Remember the Doublemint Gum commercials of the 1980s? How scary is it to think there are brave men and women old enough to be police officers that were not alive when those commercials originally aired? The basic premise of the ads was this…two is better than one. In the decadent culture of America, quantity will beat out quality nine times out of ten. However, when it comes to tickets in truck enforcement world, sometimes it is just plain old wrong to be writing two tickets.
Consider this scenario: You are a police officer and notice a car speeding. The radar locks the vehicle in at 65 in a 45 mph zone. After you pull out into traffic and chase down the violator, the speed limit where you catch up is now 40 mph, but the car is still doing 65 mph.
Show of hands – who thinks it would be entirely appropriate to write the driver two speeding tickets? The first being for 20mph in excess of the speed limit, the second for being 25 mph in excess of the speed limit. That’s right…no one.
Let’s take a moment to talk about things that are unique to truck law. First, there is no other faction of traffic or criminal law with as many rules and regulations. And then there is an exception for every rule. And there is another exception, qualification, or restriction for the previous exception. It’s mind-boggling.
Second, truck enforcement also has a unique characteristic in that police officers may stop trucks they have reason to believe are overweight. This burden of proof is way further south than probable clause and just a tad north of a mere hunch. You can read more about that HERE.
Third, tickets for overweights are unique in that the fine may be collected as cash bail. All other offenses have a static bail assigned.
Other than these few truck-specific oddities, all other traditional aspects of police procedure apply. The simple fact there are some unique things about truck enforcement does not throw the entire Constitution baby out with the bathwater.
One such doctrine of police procedure is called “one act, one crime”. Case law has been established stating police officers cannot charge a sole defendant with two violations of the same crime arising from the same act. It’s like charging a defendant with battery for each punch he threw during a fight instead of just charging for one count of battery. Or it’s like charging him with one count of regular battery for the beating and another count of aggravated battery because the victim was elderly.
Conversely, if a defendant goes out and beats up one person, then subsequently beats up a second person, two counts of battery may be filed.
For police officer members of the Illinois Truck Enforcement Association, there is a Standard of Practice addressing this issue, SOP-07. Here are two situations where it is not uncommon to find truck officers violating the “one act, one crime” doctrine.
625 ILCS 5/15-111 | OVERWEIGHT There are several subsections on 15-111 in which a vehicle can be overweight. A truck may be over on its gross weight, its axle weight, its federal bridge formula weight, elevated structure weight, or overweight on a permit. The vehicle may be overweight on any and all combinations of each of these resulting from a single traffic stop. The police officer may only choose one violation from 15-111 to charge with though.
625 ILCS 5/15-301(j) | VIOLATION OF PERMIT When an oversize or overweight vehicle is operating on a valid permit on its assigned permit route, some things can still go wrong which do not void out the permit. For instance, the truck does not have the correct registration plate number, is operating on the wrong number of axles or operating during curfew. Even though multiple things may be wrong, only one violation citation may be issued.
Does this mean police officers cannot cite multiple violations arising from the same incident? Not at all. If a drunk driver is speeding in a overweight truck while talking on the cell phone and not wearing a seat belt, five separate acts have occurred. Each has its own evidence and its own burden of proof.
It’s not good police work to charge multiple violations of the same offense arising from the same occurrence. Police officers do not this to those driving cars, so they should not do it to truck drivers just because truck law is “unique”.
Double fresh? No. Double smooth? Hardly.