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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Ancel Glink Question of the Month - January 2013

Question: Can a municipality prosecute vehicle drivers for violations of the Illinois Vehicle Code?
Answer: Not without written permission from the State's Attorney in the local county. In a recent Illinois appellate court decision, a police officer wrote four tickets under the Illinois Vehicle Code. At trial, the municipal prosecutor, apparently with the oral approval of the local State's Attorney's Office, made a motion to substitute the municipality in place of the "People of the State of Illinois," which was a designation on the tickets as the prosecuting entity. The defendant was convicted and appealed. The court reversed the convictions.

Although the defect may be considered to be "technical," state law makes it very clear that, if a municipal police officer is to write tickets for violations of the Illinois Vehicle Code, the municipal attorney may only prosecute if it receives written permission from the State's Attorney. Among other reasons, the court pointed out that state charges often carry stronger penalties, and if the charging entity is changed to the municipality, but the violations of state statutes are not converted to equivalent ordinances charges, it is unclear what penalties are to be applied. This error in procedure is easy to correct and all police officers and local prosecutors should be aware of the newly-stated rule. 


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