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Exemplary Police Work #3

When is it legal to do something illegal? When you have permission, of course. With every authority there are boundaries, and crossing them may have penalties. But, violating those rules does not necessarily mean all authority is nullified. For example, a driver’s license is a permission. You might lose your license for certain things, but not every traffic violation revokes a valid license. The article this week tells the story of just such an occasion involving an overweight permit load and the police officer who stopped it.

Once a permit is issued for an oversize or overweight (OS/OW) load, the truck can make its move. Inevitably, a police officer is going to stop it. Why? Because an OS/OW truck is breaking the law. The question the police officer needs answered is whether or not the vehicle has been issued a permit to cover the offense. In other words, it is now legal for the truck to be illegal?

When a police officer lawfully stops the vehicle and is presented a permit, the permit must be validated. There are three criterions to validate a permit. First, it must be operating between the effective and expiring dates/times. Second, it must be on the assigned route. Lastly, the permit must unequivocally belong to that truck, load, and owner. A piece a paper that just says “permit” on it doesn’t make it a valid permit!

Once the permit is validated, there are only two ways it can be voided, or in other words nullified…gone as if it never existed. One reason is if the load is divisible, and secondly if the permit is fraudulent. Each of these reason can (and will) be explored in much greater detail, but the point is there are only two ways to void a valid permit and knock the truck back to legal size and weight. That’s it…two.

There is an almost unending list of rules that go along with a valid permit. It’s not okay to break one of the rules, and there is a penalty for doing so, but it is not the same as voiding the permit. It’s a violation of the permit and enforceable under 625 ILCS 5/15-301(j).

Back in January of this year, there was a snowy day and an alert police officer (who just so happens to be a member of the ITEA) saw an OS/OW permit load rolling down the highway. The road was covered in snow so that the lane markings could not be seen. The police officer stopped the vehicle and obtained an IDOT permit from the driver. The officer quickly validated it…it was on route, between the effective/expiration dates, and it unequivocally belonged to the company, truck and load.

However, the OPER 993 provision sheet (rules for the permit) clearly stated that operation during inclement weather was a violation. The officer had the driver dead to rights. The enforcement mistake came when the officer voided the permit because of the inclement weather and knocked the truck back to legal weights. The ensuing bail for the overweight citation was nearly $4,000.00. He voided instead of violating the permit.

Here’s the point: the officer, and the driver both made a mistake. We’re all humans. The exemplary action by the officer that prompts the writing of this article can be summed up in one word – humility.

As it turns out, the trucking company is also a member of the ITEA. They called and asked about the citation. The ITEA in turn called the officer to see what happened. The officer realized his mistake and made it right. He could have amended the ticket to a violation of permit, but instead he chose to drop the whole thing in court.

In a win-at-all-costs profession like policework, it’s hard sometimes hard to find cases when a police officer readily admits an error and owns up to it. He could have had a big trial, subpoenaed expert witnesses from all over the midwest, and made a big to-do wasting everyone’s time and money. But instead he chose to humbly acknowledge his error and do the right thing.

That’s what being an ITEA truck officer is all about. That’s professionalism. We’re proud to call him one of our own.

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