A confession doesn't equal a conviction, appeals court rules in Round Lake DUI case

  • Justices at the Second District Appellate Court in Elgin reversed the 2018 DUI conviction of a Round Lake woman on Tuesday, ruling her statement to a police officer that she had been driving drunk isn't enough for her to be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

    Justices at the Second District Appellate Court in Elgin reversed the 2018 DUI conviction of a Round Lake woman on Tuesday, ruling her statement to a police officer that she had been driving drunk isn't enough for her to be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Daily Herald File Photo

 
Updated 7/2/2021 9:24 AM

Telling a police officer you've been driving drunk should be enough to be found guilty of a DUI, right?

Not so fast, according to a new ruling from a state appeals court.

 

The Second District Illinois Appellate Court on Tuesday unanimously reversed a 2018 driving under the influence conviction of a Round Lake woman because, justices ruled, there wasn't enough corroborating evidence to back up her admission.

Here's what happened: About 3:30 a.m. Sept. 20, 2017, a Round Lake police officer responding to a domestic disturbance in a residential neighborhood came upon Belinda Delatorre standing outside a car. According to court documents, Delatorre told the officer she had driven there searching for her boyfriend after an argument, then called police when she couldn't find him.

The officer later testified Delatorre's speech was slightly slurred, her eyes were red and glossy, her clothes were disheveled and he could smell alcohol on her breath. Believing she was intoxicated, the officer had her go through field sobriety tests then arrested her for driving under the influence.

Open and shut case? A Lake County judge seemed to think so after a 2018 trial, labeling Delatorre's statement a "confession" and finding her guilty. She was sentenced to two years of probation and 240 hours community service.

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But on Tuesday, the appellate court ruled Delatorre's statement alone isn't enough for a conviction.

"There is no independent evidence tending to confirm the crucial detail that she drove one of the vehicles ... found at that location," Justice Ann Jorgensen wrote. "Defendant was not observed in the driver's seat. There was no evidence that she possessed the keys to the vehicle. Nor was there evidence that she owned or regularly drove the (vehicle). Under these circumstances, the evidence independent of defendant's statement is grounds for nothing more than speculation that she drove a vehicle."

Rolling Meadows police Officer Chris Don and his partner, Scar, fell just a couple of seconds short of advancing Tuesday on season two of the A&E Network's "America's Top Dog."
Rolling Meadows police Officer Chris Don and his partner, Scar, fell just a couple of seconds short of advancing Tuesday on season two of the A&E Network's "America's Top Dog." - David Black/A&E 2021
Scar update

Rolling Meadows police dog Scar's time as TV star was unfortunately short-lived, as he suffered an excruciatingly narrow defeat on Tuesday night's season two premiere of "America's Top Dog."

The A&E Network show pits police and working dogs from across the country in an obstacle course competition to determine who's the champion canine.

In their first-round matchup, Scar and his partner, Officer Chris Don, took on police dog Vader and Cpl. Edgar Valencia from the Garden Grove (California) Police Department.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Scar managed most of the obstacles with ease but struggled in a couple of spots where he was required to press a button before moving on to the next challenge. That proved costly, as his time of 2:25.73 was just 2½ seconds behind Vader.

Despite the early exit, Don told us last week that appearing on the show was a great experience for he and Scar. And while they didn't win the competition, the pair became favorites of show hosts Curt Menefee and David Koechner, after Don reached back into his previous life as a pizzeria owner and had pizza delivered to the set.

"We're quickly bribed. You don't even need to run to win," Koechner quipped.

If you missed it Tuesday, you can watch the full episode online at https://tinyurl.com/22r9ja9t.

Gun shop burglary suspect set free

A Glendale Heights man charged by the feds in the burglary of a gun shop will be freed on a $10,000 personal-recognizance bond to await trial. But Roneal Nightengale, 34, must stay his father's house in Lynwood, with an electronic monitor, U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Sunil Harjani ordered Thursday.

Prosecutors wanted Nightengale to be held without bail. He was arrested June 8 on conspiracy and theft charges in connection with the June 1, 2020 break-in at the Shoot Point Blank gun range and store in Naperville. Prosecutors allege he drove two other men to the business, and waited in the car as they stole 12 handguns.

Authorities are still looking for the other two men.

By the way, four other men tried to break in to Shoot Point Blank the next day. Their cases are being prosecuted in DuPage County court.

Congressman Brad Schneider, a Democrat from Deerfield, is among the House members who are reintroducing legislation that would outlaw the sharing blueprints and instructions for 3-D firearms online.
Congressman Brad Schneider, a Democrat from Deerfield, is among the House members who are reintroducing legislation that would outlaw the sharing blueprints and instructions for 3-D firearms online. - Brian Hill | Staff Photographer
Schneider takes aim at 3-D guns

Congressman Brad Schneider of Deerfield joined several Democratic colleagues this week to reintroduce legislation that would make it illegal to distribute online blueprints and instructions for making firearms with 3-D printers.

Supporters of the 3D Printed Gun Safety Act say plastic guns made with 3-D printers may be able to evade detection by metal detectors at security checkpoints, increasing the risk they will be used on an airplane or where large crowds gather. They also can be made by people who otherwise can't get a gun legally -- felons, domestic abusers, etc. -- and are untraceable since they don't come with a serial number.

"If plans for homemade plastic guns are readily available on the internet, with just a few clicks individuals could avoid a background check and build a deadly firearm undetectable by security systems," Schneider said in an announcement of the bill.

Among the legislation's other sponsors in the House are suburban Democrats Sean Casten and Jan Schakowsky. Sens. Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin have signed on as co-sponsors in the Senate.

• Have a question, tip or comment? Email us at copsandcrime@dailyherald.com.

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