Everybody hates a double standard…except when it benefits them. When people interpret the law, they look for loopholes to justify their actions, even though the plain intent of the law is contrary to what they want. What is even more shocking is when the law is wholly objective in what it is saying, yet the person dismisses it because it just does not meet their expectations. Unfortunately, this practice is found in truck enforcement, particularly when it comes to the enforcement of local truck restrictions.
The term to be considered here is “abrogation”. Abrogation is when something is made void. To abrogate the law through official means is entirely appropriate. To abrogate the law by choosing not to acknowledge it, thereby making it void in one’s own mind, is inappropriate.
The law is clear about local truck restrictions in Illinois. It is lawful for local units of government to create the restrictions, within certain parameters. Therefore local governments exercise this right. However, the same unit of local government which shouts from the mountaintop of truck restriction authority, may also be choosing to abrogate the same law. This is plainly seen by ordinances and enforcement action which allow penalties inconsistent with the very law which authorized the truck restriction in the first place!
As discussed last week, if a truck violates a lawful local weight restriction, the maximum penalty is $50 as stated in 625 ILCS 5/15-316(e): “Any person, firm, or corporation convicted of violating this Section shall be fined $50 for any weight exceeding the posted limit up to the axle or gross weight limit allowed a vehicle as provided for in subsections (a) or (b) of Section 15-111…” Could it be more obvious? Unless the vehicle exceeds the uniform weight laws set in 625 ILCS 5/15-111, there can be no fine greater than $50.
The problem that continually rears its ugly head is local government which choosing to abrogate part of this statute. They want their cake and eat it too. They want the authority to restrict trucks, but do not want to follow the second half which mandates a maximum fine a $50. Instead, they choose to fine trucks exceeding their local weight restrictions like overweight trucks by using the overweight fine schedule in 15-111. Or they pass an ordinance with a tiered schedule of less impactful fines, yet violating the $50 rule nonetheless.
Some locales which impose higher penalties are vested with home rule status, other are not. Home rule units of government have the right, under the Illinois Constitution, to create ordinances which are concurrent with the state law. Note the term “concurrent”. This means doing the same thing. If the ordinance runs parallel to the state law, it is concurrent.
Much has been said about this topic by the courts and it is way too complex for this article. Home rule units like to stand on case law which says unless the General Assembly specifically limits the concurrent performance of home rule units, or declares an exclusive performance right of the State, they can do what they please. Incorrect.
The General Assembly has limited home rule government in a lot of arenas, such as motorcycle helmets, emissions inspections and felony DUI prosecution. This means a local unit of government cannot create an independent ordinance regarding these issues. They are an exclusive right of the state.
A practical example has been seen in recent years when the City of Chicago created an independent ordinance banning hand-held cell phone use. The state law was silent to this topic, therefore the ordinance did not have a concurrence problem. The legislature also did not declare it as an exclusive right of the state and specifically limit home rule authority. Therefore the ratified ordinance was lawful.
The laws regarding size and weight in Chapter 15 have not been specifically limited, but the General Assembly has spoken. An ordinance which garners its authority from the state law but then abrogates the very same law with a conflicting penalty is not concurrence. It’s in conflict.
The use of this maxim is a true double standard. The purpose of the Illinois Vehicle Code is to provide uniform traffic laws across all jurisdictional lines in Illinois. There can be deviations from it, but only when the General Assembly provides. It is ridiculous to expect a motoring public to be compliant in thousands of local jurisdictions if each writes an independent, non-conforming ordinance.
Trucks, unfortunately, are an easy (and financially better) mark in local eyes. Imposing fines greater than $50 for violating local weight restrictions is not concurrent with law, no matter how you slice it.