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People ex rel. Nerheim v. 2005 Black Chevrolet Corvette

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Second District

April 30, 2015

THE PEOPLE ex rel. Michael Nerheim, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
2005 BLACK CHEVROLET CORVETTE, VIN: 1G1YY34U155125203, Defendant Robert P. Ritacca, Defendant-Appellant. THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
ROBERT P. RITACCA, Defendant-Appellant

Page 161

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Lake County. No. 13-MR-667. Honorable Robert K. Beaderstadt, Judge, Presiding. Appeal from the Circuit Court of Lake County. No. 13-TR-28186. Honorable Robert K. Beaderstadt, Judge, Presiding.

G. Douglas Grimes, of Waukegan, and Robert P. Ritacca, pro se of Law Offices of Robert P. Ritacca, of Waukegan, for appellant.

Michael G. Herheim, State's Attorney, of Waukegan (Lawrence M. Bauer and Scott Jacobson, both of State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor's Office, of counsel), for appellee.

McLaren and Jorgensen, Justices concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

Page 162

SPENCE, JUSTICE.

[¶1] Defendant, Robert P. Ritacca, appeals the forfeiture of his 2005 Corvette and his conviction of driving without a device (625 ILCS 5/6-206.2(a) (West 2012)). On appeal, defendant argues that: (1) the forfeiture of his vehicle was not statutorily authorized and was against the manifest weight of the evidence; (2) the police officer's traffic stop violated the fourth amendment; and (3) the forfeiture of his vehicle was grossly disproportionate to the offense. We affirm.

[¶2] I. BACKGROUND

[¶3] On April 9, 2013, the State filed a complaint for seizure and forfeiture of defendant's 2005 Corvette, under section 36-1 of the Criminal Code of 2012 (Code) (720 ILCS 5/36-1 (West 2012)). The complaint alleged that the vehicle was used in defendant's commission of the offense of driving while his license was suspended or revoked under section 6-303 of the Illinois Vehicle Code (Vehicle Code) (625 ILCS 5/6-303 (West 2012)). Defendant's license was suspended pursuant to section 11-501.1 of the Vehicle Code (625 ILCS 5/11-501.1 (West 2012)) (the refusal to submit to a chemical test or tests of blood, breath, or urine will result in the summary suspension of the person's privilege to operate a vehicle).

[¶4] Defendant moved to quash his arrest and suppress evidence in both the forfeiture case (appeal No. 2-13-1267) and the underlying criminal case (appeal No. 2-13-1268). A hearing occurred in August 2013, during which the following evidence was adduced.

[¶5] On March 17, 2013, defendant was driving his vehicle to a gas station around 11:15 a.m. Officer Richard Vorpagel, who was on patrol, ran a check of defendant's license plate while sitting at an intersection, which was standard procedure. The check revealed defendant's identity and the status of his driver's license. Officer Vorpagel learned that defendant's license had been suspended pursuant to section 11-501.1 of the Vehicle Code, a monitoring-device driving permit (permit) had been issued, and installation of a breath-alcohol ignition-interlock device (device) was required.

[¶6] Officer Vorpagel followed defendant to the gas station and conducted a traffic stop. The purpose of the stop was to verify defendant's identity and compliance with the permit; Officer Vorpagel admitted that defendant had committed no moving violations. Officer Vorpagel was not aware of the limitations of the permit until

Page 163

defendant produced it during the stop. The permit was issued on January 28, 2013, and defendant had 14 days from that date to have a device installed. Because a device had not been installed, Officer Vorpagel determined that defendant was driving " outside" the permit. Defendant admitted not having a device when he was stopped on March 17, 2013. Defendant told Officer Vorpagel that the device had not been installed because the vehicle had been in storage.

[¶7] Officer Vorpagel consulted his sergeant and charged defendant with felony driving while his license was suspended, and defendant's vehicle was seized. Later, at the police station, Officer Vorpagel was instructed to cite defendant for misdemeanor driving while his license was suspended.

[¶8] Based on this evidence, the trial court denied defendant's motion to quash his arrest and suppress evidence. According to the court, Officer Vorpagel's initial stop was valid, because it was well established that an officer could lawfully conduct a stop of a vehicle after learning that the registered owner's license was suspended or revoked. The purpose of such a stop was to determine whether the driver was allowed to drive. The court determined that, after the initial valid stop, Officer Vorpagel had reasonable, articulable suspicion to further inquire into whether defendant was complying with the permit. After reviewing the permit, Officer Vorpagel observed that no device had been installed, and probable cause existed to arrest defendant for driving on a suspended license. The court noted that defendant could have been charged with a Class 4 felony but that the State had declined to do so.

[¶9] At defendant's forfeiture hearing later that day, the parties stipulated to the evidence adduced at the hearing on defendant's motion to quash his arrest and suppress evidence. In addition, the court viewed a videotaped recording of the traffic stop.

[¶10] Defendant testified as follows at the forfeiture hearing. When Officer Vorpagel stopped him on March 17, 2013, he was preparing his vehicle, by getting gas, checking the oil, and filling the tires, so that he could have the device installed the next day. The vehicle had been in storage for the past six months. Defendant " had had conversations" with the Secretary of State " on and off" regarding the installation of the device. When asked if the permit stated that he had 14 days in which to drive the vehicle to a site to have the device installed, defendant answered, " [s]omewhat correct; somewhat not correct." Defendant never intended to violate the terms of the permit.

[¶11] Defendant's attorney argued that forfeiture was not statutorily authorized and that defendant did not intend to violate the permit when ...


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