¶ 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.

ΒΆ 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 ...


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