Thursday, July 12, 2012

Woodstock Court - 11 vehicle impoundments

Today's Administrative Adjudication Court in Woodstock (second Thursday of every month, 9:30AM) got a late start today, and I headed for the Sheriff's Department Merit Commission meeting shortly after 10:00, so I'd be on time there.

I arrived back at the Woodstock Court by 10:50AM and was surprised how far through the Docket they were. I want to express my appreciation to the City Manager for allowing the court employees to give me a copy of the Docket that contained names of violators.

I missed the resolution of an all-night parking ticket. The violator had a conversation with Police Chief Lowen before court started, and then the violator left the court. Perhaps he went downstairs to pay it, rather than waiting longer.

There were 11 vehicle impoundment cases. One defendant seemed to get quite close to a Not Liable finding by Judge (Hearing Officer) David Eterno.

It's a real disadvantage to appear in court (any court) without a lawyer. If you do, you have better be prepared. Even if you are going to hire a lawyer, it could be well-worth $100-150 to get advice from a lawyer how to defend yourself.

A driver got stopped for failing to make a complete stop on Sheila Street before turning onto Seminary. That's just south of the old KFC building. OK, big deal. It's "just" a stop-sign ticket.

In court this morning the driver said that his car was illegally searched and that he had not given permission for the search. A "green, leafy substance" was found in a backpack on the backseat. At some point Brinx, Woodstock's K-9, was brought to the scene, and the police officer's report said the dog "alerted", indicating the possible presence of an illegal drug.

On July 9 the case was nolle prossed in Judge Graham's courtroom. This morning the violator said that the Woodstock Police officer had failed to show up in court.

Something doesn't really jive here, because July 9 was a status hearing, not a trial. Normally, an officer would not have to be present at a status hearing. So why did Judge Graham halt that case? In any event, he did.

And that threw Judge Eterno between a rock and a hard place. In other for him to find this violator Not Liable (much like Not Guilty), the way the Woodstock Ordinance is written, there needed to be a trial and a Not Guilty verdict. Then this violator might have had a shot at a Not Liable finding this morning and a refund of his $500 bond on his car.

Do you suppose the City Fathers (and the two Mothers) got that little bit of explanation from the City Attorney, when they were considering the Vehicle Impoundment Ordinance? They certainly didn't ask in January, before they passed the ordinance without discussion and unanimously.


Mike said...

With regard to the fellow who had his vehicle searched and the "green leafy substance" found, I would be curious to know where the vehicle was located and who may have been with him at the time of the tow. A case I found showed that the tow of a car where a small amount of drugs were found was an illegal seizure under the 4th amendment because that pesky community care taking doctrine did not apply. That car was legally parked and had someone else that could drive it in any event. This one armed bandit mentality that has developed from a statute that was intended to help offset costs on necessary tows has gotten way out of hand.

Gus said...

The City's claim is that the $500 impound fine helps the City recover the cost of law enforcement, investigation, testilying (errr, I mean testifying; you name it.

The State's Attorney asked for the Circuit Court case to be dismissed at a status hearing; they didn't even wait for a trial. That tells me that they knew they didn't have a case right away.

Actually, I think the defendant mis-stated the reason for the dismissal. The office would not have been required to be in court that day for a "status-trial date" hearing.

Mike said...

I lnow, thats what the claim is but if the tow was improper to begin with then they can eat the costs themselves. The city/village is bootstrapping to make a few bucks.