Taking Defendant’s Corvette for Driving While Suspended an Overreach?

Dodds Law Office, PC
A police officer making an arrest, standing outside his patrol car at night, emergency lights flashing. The criminal is a young man in his 20s, standing his his hands on his head as the officer searches him.

Alright, I had to blog about this one. It just didn’t sit well at all with me, mainly because it seemed like a complete overreach by governmental authorities.

A police officer making an arrest, standing outside his patrol car at night, emergency lights flashing. The criminal is a young man in his 20s, standing his his hands on his head as the officer searches him.

In March of 2013 the Defendant, Robert Ritacca, who appears to be a resident of Lake County, Illinois, was illegally driving his 2005 Corvette. He claimed he was on the way to the gas station. While on the way to the gas station a police officer on patrol ran his license plate. As it turned out, Mr. Ritacca’s driver’s license was suspended for previously receiving a DUI. As such, the Defendant was required to have a breath-alcohol ignition-interlock device (a breathalyzer) installed in any motor vehicle he was allowed to drive. Mr. Ritacca did not have this device, so he was driving outside the parameters of his permit. In other words, he was illegally driving his 2005 Corvette or was driving while suspended.

Instead of charging Mr. Ritacca with a felony driving while suspended, Mr. Ritacca was charged with the misdemeanor offense of driving while suspended, but they seized his 2005 Corvette and commenced a forfeiture action against it.

Mr. Ritacca lodged different legal defenses against the seizure of his Corvette, including a Motion to Quash his Arrest and a legal argument that the forfeiture was not statutorily authorized. After the forfeiture hearing, the trial court allowed the forfeiture. The appellate court agreed. Specifically, both courts ruled that Illinois Law granted the State the authority to seize the automobile if the automobile was being driven by someone who’s driving privileges were suspended because of a DUI.

My problem with this whole case is this: Even though Lake County was statutorily authorized to take Mr. Ritacca’s 2005 Corvette, should they have? I would bet dollars to donuts, that lots of other people in Lake County, Illinois commit far worse crimes in Lake County than Mr. Ritacca, but do not have their cars taken. Perhaps it was because it was a Corvette? In any event, taking this man’s Corvette seemed like quite the overreach to me. Perhaps the law needs to be changed? What do you think?

Another reason this case was of interest to me is because I recently heard of a forfeiture action going on here in McLean County, in which the State is attempting to seize the defendant’s automobile for having less than a ½ ounce of weed. It’s their position that because they believe they have enough evidence to show that he intended to sell it or give it to his buddies, that they can and should take his car. Less than ½ ounce. Seriously? Our legislature just passed a bill that will decriminalize possession of less than ½ ounce of cannabis. Yet, we’re going to try to take this poor college kid’s car that is over a decade old, because he was possibly going to sell or split less than ½ ounce of weed? Really? Maybe a message needs to be delivered, but let’s not take the poor kid’s car. Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should. Maybe the punishment should fit the crime?

  1. People v. 2005 Black Chevrolet Corvette, 2015 Ill.App. 131267 (Ill. App. Ct. 2d Dist.)
  2. A DUI he appears to have won, I might add – https://circuitclerk.lakecountyil.gov/publicAccess/html/common/courtCaseDetails.xhtml?caseDetailsId=9
  3. This was sort of a break to Mr. Ritacca, because the State could have charged him with a felony for operating a motor vehicle that did not have a breathalyzer installed in it
  4. I guess someone thought that Mr. Ritacca’s 2005 Corvette would make a pretty cool squad car
  5. 720 ILCS 5/36-1 (West 2012)
  6. Ironically, the State didn’t even proceed on the charge of driving while suspended, they amended the charge even further to driving without a device, an offense that does not subject his automobile to forfeiture
  7. even though donuts are about a buck or more these days
  8. See HB0218

Attorney Terry Dodds has been protecting the rights of the people of Bloomington, Illinois for over 20 years. Whether you were injured in an accident, or you have been charged with a crime, Terry Dodds can tip the scales of justice in your favor.

Years of Experience: More than 20 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active
Bar Admissions:Illinois State Bar Association Missouri State Bar Association McLean County Bar Association