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People v. Minor

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Third District

July 23, 2019

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
DANIEL CARL MINOR, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 10th Judicial Circuit, Tazewell County, Illinois Circuit No. 13-CF-51 Honorable Timothy J. Cusack Frank W. Ierulli Judges, Presiding

          JUSTICE O'BRIEN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Schmidt and Justice Lytton concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          O'BRIEN JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 Defendant Daniel Minor pleaded guilty to aggravated driving under the influence (DIU) causing a death and driving while his license was suspended. The charges and convictions arose from a single-vehicle accident in which the vehicle Minor was driving left the road and his passenger was ejected and killed. Subsequent blood tests revealed that Minor had cannabinoids in his system. The trial court sentenced Minor to 12 years' imprisonment. He appeals the constitutionality of the DUI statute and the length of his sentence. We affirm his conviction and sentence.

         ¶ 2 FACTS

         ¶ 3 Defendant Daniel Minor was charged with aggravated DUI (625 ILCS 5/11-501 (a)(6), (d)(1)(F) (West 2012)), driving while his driver's license was suspended (625 ILCS 5/6-303(a) (West 2012)), and improper lane usage (625 ILCS 5/11-709(a) (West 2012)). The indictments alleged that Minor drove with an amount of cannabis in his breath, blood or urine, was involved in an accident proximately causing a death, while his license was suspended, and did not drive as nearly as practicable in a single lane.

         ¶ 4 In February 2013, the trial court released Minor on pretrial bond supervision, ordering him to comply with a number of conditions, such as maintaining employment, staying clean and sober, submitting to blood testing, and participating and completing any recommended counseling or treatment. Minor pleaded guilty to aggravated DUI and driving while his license was suspended; the improper lane usage charge was dismissed. The factual basis provided that Minor's vehicle left the roadway and rolled, ejecting the passenger, who was killed. Minor told law enforcement that he swerved to avoid an animal, had smoked cannabis two days earlier, and was aware his license had been suspended. Subsequent tests of Minor's blood and urine revealed an unidentified amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

         ¶ 5 Sentencing took place on June 21, 2013. A presentence investigation (PSI) report revealed that Minor was 34 years old, had prior convictions for battery in 1995, aggravated battery in 1997, possession of cannabis in 1999 and 2000, obstruction of justice in 2000 and minor traffic offenses. He had served concurrent five-year prison terms when a term of probation was revoked. Minor had a 14-year-old son. His parents physically abused each other and divorced when he was 8 years old. His father was an alcoholic and his mother had multiple marriages. Minor completed three years of high school and obtained a general education diploma (GED) in 1997. He had some employment history and a history of alcohol and cannabis abuse. He was in residential treatment in 2001 and was in outpatient treatment when the PSI was prepared. Attached to the PSI were several letters in mitigation that discussed Minor's positive characteristics, his attempts to quit cannabis and his remorse over the victim's death. Also attached was documentation of his coursework at Heartland Community College. Victim impact statements were presented from the victim's mother, fiancée, sister, son, and friend.

         ¶ 6 Three people testified for Minor in mitigation. Mario Dortch and Kate Walden knew Minor for approximately nine months to one year from Narcotics Anonymous and other 12-step recovery programs. Dortch testified that Minor took the program seriously and had turned around his life. Walden testified that Minor completed extra service hours and helped others. Christina Mondragon testified that she was dating Minor and had known him since high school. She described him as noble, reliable, kind-hearted and loving. In her view, he would go out of his way to help anyone in need.

         ¶ 7 Minor testified. He and his passenger were on their way to work the day of the accident. They were lost, so his passenger removed his seat belt to call their boss for directions. Minor saw an animal cross the road, swerved to avoid it and lost control of the car. Minor flagged down a passing driver to call 911. He was remorseful and had a "really hard" time coping with the passenger's death. He did not smoke cannabis the morning of the accident but had used it two days earlier. He attended treatment and learned coping methods and how to alter his addiction mindset.

         ¶ 8 Minor was attending 12-step programs and studying nutrition at Heartland Community College. He had part-time jobs at Best Buy and a grocery store. He had recently been arrested with a friend in McLean County for cannabis possession and resisting police but believed the cannabis charge would be dismissed and he would be sentenced to community service for the resisting charge. Minor completed all the terms of his pretrial bond.

         ¶ 9 The court found Minor's conduct caused serious physical harm, he had a criminal history and there was a need to deter others to save a life in the future. The court also noted the McLean County charges that were pending. The trial court acknowledged that Minor had made some changes and was unlikely to commit another crime but found the factor not relevant. Although the court found Minor rehabilitated, it further found that it took a death to turn him around and that Minor "should have known what was going to happen that day." The court found Minor's sobriety, while commendable, would not bring back the life of his passenger. Finally, the court found that Minor had failed to pay attention to what happened in his life in 2001, when he previously attended treatment. The trial court rejected a term of probation, finding it would not be appropriate. The court imposed a 12-year prison sentence for aggravated DUI and a judgment of conviction for driving while his license was suspended.

         ¶ 10 Minor moved to reconsider the sentence. He argued he deserved a lesser sentence in that he pleaded guilty, accepted responsibility, sought help at the accident scene, the passenger removed his seat belt prior to the crash, Minor had used cannabis two days earlier, and fully complied with his pretrial release order. The McLean County charges were dismissed on June 24, 2013. His older criminal offenses occurred when he was 19 and 22 years old. Minor was attending 12-step meetings and made substantial lifestyle changes. Minor obtained new counsel, who adopted the earlier motion to reconsider and added an additional argument that the trial court improperly considered in aggravation the victim's death, an element inherent in the aggravated DUI offense, and noted that the McLean County charges were dismissed.

         ¶ 11 A hearing took place on Minor's motion to reconsider. Minor testified. From November 2011 until a week before the accident, Minor cared for his grandfather, who suffered from Alzheimer's. He did not smoke cannabis the day of the accident. He discussed the McLean County charges. While in the DOC, he participated in Bible groups and worked with ...


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