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Illinois Appeals Court Upholds DUI Defendant’s Summary Suspension Despite Hearing Delay

The Illinois Court of Appeals for the Second District recently held that a delay in a hearing regarding the summary suspension of a defendant’s driving privileges attributable to a continuance did not entitle him to rescission of the suspension on the ground that he was not afforded a hearing within 30 days.

In January 2015, Mario Guillermo was arrested for DUI. According to the police report, Guillermo was served with immediate notice of the suspension of his driving privileges because he refused to submit to testing.

Before the trial court, the defendant filed a petition to rescind the suspension. After the trial court denied the motion, Guillermo pointed out that the Secretary of State had not filed a confirmation with the court. He asserted that the court did not have subject matter jurisdiction to hold a hearing on his petition because without a confirmation from the Secretary of State, there was no suspension for the court to rescind, and the matter was not ripe for adjudication. The court disagreed, and the matter proceeded to a hearing.

Following the presentation of witnesses and arguments by counsel, the defendant’s petition to rescind was denied.

Thereafter, the Secretary of State filed with the court a “confirmation of statutory summary suspension.” In March 2015, the defendant filed a motion to reconsider the denial of his petition to rescind, which the circuit court denied. Guillermo appealed.

The appeals court first addressed the defendant’s contention that the circuit court lacked subject matter jurisdiction. Subject matter jurisdiction refers to a court’s power “to hear and determine cases of the general class to which the proceeding in question belongs.” Subject matter jurisdiction does not depend on the legal sufficiency of the pleadings but instead on whether there exists a justiciable matter:  “the only consideration is whether the alleged claim falls within the general class of cases that the court has the inherent power to hear and determine.”

The court found that Guillermo’s petition, filed pursuant to the Illinois Code, clearly alleged the existence of a justiciable matter, and the circuit court had inherent power to hear and determine whether Guillermo was entitled to rescind the summary suspension of his driving privileges. Thus, the defendant’s claim that the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction was without merit.

Guillermo next contended that the lower court erred in holding a hearing on the motion to rescind because the matter was not ripe for adjudication. Before beginning its analysis, the appeals court provided a short explanation of the statutory scheme pertaining to Illinois drivers arrested for DUI. When a motorist arrested for DUI refuses to submit to chemical testing, tests above the legal alcohol concentration limit, or tests positive for an intoxicating substance, the officer must give the motorist a notice of summary suspension.

The officer must also submit a sworn report detailing the results of the test or the motorist’s refusal to take it to both the Secretary of State and the circuit court. The summary suspension of the motorist’s driving privileges automatically takes effect on the 46th day after the officer serves the motorist with notice of the suspension.

While drivers are immediately subject to a statutory summary suspension, the Illinois Code sets forth a procedure for drivers to seek rescission of this suspension. Since the law mandates that the circuit court conduct a hearing within 30 days after a petition to rescind is filed, and since the actual suspension of driving privileges does not take effect until 46 days after the motorist is served with the notice of suspension, the hearing can be either pre- or post-suspension, and the timeliness of the review depends primarily on the driver’s diligence in filing a petition to rescind.

The appeals court reasoned that in this case, Guillermo was arrested for DUI and immediately served with notice that his privileges would be summarily suspended for his failure to complete chemical testing. Since the summary suspension was “self-executing” and automatically took effect on the 46th day following notice, the court found nothing hypothetical or abstract about the suspension that the defendant sought to rescind. Guillermo’s petition to rescind did not ask the court to pass judgment on abstract propositions of law, render an advisory opinion, or give legal advice on future events. Instead, he sought to stop the suspension of his driving privileges from ever taking effect. The appeals court found that the absence of confirmation of the suspension was irrelevant because it had no impact on the court’s ability to grant relief. Thus, the lower court did not err in holding a hearing on the petition, even without confirmation by the Secretary of State.

The court finally rejected the defendant’s argument that he was denied his right to a hearing within 30 days of filing his petition to rescind. The 30-day period commences on the date that the circuit court received the defendant’s petition to rescind. Here, Guillermo filed a petition to rescind in the circuit court in January 2015. Thus, the hearing had to be held by February 14, 2015. The record revealed, however, that the defendant agreed in February 2015 to continue the matter. The court held that the delay attributable to the continuance agreed to by the defendant, which occurred within the 30-day period, temporarily suspended the running period within which a hearing on the petition had to be held. As a result of the seven-day delay, the rescission hearing had to be held on or before February 21, 2015. Since the hearing was held prior to this on February 18, the defendant was not entitled to rescission on the basis that he was not afforded a hearing within the 30-day period as required pursuant to statute.

For these reasons, the appeals court affirmed the lower court’s judgment.

If you have been charged with a DUI crime in Illinois, it is crucial to speak to an experienced Illinois DUI lawyer as soon as possible. Harvatin Law Offices, PC provides knowledgeable representation to people in Springfield and throughout Illinois. We have considerable experience defending individuals charged with DUI offenses and representing drivers with revoked licenses before the Illinois Secretary of State. To learn more, and to set up a free initial consultation, contact us online or call us at 217.525.0520.

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