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People v. Althoff

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Second District

January 8, 2020

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
JAMES E. ALTHOFF, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of De Kalb County. No. 16-DT-408, Honorable Philip G. Montgomery, Judge, Presiding.

          McLAREN JUSTICE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Hutchinson and Zenoff concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          McLAREN JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 Following a jury trial, defendant, James E. Althoff, was found guilty of, among other things, driving while under the influence of alcohol (DUI) (625 ILCS 5/11-501(a)(2) (West 2016)). On appeal, he argues that the trial court should have afforded him some relief for the State's failure to produce a squad-car-camera video of the stop and the complete booking-room video. Because we determine that the State did not commit a discovery violation, we conclude that the trial court did not err in denying defendant any relief. Accordingly, we affirm.

         ¶ 2 I. BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 After defendant was arrested for DUI, he asked the State to produce videos of his stop and what transpired in the booking room thereafter. Although the State eventually produced a video of some of what transpired in the booking room, it did not produce any video of the stop. Thus, defendant moved the court to dismiss the case or bar the State from eliciting testimony about events that would have been on the missing videos.

         ¶ 4 At a subsequent hearing, before the court heard any evidence, defendant advised the court that "again, although [he] may change [his] opinion today, depending on what's said or not said, at this point [he was] not alleging malfeasance and intent ***. That's not the key."

         ¶ 5 The evidence revealed that, in late October 2016, the arresting officer, Grey son Scott had one year of experience with another police department and had just finished his one year of probation with the Sycamore Police Department. During his probationary term, two field-training officers trained Scott on how to use the squad-car camera.

         ¶ 6 When Scott reported to work on October 30, 2016, he completed an inspection report for his squad car before taking it out on patrol. The inspection included checking the emergency lights, camera, and microphone. An inspection of the camera and microphone involved "looking at [the] microphone and looking at the camera to make sure it's [sic] blinking." Scott did not notice that anything in the squad car was malfunctioning.

         ¶ 7 At 11:30 p.m., Scott saw defendant turn without signaling and make an improper U-turn. Scott activated his emergency lights and stopped defendant. Scott believed that, as soon as the emergency lights were activated, the squad-car camera began recording the stop. Again, nothing indicated that the squad-car camera was not functioning properly.

         ¶ 8 Once defendant exhibited indicia of intoxication, Scott repositioned his squad car to record defendant's performance on various field sobriety tests. After moving the squad car, Scott verified that the squad-car camera and microphone were "activated." This entailed observing that the lights on the camera and the microphone were blinking, which meant that they were synched. Nothing indicated that either the camera or the microphone was malfunctioning.

         ¶ 9 After administering the field sobriety tests, Scott arrested defendant for DUI and transported him to the police department. As soon as Scott pulled into the sally port at the police station, the camera and microphone turned off and Scott placed the microphone in its cradle to charge. At this point, recordings of stops start automatically synching with the main system, which is called VuVault.

         ¶ 10 Scott then took defendant to the booking room and started his police report for defendant's arrest. Scott, who did not know anything about the booking-room recording system, did nothing to activate that system. As he was preparing his report, Scott checked VuVault to confirm that the recording of the stop went through. He learned that it did not. He then completed as much of his police report as he could and checked VuVault again before he left the station. The recording of the stop was still not uploaded to Vu Vault. Scott then, per departmental policy, sent an e-mail to Detective Joseph Meeks, telling him that he could not determine why the recording did not upload. Scott then asked Meeks to pull the SIM card from the squad-car camera and download the video, as Scott did not have access to the SIM card.

         ¶ 11 When Scott returned to work on November 2, 2016, he saw that Meeks had sent him an e-mail informing him and the other patrol officers that the squad recordings had been "dumped" into VuVault. The recording of defendant's stop was still not there. Per departmental policy, Scott told Commander Cook about the problem. ...


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