People v. Lawson, 2018 IL App (4th) 170105 (March). Episode 483 (Duration 8:25)
Defendant had a rare blood condition, that was not considered an extraordinary circumstance.
Defendant drove on a suspended license a “silver Nissan” around 1:30 a.m., after consuming alcohol that evening.
An accident reconstructionist would testify defendant approached the intersection of Washington and Main Streets, in Bloomington, Illinois, at a speed of 47 miles per hour.
Due to her intoxication, defendant struck a man and a women as they walked across the intersection. Defendant did not stop her vehicle at the scene of the accident and failed to report she was in an accident to law enforcement officials.
The women died.
Testing revealed defendant’s blood alcohol concentration to be 0.265 and also indicated the presence of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), or cannabis.
What The State Wanted
The State recommended a sentence of 12 years in prison for aggravated driving under the influence of alcohol (count I), a sentence of 9 years in prison for failure to report an accident involving death (count II), and a sentence of 364 days in jail for driving while license suspended (count XI).
Defendant requested probation, characterizing her “extreme chronic and serious medical condition” as “extraordinary circumstances” requiring probation.
She had immune thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) which required monthly blood transfusions.
In mitigation, the trial court considered defendant’s lack of a prior felony conviction and hardship on her children.
It also considered defendant’s “medical condition” and remorse.
In aggravation, the court considered the many “shattered lives” left in the wake of defendant’s “reckless conduct” and defendant’s failure to stop after hitting the pedestrians. The court also considered defendant “continually lied” to law enforcement officers after she was arrested, causing “additional work” for officers.
Deprecate Seriousness of Offense
The court noted the need to deter others from committing similar crimes. The trial court stated that a sentence of probation would deprecate the seriousness of defendant’s conduct and no extraordinary circumstances warranted probation “even with [defendant’s] medical condition.”
The court sentenced defendant to eight years in prison for aggravated driving under the influence of alcohol (count I), four years in prison for failure to report an accident involving death (count II), and a sentence of “court costs plus conviction” for driving while license suspended (count XI).
Defendant’s sentences were “mandatory consecutive” bringing her total time to 12 years.
Defendant argued her “severe and unusual medical condition” and “the presumption for probation where there is no significant criminal history” were “extenuating circumstances” warranting probation.
Defendant first argues the trial court abused its discretion in sentencing her for aggravated driving under the influence of alcohol where it failed to find extraordinary circumstances existed, requiring she receive a sentence of probation.
Appellate Court Can’t Give Probation
Our supreme court has twice stated we categorically do not have the authority to reduce a prison sentence to a sentence of probation. See Bolyard, 61 Ill. 2d at 588 (“Rule 615 does not grant a reviewing court the authority to reduce a sentence of imprisonment to a sentence of probation.”); People ex rel. Ward v. Moran, 54 Ill. 2d 552, 556, 301 N.E.2d 300, 302 (1973) (“Supreme Court Rule 615 was not intended to grant a court of review the authority to reduce a penitentiary sentence to probation.”).
Similarly, we do not have authority to remand a cause with directions to grant probation. See People v. Rege, 64 Ill. 2d 473, 482, 356 N.E.2d 537, 541 (1976) (“[T]he appellate court erred in remanding the cause with directions to grant probation.”).
To the extent any prior decisions of this court hold to the contrary, they are not to be followed.
625 ILCS 5/11-501(d)(2)(G), (F)
Section 11-501(d)(2)(G) of the Vehicle Code (Id. § 11-501(d)(2)(G)) provides a violation of section 11-501(d)(1)(F)
“is a Class 2 felony, for which the defendant, unless the court determines that extraordinary circumstances exist and require probation, shall be sentenced to: (i) a term of imprisonment of not less than 3 years and not more than 14 years if the violation resulted in the death of one person.”
The plain language of the statute creates the presumption a convicted defendant shall serve a term of imprisonment.
See also People v. Vasquez, 2012 IL App (2d) 101132, ¶ 64, 971 N.E.2d 38.
However, a trial court may override this presumption when it determines, in its discretion, that “extraordinary circumstances” require probation.
The legislature intended for the “extraordinary circumstances” language to limit the discretion of a trial court to impose a sentence of probation. See People v. Winningham, 391 Ill. App. 3d 476, 483, 909 N.E.2d 363, 369 (2009).
We agree with the trial court defendant’s medical condition did not rise to the level of “extraordinary circumstances” as envisioned by the legislature to justify a sentence of probation.
Although the legislature did not define the precise boundaries of “extraordinary circumstances,” it intended a trial court to exercise its discretion to override the presumption of incarceration only in limited circumstances. See Vasquez, 2012 IL App (2d) 101132, ¶ 64.
Fact is defendant’s medical condition was under control in prison.
The trial court indicated it had considered the presentence report, the evidence in mitigation, defendant’s statement in allocution, and the statutory factors in mitigation and aggravation. The court found a sentence of probation would deprecate the serious nature of the offense and be inconsistent with the ends of justice.
Even if we did have such authority, we would be disinclined to use it in this case.
A reviewing court may not alter a defendant’s sentence absent an abuse of discretion by the trial court (People v. Alexander, 239 Ill. 2d 205, 212, 940 N.E.2d 1062, 1066 (2010)), which we do not find here.
We find the sentence imposed on defendant by the trial court was not “greatly at variance with the spirit and purpose of the law, or manifestly disproportionate to the nature of the offense.” Stacey, 193 Ill. 2d at 210.
We hold the court did not abuse its discretion in sentencing defendant to four years in prison for her failure to report an accident involving death.
- Episode 061 – Aggravated DUI Probation in Death Cases With Anthony Vaupel
- Episode 258 – Death, Tragedy & An Attorney Who Couldn’t Stand It Anymore
- Episode 038 – DUI Sentencing Laws | Rational or a Frenzy?