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People v. Moreno

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Second District

June 17, 2015

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
MICHAEL MORENO, Defendant-Appellant.

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Du Page County. No. 12-CF-1175 Honorable George J. Bakalis, Judge, Presiding.

JUSTICE HUTCHINSON delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Zenoff and Spence concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

JUSTICE HUTCHINSON

¶ 1 Defendant, Michael Moreno, was convicted of aggravated driving under the influence (DUI) resulting in a death, aggravated failure to report an accident resulting in a death, and disorderly conduct. His appeal challenges his conviction of aggravated failure to report an accident resulting in a death, a Class 1 felony, based on his failure to report the accident within 30 minutes after leaving the scene. He contends that the evidence was insufficient to prove the offense, because he was "physically unable" to report the accident at a police station within 30 minutes. Defendant notes that, following the accident, he was arrested for disorderly conduct, briefly taken to a hospital, and then interviewed by the police. In the alternative, he contends that he acknowledged having been involved and that the police had all of the statutorily required information. We affirm.

¶ 2 I. BACKGROUND

¶ 3 Defendant was charged with multiple offenses related to a motor-vehicle accident at a busy intersection in Naperville. The accident occurred when a motorcycle hit defendant's car, killing the rider, Jerry Puglise. We summarize the relevant evidence from defendant's bench trial.

¶ 4 Naperville police officer David Pastrick testified that, at around 5 p.m. on the date of the accident, he was outside of his squad car at a gas station and heard the sound of vehicles colliding. He turned and saw a debris field in the air over a nearby intersection. About five seconds later, defendant drove his car near where Pastrick was stopped and said, "it's a blue car, they caused it, they went that way." Pastrick asked if defendant was involved; defendant did not answer. Instead, defendant said "follow me" and drove off. Pastrick followed defendant and a blue Honda into a strip mall. Defendant shouted that the blue Honda was "the car." As defendant turned into the strip mall, Pastrick saw that the rear quarter panel of the passenger side of defendant's car was damaged.

¶ 5 Pastrick got out of his squad car and saw defendant and a male passenger from the Honda shouting at each other. Defendant accused the occupants of the Honda of pointing a gun at him. Pastrick told defendant to sit on the ground; defendant did so, but kept shouting. He repeatedly disobeyed orders from Pastrick to stop shouting. Defendant's behavior interfered with Pastrick's ability to question the occupants of the Honda and, after other officers arrived, defendant was placed in handcuffs for obstructing the traffic stop. While at the strip mall, defendant told an officer that he thought "something" hit him at the accident scene. A search of defendant's car uncovered a baggie containing several grams of cannabis.

¶ 6 From witnesses who observed the accident, as well as from the visible damage to defendant's vehicle, officers soon learned that defendant had been involved in a collision with a motorcycle at the intersection and that Puglise had died. Pastrick then transported defendant to a hospital to collect blood and urine samples.

¶ 7 At the hospital, Pastrick removed defendant's handcuffs and told defendant that he was not in custody. Pastrick issued defendant a citation for the accident and informed him that the motorcyclist had died. Defendant said that it was the blue car's fault and that he had thought the coast was clear. A nurse attended to neck and back injuries defendant sustained during the collision, and defendant was transported to an interview room at the Naperville police department. Pastrick testified that they left for the police station sometime between 9 and 10 p.m.

¶ 8 The tape of defendant's interview with the police was admitted into evidence. The interview began at around 9:33 p.m. and lasted approximately an hour. Throughout the interview, defendant maintained that he did not know that he had been in an accident and that he did not see Puglise or his motorcycle before or after the accident. According to defendant, he was following "the blue car" through Naperville. Defendant and the blue car had been involved in an earlier traffic incident and he believed that someone in the car had pointed a gun at him. When they arrived at the intersection, defendant saw Pastrick and decided to get the officer's attention to report the blue car and the gun. Defendant thought that it was "clear" for him to turn left, from the right-most lane, around and in front of a white van. Defendant repeatedly stated that he did not see Puglise's motorcycle before the accident and that he did not know that the motorcycle struck his car. Defendant insisted that he thought he had hit "a big rock or the curb or something" in the middle of the intersection. At one point defendant stated, "and then, boom he hit me" (emphasis added), but defendant later said that this was a figure of speech and he continued to insist that he did not know that he had been in a motor-vehicle accident before he left the scene. According to defendant, he learned of the motorcycle only after he was arrested at the strip mall.

¶ 9 Witnesses to the accident testified that they saw Puglise's motorcycle hit defendant's car. One witness said that, after the accident, defendant briefly stopped his car in the intersection and then drove away.

ΒΆ 10 The trial court found defendant guilty of all charges. With respect to the failure-to-report charge, the court found that, in light of the extensive damage to defendant's car and defendant's statements to the police, defendant knew that he had been involved in a serious motor-vehicle accident before he left the scene. The court further found that defendant made no attempt to stop and provide information or assistance, as required by section 11-401(a) of the Illinois Vehicle Code (625 ILCS 5/11-401(a) (West 2012)), and that defendant made no attempt to report the accident or his involvement in the accident within 30 minutes, as required by section 11-401(b) (625 ILCS 5/11-401(b) (West 2012)). The court found that defendant was not relieved of his obligation to report the accident even though the police might have obtained information through their own ...


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