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Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Illinois Supreme Court Rules that Home Rule Units Not Restricted From Adjudicating Moving Violations or Traffic Offenses

On April 4, 2024, in Cammacho v. City of Joliet (2024 IL 129263), the Illinois Supreme Court used a case involving municipal tickets issued to truckers driving overweight vehicles to clarify that Section 1-2.1-2 of the Illinois Municipal Code does not prohibit home rule municipalities from using an administrative hearing process to assess fines in cases involving the movement of motor vehicles or reportable offenses under the Illinois Vehicle Code because Division 2.1 does not contain language restricting home rule authority. However, because the tickets issued to the truckers did not comply with the procedures required by the City's own ordinances, the fines assessed by an administrative hearing officer were reversed.

Division 2.1 of the Illinois Municipal Code (65 ILCS 5/) sets forth a system of administrative adjudication which, at the time the overweight tickets were issued, applied only to home rule municipalities (the statute now permits non-home rule municipalities to adopt Division 2.1 by ordinance). Section 1-2.1-1 excludes two types of offenses from adjudication under Division 2.1: “(i) proceedings not within the statutory or the home rule authority of municipalities; and (ii) any offense under the Illinois Vehicle Code or a similar offense that is a traffic regulation governing the movement of vehicles and except for any reportable offense under Section 6-204 of the Illinois Vehicle Code.”

Two appellate courts had interpreted subsection (ii) of Section 1-2.1-1 as a restriction on home rule powers; according to those appellate decisions, Division 2.1 of the Municipal Code deprived home rule units of the jurisdiction to adjudicate traffic regulations governing the movement of vehicles or reportable offenses under Section 6-204 of the Illinois Vehicle Code.

The Supreme Court noted that the powers of home rule units when exercising any power pertaining to its government and affairs are limited only by the Illinois Constitution itself or preemption of home rule authority by the General Assembly. It also cited Section 7 of the Statute on Statutes (5 ILCS 70/7) to point out that since January 12, 1977, whenever the General Assembly chooses to limit the powers of a home rule unit by statute the legislature is required to insert into the statute specific language limiting or denying the power or function of a home rule unit and specifically setting forth how it is a limitation or denial of home rule powers.

Since Section 1-2.1-1 does not use language explicitly restricting or denying home rule authority, it is not a restriction on home rule powers. The portions of the previous appellate decisions which had held otherwise were explicitly vacated. The Court noted that the language in Division 2.1 stating that only home rule units could use Division 2.1 was simply a grant of authority to home rule units, not a restriction of home rule power (as mentioned above, the statute now grants non-home rule units the authority to use Division 2.1).

The Supreme Court stated that, although home rule units were not required to use Division 2.1 of the Municipal Code to adjudicate ordinance violations, the advantage to doing so is that the findings, decisions, and orders of hearing officers may be enforced in the same manner as a court of competent jurisdiction (65 ILCS 5/1-2.1-8). If another method of adjudication is used, the municipality must first commence an action in circuit court to convert the administrative decision into a collectable judgment. (An adjudication of a moving violation or a reportable offense requires the municipality to register the adjudicative decision with the circuit court if it seeks to enforce the decision as a debt. The strong implication of the decision is that the remedies of Section 1-2.1-8 are not available.) The opinion is silent as to what procedures should be used to report the adjudication to the Secretary of State.

The Court concluded by examining the language of the City's Code of Ordinances. It noted that the Code required police officers to issue a uniform traffic citation “in the case of a reportable offense of the Illinois Vehicle Code…”. Since the drivers who received the tickets for driving overweight trucks were CDL holders, violations of overweight vehicle ordinances were reportable violations under Section 6-204 of the Illinois Vehicle Code. Since the City's own ordinances required such offenses to be prosecuted in the circuit court, the administrative decisions issued by the City’s hearing officer were reversed.

Post Authored by Todd Greenburg, Ancel Glink



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