Friday, March 9, 2018

"Cases Pending" Highlights Cases to be Heard During Illinois Supreme Court's March Term

Cases Pending, co-chaired by Gretchen Harris Sperry (left) and Catherine Basque Weiler, has been updated to discuss the Illinois Supreme Court's March Term, which begins Monday, March 12, 2018, with oral arguments scheduled for March 13, 2018 (in Springfield) and March 15, 2018 (in Urbana at the University of Illinois). A total of 4 cases will be heard – 1 criminal and 3 civil. The following criminal case is scheduled for argument this Term:

People v. John Plank, No. 122202: March 15

Below is a summary for the criminal case, People v. John Plank. Summaries for this case and others pending with the Illinois Supreme Court can be found in our Cases Pending publication, accessible to ALA members on the ALA's website

Defendant John Plank was charged with driving a motor vehicle while his license was revoked, in violation of 625 ILCS 5/6-303(a). The motor vehicle in question was a bicycle powered by a gasoline motor. Under the Vehicle Code, a "low-speed gas bicycle" is not a "motor vehicle." 625 ILCS 5/1-146. Defendant moved to dismiss the charge against him, arguing that the Code's definition of "low-speed gas bicycle," 625 ILCS 5/1-140.15, is unconstitutionally vague. The circuit court granted the motion, declaring section 1-140.15 unconstitutionally vague on its face in violation of the Due Process Clauses of the U.S. and Illinois Constitutions.

Section 1-140.15 defines a "low-speed gas bicycle" as "[a] 2 or 3-wheeled device with fully operable pedals and a gasoline motor of less than one horsepower, whose maximum speed on a paved level surface, when powered solely by such a motor while ridden by an operator who weighs 170 pounds, is less than 20 miles per hour."

Before the Illinois Supreme Court, the State argues for reversal on two bases. First, the statutory definition satisfies due process because it gives a person of ordinary intelligence – even if he does not weigh 170 pounds – a reasonable opportunity to determine whether a motorized bicycle is a "low-speed gas bicycle" and provides a clear and objective standard for enforcing the law. Second, the statutory definition is facially constitutional – even if the maximum-speed component is vague as applied to persons who do not weigh 170 pounds – because any such vagueness does not extend to all of the definition's applications.

In response, Plank asserts that the statutory definition is vague because it (1) deprives citizens of fair notice of what is prohibited, noting that around forty other states have definitions not dependent on the weight of the rider, and (2) encourages arbitrary enforcement given the many determinations involved (the horsepower of the motor, its maximum speed on a level paved surface, whether pedals are operable, whether speed was increased by human pedaling). Plank also argues that a statutory definition need not be vague in all of its applications to be unconstitutionally vague.

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