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People v. Martin

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fourth District

June 21, 2017

TRANCE N. MARTIN, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Champaign County, No. 14-CF-86; the Hon. Richard P. Klaus, Judge, presiding.

          Michael J. Pelletier, Patricia Mysza, and Michael Gomez, of State Appellate Defender's Office, of Chicago, for appellant.

          Julia Rietz, State's Attorney, of Urbana (Patrick Delfino, David J. Robinson, and Luke McNeill, of State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor's Office, of counsel), for the People.

          JUSTICE KNECHT delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Turner and Justice Appleton concurred in the judgment and opinion.



         ¶ 1 Defendant, Trance N. Martin, appeals his September 2014 conviction of aggravated driving under the influence (DUI) in violation of section 11-501(d)(1)(H) of the Illinois Vehicle Code (625 ILCS 5/11-501(d)(1)(H) (West 2014)). On appeal, defendant argues (1) the trial court committed plain error by admitting improper lay opinion testimony and (2) defense counsel was ineffective for failing to (a) object to Illinois State Police trooper Tyler Vandeventer's testimony on improper lay opinion grounds and (b) preserve the relevance objection to Trooper Vandeventer's testimony in his posttrial motion to reconsider his sentence. We affirm.

         ¶ 2 I. BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 In January 2014, defendant was charged by information with aggravated DUI in violation of section 11-501(d)(1)(H) of the Vehicle Code (625 ILCS 5/11-501(d)(1)(H) (West 2014)). In September 2014, a jury found defendant guilty. In November 2014, the trial court sentenced defendant to three years in prison. Because defendant does not challenge the sufficiency of the evidence and our analysis does not require us to consider the totality of the evidence, we limit our statement of facts to those necessary to resolve defendant's issues on appeal.

         ¶ 4 At defendant's September 2014 jury trial, Trooper Vandeventer gave the following testimony. In January 2014, Trooper Vandeventer was dispatched to a vehicle off the road on Interstate 74 in Champaign County, Illinois. Upon arriving at the scene, Trooper Vandeventer discovered a black car in the ditch and two men standing outside the vehicle. Trooper Vandeventer approached the men, who identified themselves as Trance Martin (defendant) and Gaston Woodland. Trooper Vandeventer asked if the men were all right, and they responded they were. Trooper Vandeventer then asked who had been driving the vehicle, and defendant stated his wife, Virginia Latimore-Martin, had been driving. Defendant explained his wife accepted a ride from someone on the interstate to get a tow truck. Woodland initially agreed with this account and stated he had been seated in the back passenger seat. It had snowed earlier in the day, but Trooper Vandeventer noted there were no footprints in the snow walking away from the vehicle or walking along the interstate. Trooper Vandeventer also noted a strong smell of alcohol on defendant's breath.

         ¶ 5 Trooper Vandeventer returned to his squad car to run a check on defendant's and Woodland's licenses and discovered defendant's license had been revoked. Trooper Vandeventer reapproached the men and again asked who had been driving the vehicle. Woodland then indicated defendant had been driving and he had been sitting in the front passenger seat, not the back. Illinois State Police trooper Matthew Hedges then arrived on the scene and took over the investigation because Trooper Vandeventer had been dispatched to another crash scene. After establishing the above facts, Trooper Vandeventer gave the following testimony:

"Q. And based on your training and experience and everything you learned at the scene, obviously Trooper Hedges arrested the defendant for driving while license revoked. Who did you think was driving?
[Defense counsel]: Objection, Your Honor.
THE COURT: Overruled.
A. I believe [defendant] was driving.
Q. How did you come to that conclusion?
A. Just his story didn't seem to make sense to me, and the fact that I don't know why he would send his wife to get help with some stranger off the interstate. And it just, with what Mr. Woodland said, also the fact that he was actually sitting in the front passenger seat, made me not believe [defendant]."

         ¶ 6 Trooper Hedges testified to the following facts. When he arrived on the scene, he observed Trooper Vandeventer talking to two men. Trooper Hedges approached, and Trooper Vandeventer indicated he believed defendant had been driving. Trooper Hedges noticed defendant appeared disoriented, his eyes were red and glassed-over, and his breath smelled of alcohol. Trooper Hedges asked defendant how many alcoholic beverages he had consumed, and defendant responded he had consumed "four beers approximately." Defendant reiterated his statement his wife had been driving the vehicle and left for help with someone driving down the interstate. Trooper Hedges administered a field sobriety test, but the test was inconclusive. Trooper Hedges arrested defendant for driving with a revoked license. Trooper Hedges transported defendant to the jail and administered the "walk-and-turn" field sobriety test and the "one-legged stand" field sobriety test, both of which indicated defendant was impaired. Defendant was then charged with DUI.

         ¶ 7 Woodland testified he and defendant had been at a friend's house on the day of the accident. Defendant drove Woodland to the friend's house, and the two stayed there for about an hour and a half. While they were there, they drank "a lot" of alcoholic beverages, according to Woodland. They later left the house, and defendant drove. While defendant was driving, he slid off ...

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