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Legalize This

Legalize what? Medical marijuana? Legalized. Concealed carry? Legalized. What else could be legalized that could involve trucks?  Well, lots of things.  However, what the green weed and guns have in common is that they have been legalized, meaning they are now an extension of legal rights. The article this week is not about that kind of legalization, but legalization as a mandate to comply with an existing law. And guess what? If your truck or combination of vehicles is overweight, you are mandated to legalize.

Here’s a scenari:  You are late for work…WAY late. The obvious method to turn back the hands of time is to speed, and fast. Lo and behold, your friendly neighbor policeman hiding behind the billboard catches you and makes the traffic stop. Once you have stopped, your speed has been legalized.

This does not mean you are not getting a ticket though! Whether the police officer writes the citation, issues a warning or just cuts you loose is not at issue.  What is at issue is not breaking the law again.  How ludicrous would it be, if after stopping you for speeding, the officer says, “Sir, I know you were late for work and I understand the problem. Please go ahead and speed again so you do not lose your job.”

Insane? Of course it is! Except in very limited circumstances, a police officer can never tell a person to break the law. That is the complete opposite of what policemen are sworn to do.

This is a common overweight scenario occurring everyday in Illinois.  A police officer stops a vehicle he has reason to believe is overweight.  He weighs it and indeed it is heavy. It’s exceeding what is lawful, just like a car travelling 65mph in a 45mph zone is unlawful. The officer issues the overweight citation and collects a rather damaging cash bail from the driver.

If this were a speeding car, the driver would soon be on his way, because the speed problem has been corrected and everyone is working under the assumption the driver will choose not to speed again. But the law has something else to say about an overweight vehicle. The driver cannot wish away the weight. It’s there to stay, until it’s been removed.

In 625 ILCS 5/15-112(b), the Illinois Vehicle Code states: “Whenever an officer, upon weighing a vehicle and the load, determines that the weight is unlawful, such officer shall require the driver to stop the vehicle in a suitable place and remain standing until such portion of the load is removed as may be necessary to reduce the weight of the vehicle to the limit permitted under this Chapter”

Notice the word “shall”. It’s not an option. It’s an absolute mandate. A police officer has no authority to trump this.  The legislature understood that trucks just can’t be left on the side of the road while waiting to be legalized. Therefore, they granted the officer the discretion to move the vehicle to a “suitable” place to legalize. It’s what is reasonable.

Best practice for the police officer is probably to have a few places near the scale location where the driver can follow the police officer. Using a parking lot (with owner permission of course), a wide shoulder on a non-busy route or a government owned piece of property is probably a better idea than allowing the driver to travel miles unaccompanied to a different location.

Notice the legislature never authorizes the police officer to tow the truck away. Police officers do have the authority to tow vehicles for a number of reasons, but being overweight is not specifically listed.  And it’s not a very compassionate thing to do after issuing an expensive overweight ticket.

Here’s the reality though. Most police officers, after issuing an overweight ticket, rarely make the driver legalize a load.  Making a driver legalize a load is like making a horse drink water. It also adds insult to injury.  Not to say some drivers have not earned the right to legalize though…always best to mind your manners.  There’s an exceptional amount of authority vested to the police officer in this situation.

Truckers: you can ask the police officer to let you go without legalizing, and maybe he will, at his own risk to liability if you crash and kill someone.  If he says “legalize”, you have no argument, he is only doing what the law requires.

Police manpower is always at a premium, and most supervisors do not want officers babysitting. Maybe the police officer admonishes you that it is illegal to continue driving overweight. Maybe he will just warn you that if you choose to leave and crash and hurt/kill someone, it’s on you. Or maybe he will warn you that if you choose to leave and get stopped in another town, you might receive a subsequent overweight citation. That’s on you as well.  Bear in mind there’s probably a good chance the police officer had his camera and microphone on recording the conversation.

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