I'm just writing an update on what happened in court today regarding the traffic case I wrote about a few days back. Just as a refresher, I was cited for expired registration by the Illinois State Police (or was he really???? Commission? Oath of Office? Bond?).
The citation that I received was titled Illinois State Police Citation and Complaint�. The officer signed it. I did not. He wrote a court date but checked, "Court appearance not required". The signature line on the citation says directly above, "WITHOUT ADMITTING GUILT, I promise to comply with the terms of this Ticket and Release." As I said supra, I did not sign the citation nor was I asked to. Had I signed though, I would have done so with a restricted signature (i.e. without prejudice� above my signature). If he protested I would sign, "under threat, duress and coercion" or something to that affect.
Since I did not sign the citation there was no contractual agreement for me to appear in court to defend myself; so I didn't go on the original court date which was August 9, 2007. The clerk sent a "Notice of Failure to Appear" which was a nice little document that gave me a continuance with the new court date being today, October 4, 2007. The document also said if I fail to appear my license would be suspended and a warrant for my arrest may issue. I decided that I would demur to the citation and composed a 10 page document/pleading called "Demurrer to Illinois State Police Citation and Complaint" and served it by priority mail (certified and return receipt). I also included a cover letter to the Clerk requesting that the document be filed and a stamped copy return to me in a self-addressed envelope. I received the return receipt yesterday so I printed 5 extra copies just in case it wasn't filed.
When I walked into the court house, there were about 100 or so people answering to traffic citations! I signed in and took a seat. It was like an assembly line! The judge called people up by groups of 10 and then one by one they were told the charge and asked to talk to the state attorney for a deal. NONE asked for a formal arraignment! Not a single one... EXCEPT ME! I was inspired on this point, just a few days ago when Frog Farmer wrote about proper arraignments, having the charge read to you and getting a copy of the document. I found the section in the Code of Criminal Proceedings dealing with arraignments, printed it out, highlighted the relevant portions and memorized them.
(725 ILCS 5/113‑1)
(from Ch. 38, par. 113‑1)
Sec. 113‑1. Procedure on arraignment.
Before any person is tried for the commission of an offense he shall be called into open court, informed of the charge against him, and called upon to plead thereto. If the defendant so requests the formal charge shall be read to him before he is required to plead. An entry of the arraignment shall be made of record.
(Source: Laws 1963, p. 2836.)
(725 ILCS 5/113‑4)
(from Ch. 38, par. 113‑4)
Sec. 113‑4. Plea.
(a) When called upon to plead at arraignment the defendant shall be furnished with a copy of the charge and shall plead guilty, guilty but mentally ill, or not guilty.
Here's the linchpin! If you fail to object or plead to the charge, you WAIVE the issue!
(725 ILCS 5/113‑6)
(from Ch. 38, par. 113‑6)
Sec. 113‑6. Effect of failure to arraign and irregularity of arraignment.
Neither a failure to arraign nor an irregularity in the arraignment shall affect the validity of any proceeding in the cause if the defendant pleads to the charge or proceeds to trial without objecting to such failure or irregularity.
(Source: Laws 1963, p. 2836.)
So what do you think happened when the judge called me up? I approached the bench and the judge immediately said that I was charged with expired plates and then motioned to the state's attorney who immediately said, "The state offers $100 and court supervision." I just looked at him and laughed. I turned to the judge and said I demand a formal arraignment. The judge replied, "That's what this is. You can plead not guilty and go to trial later today or talk to the state's attorney if you have any questions." I responded, "No, the Code of Criminal Procedure specifically says what constitutes an arraignment." He said, "That's not for traffic. Traffic citations are covered by Supreme Court rule." I told him that I object on the record to not having a proper arraignment. I then told him I filed a demur, to which he replied, "It's denied. Go take a seat." I continued and said that I demand the filing of a verified complaint. He cut me off and said to take a seat and the state's attorney would talk to me.
I sat down at the state attorney's desk but no one noticed for a few minutes. When they did the bailiff motioned that I move to the seats with the defendants (I being the accused since there was no jurisdiction granted and I was there by special appearance only). The state's attorney was a beautiful woman who didn't know much about the law. She called me out of the court room into the hall and asked me if I wanted to plead “guilty” or “not guilty� I informed her that there is no plea since I have not even been properly arraigned.
I reiterated to her that I objected to that on the record. I showed her the code of criminal procedure where I highlighted the above sections. She asked me if I was an attorney. When I said no her demeanor turned very condescending. She said, "That's the criminal code see" pointing at the title of the document that I printed. She said, "Your issue is the vehicle code". I politely explained to her that I printed the document so of course I know what it is. She also said she wouldn't dismiss and wouldn't file a verified complaint since they don't do that in traffic cases! I knew I had a done deal now. The state's attorney didn't even know that the criminal code dealt with verified complaints and traffic tickets!
I saw in my case file that she was holding my filed and stamped demurrer. I asked her if she has read it. She replied that she handles 800 cases a day and doesn't have time to read documents. I told her to take that document out and read it. She said, "I appreciate what you're doing but I'm not going to dismiss." I told her that she is only wasting the court and my time because it's going to be dismissed or reversed on appeal anyway. She said that she still wouldn't dismiss and that we will have to go to trial. I then told her that I will move for a continuance and demand a formal arraignment, a verified complaint, a bill of particulars, a list of witnesses and a trial by jury. She got a chuckle out of that and then went to the back of the court. I took my seat again in the court room waiting patiently to be called.
This time the judge called me up with a totally different disposition. They had both read my document and were ready to dismiss! The judge started smiling and said, "Is there anything we can do? Is the registration current now even if it wasn't then? If so, we'd be happy to dismiss. We dismiss those here... well we usually don't but..." Now mind you, when I was cited, the registration had been expired for over a year! I said that I did have proof of current registration. He became elated and said, "Why didn't you just say that? You could have saved a whole lot of trees." We both laughed because we knew that he didn't want the sheeple hearing my sound legal arguments. He and I both know that unlike insurance citations, if you can prove insurance at the time of citation, it's an automatic dismissal, the Illinois statutes CLEARLY omit such language when it comes to expired registration. He knew I wanted it dismissed and gave it to me. He told with his hands outspread, "You won! That's what you wanted!" Then he said, "Are you an attorney?" I smiled and said, "No, I do this for fun!" He said, "You really should be an attorney! Are you a law student? Which school? You should go, definitely! Go, go, go! With these pleadings you should definitely go. Wow!"
So I won the case; no arraignment, no verified complaint, no plea, no trial, no nothing!!! Just a tight demur that neither the judge nor prosecutor read PRIOR to my being there (despite it being in the file for days) and one they could not deal with.
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