Suspending Overweight Suspensions
Hey…did you hear about the guy who got his CDL suspended because he was issued too many overweight violations? Well if you did, you heard a tall tale. There are a dozen or so immortal rumors that float thru circles of truck drivers, police officers, and even attorneys about truck law. Some of these stories have been addressed on this blog before. This week the rumor about CDLs being suspended for overweight tickets will be confronted.
When this article refers to “overweights”, it could be either an Illinois Vehicle Code Chapter 3 (registration) or Chapter 15 (axle/gross/bridge) overweight violation. It is also assumed that the driver did not receive any other citations at the time of the overweight. Like all things law, the concept is not hard to understand. It’s following the turkey trail through the legal codes that makes it difficult.
What should be noted is that in both overweight Chapters, the legislature never mandates a suspension for a conviction in the penalty section. Therefore, if a driver’s license suspension were to occur for an overweight, there must be an independent or procedural issue at work.
The IVC lists a plethora of traffic violations for which convictions must be reported to the Secretary of State by Circuit Clerks. This list is found in 625 ILCS 5/6-204(a)(2). This subsection specifically exempts offenses “other than regulations governing standing, parking or weights of vehicles”. It also delineates specific exempted sections, which includes size and weight violations in Chapter 15.
Oh..but wait. The clever reader reads on and sees that all those violations must be reported if the convicted driver holds a CDL. Correct. If a CDL holder is convicted of an overweight from Chapter 3 or 15, the Circuit Clerk must report it to the Secretary of State. For the sake of argument, remember that not all overweights are issued to CDL holders. Plenty of drivers in non-CDL vehicles receive overweight tickets just like their CDL counterparts.
So what happens when the overweight conviction on a CDL is transmitted to the Secretary of State? The SOS has to operate within the statutes created by the General Assembly. Our legislature has listed, in 625 ILCS 5/6-206, forty-six situations when the Secretary of State can suspend a driver’s license…none of which give the SOS such authority for overweight convictions.
Some “lawyers” have opined that overweight violations are considered moving violations, therefore three or more convictions for being overweight in a 12 month period can suspend a driver’s license. Interestingly, there is no definition of which violations constitute “movement of vehicles” as described in 6-206(a)(2). The Secretary of State, by administrative rule (1040.20 & 1040.30) has assigned point values to certain traffic offenses which satisfy the three moving violations statute. Guess which violations are not on the list? You guessed it…overweights.
Look at it from another angle. Illinois Supreme Court Rule 526(b)(1) allows defendants receiving an overweight citation under Chapter 3 or 15 to post the maximum fine as bail without a mandatory court date (Rule 529(a)). Then, under Supreme Court Rule 556(b), the defendant may be tried and convicted ex parte, which means he need not be present. It would be superfluous to suspend a driver’s license upon a conviction for an overweight when the driver is not required to even come to court!
Wait wait wait…what if the driver was issued a recognizance bond? In this situation, it goes back to the above paragraph. If the defendant eventually posts the cash bail before the court tries him ex parte, the law is satisfied. However, if the driver does not post the cash bail, or fails to appear in court to post the cash bail, he will still be tried and convicted ex parte. The difference will be that the court will transmit the ex parte conviction to the Secretary of State with outstanding fines. The SOS will then suspend the license.
Do overweights disqualify a CDL? Again, the SOS can only disqualify a CDL when the law says so. There is no direct mandate in the law to disqualify a CDL for overweight convictions. The federal code, and state code, both have a list of “serious traffic violations”, and overweights do not appear on either list.
A suspension for an overweight citation should be the least of concerns for a CDL holder. Start the worrying with the gigantic fines.