Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Breaking News- 1st Chicago DUI Appearance of Chicago Alderman Sharon Dixon

As I alerted readers to in a previous blog entry, Chicago Alderman Sharon Dixon made her first appearance this afternoon on her Chicago DUI charges. I happened to be in the courtroom on a client's matter. I thought this was going to be a run of the mill first appearance, motion for Discovery (the State's evidence against the defendant) and perhaps a hearing on the Petition to Rescind the Statutory Summary Suspension.

First up, the State came with the Big Guns, Chief of Traffic Division, Assistant State's Attorney Lawrence O'Reilly stepped up for the state and asked that the Petition to Rescind the Statutory Summary Suspension be stricken based on the doctrine of Collateral Estoppel. The State went on to say, after tendering a motion to strike the petition to defense counsel at the bench, that there was already a finding of probable cause based on the Administrative Hearing previously held by the City of Chicago for the Vehicle Impoundment based on Alderman Dixon's DUI arrest.

It is very rare for the state pull this. Additionally, it should be a loser since the Administrative Hearing permits hearsay, and is adjudicated by a hearing officer, not a judge, plus the issues are different. For example, there would be no discussion of whether the warnings to motorist were provided in the vehicle impoundment hearing, one of the grounds for recission of the Statutory Summary Suspension.

Unfortunately, I had to tend to other client matters in the courthouse but when I returned, the State may have withdrawn their motion to strike the Petiiton to Rescind the Statutory Summary Suspension because the hearing commenced. Once the Petitioner, Alderman Dixon, rested, the state called the Alderman to the stand to testify. In a jaw-dropping moment, once the state asked her to say her name and spell it, she did. Then Assistant State's Attorney Pat Waller, asked his first question and the Alderman invoked her right not to testify based on the advice of her attorney. The state then asked the judge to direct Alderman Dixon to answer the questions, because this was a civil matter, although what she said in this matter could not be used against her on the criminal matter citing People v. Hall, 378 Ill. App. 3d 666; 882 N.E. 2d 85. Alderman Dixon's attorney indicated that he respectfully disagreed. Judge Eileen O'Neill-Burke, presiding, suggested the parties brief the law and a date was taken.

The courtroom was full with supporters of Alderman Dixon, media, a Court watcher from MADD, as well as at least 6 judges, observing.

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