Winning a Motion to Dismiss a Suspended License Citation Without a Hearing
Clients come to us with suspended license citations all the time. Sometimes they know exactly why their license is suspended, sometimes it takes some investigation to find out why they’re suspended. But if you’re suspended for a DUI statutory summary suspension, then you know exactly why you’re suspended.
In early 2019, a client had an active 12 months suspension for refusing to blow after being suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol. Now, while his DUI was pending, he could only legally drive if his suspension was rescinded or if he decided to install the BAIID system into his vehicle. Unfortunately for him, he was pulled over on the west side of Chicago while his license was suspended.
Now, in order for the police to stop a vehicle, they must have some reasonable suspicion that a crime or violation of the law had occurred, was in the process of occurring or was about to occur. According to our client, he didn’t commit any moving violation prior to being stopped and didn’t understand why the Chicago police had given him his tickets. Making the situation more difficult on scene was the fact that our client only spoke Spanish and didn’t understand why he had been pulled over.
Soon after coming into our office with his citations, we found out that the alleged violation that he had committed was having an obstructed windshield. The citation said that a speaker was hanging from his rearview mirror, and therefore obstructing his view while driving. This was the alleged reason for pulling him over which led to our client receiving the suspended license and obstruction of view citations.
Of course, there are always at least two sides to every story. We asked our client if there was anything hanging from his rearview mirror. He was adamant that nothing was hanging but that there was a portable speaker, but it was on his dashboard and wasn’t in view of his driving. Thankfully, the citations were marked that the stop was a video recorded event. Now we simply had to wait for his court appearance to get the opportunity to demand that video from the State and find out whether the video was dash camera or body worn camera.
Now on initial court dates for misdemeanor traffic offenses at the Daley Center, many times the State simply hasn’t received the video discovery by the first date. This is typically due to the fact that suspended or revoked citations are typically written to room 407, which isn’t a room that does any litigation. Instead, this room is somewhat of an arraignment room where the State’s Attorney decides whether or not they are going to prosecute the suspended license offense. In this case, yes, they were going to prosecute our client. So, we filed our motions for discovery, appearance and requested that the case be transferred to the Chicago Police Officer’s major litigation room.
At this point we still didn’t have the video discovery, but we had to assure our client that we would eventually get it, to remain patient and that it would be in his best interest to make sure we got all the evidence before making any decisions. Since we were still in the discovery phase of the case, we requested that our client be excused from court until discovery was complete. The Court and the State had no objection, so until the next court date we waited.
Finally, two court dates later, we received the video from the State. The video was dashcam which yielded a perfect view from the officer’s point of view prior to stopping our client. In the video, you could see our client driving on Chicago city streets in his pickup truck. For over a minute, the Chicago police were behind him and our client did nothing wrong. He wasn’t speeding, changing lanes without a signal, his registration was up to date; nothing was wrong. And yet, moments later, the lights went on and our client was pulled over. The most important thing that the video captured was the fact that there wasn’t a speaker or anything hanging from his rearview mirror. Now was the time to prepare for litigation.
On the next court date, we appeared with our client and filed a motion to quash and suppress evidence, mainly that our client’s license was in fact suspended, due to the fact that they had neither reasonable suspicion nor probable cause to arrest him based upon what was contained on the video recording. I pulled the State’s Attorney aside before setting the case for a hearing and let him know that he should really watch the video before the hearing date because it truly showed our client doing nothing wrong.
The motion hearing got set for a date two months later. Though there are Spanish interpreters in court, they don’t always fully interpret what was going on and why some dates are set so far in the future. Thankfully when he called our offices, our legal assistants were able to let him know exactly what had happened and the reason why his motion was set so far into the future.
Finally, the day for our litigation came. We answered ready to litigate and the State asked to pass the case. I approached the State and asked him if they were really going to proceed to hearing and at the same time handed him a courtesy copy of the case law which had ruled that any obstruction had to be a “material obstruction” to the driver’s view and that something as small as an air freshener wasn’t a material obstruction. I also reminded him to watch the video because not only was there not a “material obstruction,” there wasn’t anything at all!
About an hour later, our case was recalled. The Judge asked if we were still ready and we answered yes, we were. The Judge then asked the State if they were ready as well. The Assistant State’s Attorney I had been speaking to looked up and told the Judge that, upon review of the motion, video and accompanying case law, the State was no longer going to proceed to prosecute the case and elected to dismiss all the citations. The Judge then entered the motion by the State and told our client that his case had been dismissed.
And that is how you can sometimes win a motion without having to argue the entire motion in court.