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People v. Weiser

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fifth District

August 7, 2013

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
MELISSA J. WEISER, Defendant-Appellant.

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Clinton County.No. 09-CF-116 Honorable Dennis E. Middendorff, Judge, presiding.

Attorneys Michael J. Pelletier, State Appellate Defender, Ellen J. Curry, Deputy Defender, for Lawrence J. O'Neill, Assistant Appellate Defender, Office of the State Appellate Appellant Defender.

Attorneys Hon. John Hudspeth, State's Attorney, Clinton County Courthouse, Patrick Delfino, Director, Stephen E. Norris, Deputy Appellee Director, Sharon Shanahan, Staff Attorney, Office of the State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor.

JUSTICE CHAPMAN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Spomer and Justice Stewart concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

Melissa A. Chapman, J.

¶ 1 The defendant, Melissa J. Weiser, appeals her sentence for aggravated driving under the influence (aggravated DUI). She argues that (1) the court lacked authority to sentence her because it did not first enter a judgment of conviction on her guilty plea, (2) her 20-year sentence is excessive, (3) her convictions on 31 of the 32 counts in the indictment must be vacated, and (4) she is entitled to a $5-per-day credit against her DUI equipment fund assessment for the time she spent in custody prior to sentencing. We affirm the defendant's sentence, vacate her convictions on the 31 charges on which sentence was not imposed, and amend the order to reflect a credit against the DUI equipment fund assessment.

¶ 2 In the early morning hours of May 24, 2009, a vehicle driven by the defendant ran a stop sign and collided with a Cadillac Escalade carrying seven people. Three of the people in the Escalade died as a result of their injuries. Four others sustained serious injuries. Chaz Sargent, the defendant's boyfriend, was a passenger in the defendant's vehicle. He was thrown from the vehicle and died as a result of his injuries. The defendant was also injured. A blood draw taken at the hospital indicated that she had a blood-alcohol concentration of .136 at the time of the collision. The blood draw also indicated the presence of THC in her blood.

¶ 3 On September 15, 2009, a grand jury indicted the defendant on 32 counts of aggravated DUI. The indictment charged the defendant with aggravated DUI under four different theories with respect to each of the eight victims. See 625 ILCS 5/11-501(a)(1), (a)(2), (a)(5), (a)(6), (d)(1)(F) (West 2008).

¶ 4 On February 4, 2010, the defendant pled guilty to all 32 counts of the indictment in an open plea. At the guilty plea hearing, the court went through each count of the indictment and explained to the defendant what the State would be required to prove if she were to plead not guilty and insist on going to trial. The court further explained to the defendant what rights she was giving up by pleading guilty. The court admonished the defendant regarding the range of possible sentences. The defendant indicated that she understood the charges and her trial rights and that she wanted to plead guilty.

¶ 5 The prosecutor then presented the factual basis for the charges. He told the court that the testimony of police officers who interviewed the defendant and witnesses who were with her the day before the accident would show that the defendant had been drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana that day. An accident reconstructionist would testify that the vehicle driven by the defendant ran a stop sign and made no attempt to stop before hitting the Escalade. The accident reconstructionist would further testify that the Escalade was traveling at approximately 31 miles per hour, while the defendant's vehicle was traveling atapproximately 57 miles per hour.

¶ 6 The State's evidence would further show that the defendant's passenger, Chaz Sargent, and three passengers in the Escalade died as a result of their injuries, and the remaining four passengers in the Escalade sustained serious injuries. In addition, the State would present evidence that a blood draw taken from the defendant showed a blood-alcohol concentration of .136 and the presence of THC.

¶ 7 The court found that a factual basis existed for each charge and accepted the defendant's plea. The court scheduled a sentencing hearing and ordered the preparation of a presentence investigation report (PSI or PSR). A docket entry states: "[The defendant] pleads guilty to each count. Sentencing hearing on 4/5/10 at 1:00 p.m. PSR ordered."

¶ 8 The court held a sentencing hearing on April 5, 2010. The defendant testified that she never intended to harm anyone. She further testified that she remembered drinking beer, smoking marijuana, and becoming intoxicated on the day of the collision, but she did not remember driving that night. Asked by her attorney if she acknowledged that she was, in fact, driving, she replied, "I don't know because I don't remember, but science says I was driving so I take responsibility for it." She testified that she had three young children. Prior to being incarcerated on the charges in this case, she was their caregiver. Now one child lived with his father, while the other two lived with the defendant's mother. The defendant acknowledged on cross-examination that she had five prior convictions of driving without liability insurance and three prior convictions for driving while her license was suspended. She also acknowledged that her children were being cared for by people she trusted.

ΒΆ 9 When given an opportunity to make a statement in allocution, the defendant stated: "I don't know if it will reflect on the sentence, but I would like to say I am sorry. I never meant for any of this to happen. If I could take it back I so would. If I could take everybody's physical and emotional pain away I ...


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