DUI Case Remanded, After Trial Court Admits Officer’s Reports by Judicial Notice, Rather Than as Evidence (People v. Sandoval)
The Second District Appellate Court in Illinois recently heard the case of People v. Sandoval. Sandoval is being charged with driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI). The case centers around the question of whether the trial court should have considered the official reports from the arresting officer, McHenry County Sheriff’s Deputy Richard Kim as evidence, in its decision to rescind the summary suspension of Sandoval’s driving privileges. While the court took judicial notice of the police officer’s sworn report, it did not admit the report into evidence. The State appealed this decision.
On November 20, 2021, Sandoval was pulled over by Deputy Kim for speeding. Kim observed that Sandoval had glassy, bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, and an odor of alcohol. Kim completed a “Law Enforcement Sworn Report” and a “Warning to Motorist”, which reflected that Sandoval refused chemical testing. Based on this evidence, Sandoval’s driving privileges were summarily suspended by statute.
However, Sandoval retained counsel and petitioned to rescind the summary suspension of his driving privileges, arguing that the arresting officer lacked reasonable grounds to believe that he was under the influence of alcohol. At the hearing on the petition, the trial court took judicial notice of the court file, which contained the DUI citation, sworn report, and warning, but did not consider them as evidence.
Sandoval testified that he had obeyed all traffic laws, including observing the posted speed limit and that he had not consumed any alcohol. Based on this testimony, the trial court granted Sandoval’s petition to rescind the summary suspension of his driving privileges.
The State appeals this decision, arguing that the court should have permitted it to rely on the official reports in its case in chief. The Appellate Court agrees with the State, stating that proceedings on a petition to rescind the statutory summary suspension of a defendant’s driving privileges are civil, and that the defendant bears the burden of proof. If the defendant establishes a prima facie case for rescission, the burden shifts to the State to present evidence justifying the suspension.
In this case, the court found that Sandoval had presented a prima facie case for rescission, but the State was not given the opportunity to present evidence from the official reports to justify the suspension. The court notes that under Illinois law, official reports from law enforcement officers are admissible in a hearing on a summary suspension of a defendant’s driving privileges.
REMANDED FOR NEW HEARING, STATE MAY HAVE OFFICER’S REPORTS ADMITTED
The Appellate Court vacates the court’s order granting Sandoval’s petition to rescind, and remands the case for a new rescission hearing, where the State can proceed on the arresting officer’s official reports if it so chooses. This decision is a reminder that in DUI cases, the court must consider all available evidence and follow proper procedures in order to make a fair and just decision.
It is important to note that, the defendant failed to file a brief in this court and the court considered the appeal’s merits. Despite the absence of an appellee’s brief, the court found that the issue raised is simple and the claimed errors are such that the court can easily decide them without the aid of an appellee’s brief.
The key takeaway from the above case is that in DUI cases, the court must consider all available evidence and follow proper procedures in order to make a fair and just decision. The State’s appeal argued that the trial court should have considered the official reports from the arresting officer in its decision to rescind the summary suspension of the defendant’s driving privileges. The Appellate Court agreed with the State and vacated the court’s order, remanding the case for a new rescission hearing where the State can proceed on the arresting officer’s official reports.