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Friday, February 23, 2024

Driver's DUI Conviction Upheld

In 2010, a driver was convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol and appealed, claiming her conviction was "void" because the Village prosecuted her without the written permission of the County State’s Attorney as required by Section 16-102(c) of the Illinois Vehicle Code. That section provides that “The State's Attorney of the county in which the violation occurs shall prosecute all violations [of the Code] except when the violation occurs within the corporate limits of a municipality, the municipal attorney may prosecute if written permission to do so is obtained from the State's Attorney.”

The Appellate Court upheld her conviction in Village of Glen Ellyn v. Podkul, rejecting the driver's arguments. First, the Appellate Court held that the driver's claim challenging the Village’s authority to prosecute was forfeited because the driver failed to make an objection during her trial or post-trial motions.

Second, the Appellate Court rejected the driver's claim that a conviction made without statutory authority is void and can be challenged at any time. The Appellate Court held that the trial court’s judgment would only be void if it lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the issue or lacked personal jurisdiction over the defendant. Here, the Appellate Court held that the conviction would only be voidable, so could only be challenged at the appropriate time and through the proper process.

Finally, the Appellate Court rejected the driver's argument that the conviction could be reversed under the "plain error" rule. The Court held that the plain error rule only allows reversal if there is a structural error proven to have caused a severe threat to the fairness and reliability of the trial but the driver failed to demonstrate any error that would rise to the necessary level of severity to justify reversal of her conviction. Here, the driver was not prevented from mounting an adequate defense, putting on evidence, cross-examining the State’s witnesses, or presenting arguments during her trial. Instead, she merely argues that the Village lacked the statutory authority to prosecute her - i.e., that the prosecution was brought by the wrong party, not that the proceedings themselves were fundamentally unfair or unreliable.

Post Authored by Madeline Tankersley & Julie Tappendorf, Ancel Glink


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