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People v. Underwood

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Third District

December 18, 2019

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
SONJA L. UNDERWOOD, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 12th Judicial Circuit, Will County, Illinois, Circuit No. 16-TR-57041 Honorable Chrystel L. Galvin, Judge, Presiding.

          James E. Chadd, Peter A. Carusona, and Dimitri Golfis, of State Appellate Defender's Office, of Ottawa, for appellant.

          James W. Glasgow, State's Attorney, of Joliet (Patrick Delfino, Thomas D. Arado, and Mark A. Austill, of State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor's Office, of counsel), for the People.

          JUSTICE LYTTON delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices McDade and O'Brien concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          LYTTON JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 Defendant, Sonja L. Underwood, was convicted following a bench trial of driving while license suspended. On appeal, she argues the State failed to introduce independent evidence corroborative of her admission and thus failed to establish the corpus delicti. We affirm.

         ¶ 2 I. BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 The State charged defendant by citation with driving while license suspended (625 ILCS 5/6-303(a) (West 2016)). Defendant subsequently waived her right to a jury trial, and a bench trial commenced on May 19, 2017.

         ¶ 4 Officer William Otis of the Joliet Police Department testified that he responded to the scene of an accident on August 14, 2016. Otis testified that upon his arrival at the scene, he observed that "[t]here were two vehicles already pulled into the BP gas station at 6 McDonough." The two vehicles were a Ford Explorer and an Acura. Otis testified that he spoke with "both drivers of the vehicles," though he could not recall whether the drivers were inside or outside of their respective vehicles when he arrived.

         ¶ 5 Otis testified that he spoke with the driver of the Ford Explorer, who he identified as defendant. According to Otis, defendant told him that she was attempting to turn at the intersection of McDonough Street and Chicago Street when the other driver struck her vehicle. Otis observed damage to both vehicles that corresponded to the version of events provided by defendant. Otis testified that part of his training to become a police officer included training in the reconstruction of traffic accidents. He had undertaken additional accident reconstruction courses since that original training.

         ¶ 6 On cross-examination, Otis agreed that he did not know the amount of time the two vehicles had been parked at the gas station prior to his arrival. He also agreed that the registered owner of the Ford Explorer was Richard Williamson. On redirect, Otis testified that defendant admitted to driving the Ford Explorer when it was involved in the accident. The State submitted into evidence a driving abstract, which established that a suspension of defendant's driver's license was in effect on the day of the accident.

         ¶ 7 The court found defendant guilty of driving while license suspended. Defendant was sentenced to a term of 24 months' conditional discharge and 300 hours of community service. Defendant appeals.

         ¶ 8 II. ANALYSIS

         ¶ 9 On appeal, defendant argues that the State failed to prove her guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. More specifically, she argues that the State failed to establish the corpus delicti by providing sufficient ...


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