Anyone with a suspended or revoked driver’s license driving through the Village of Riverside should be forewarned: it’s not a good idea.

That’s because since Jan. 1, Riverside police have been aggressively seeking to enhance charges against those arrested for driving on either revoked or suspended licenses. Since the beginning of the year, Riverside has sought and received approval from the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office to charge 10 motorists with a felony for such offenses.

According to Riverside Assistant Police Chief Thomas Weitzel, Riverside’s new policy stemmed from complaints from Riverside officers whose time was being tied up in court only to see people with suspended or revoked licenses driving to and from the courthouse for their hearings.

“They weren’t being treated as serious offenses,” Weitzel said.

Yet, Weitzel said those the department is seeking felony charges against are among the worst traffic offenders, those who have had their licenses suspended or revoked for drunk driving and even reckless homicide convictions.

“The felony enhancement law has been there for years, but it’s not widely used,” Weitzel said.

The reasons for that area many. For one, it adds a whole other level of paperwork to the officers’ mix. Departments are also required to hold prisoners over night for felony cases, and require more proof from an arresting officer to get a conviction.

“But in my opinion, it’s actually easier [to get a conviction],” Weitzel said. “We’re only getting the enhancements if there have been previous convictions.”

While it might mean more work for officers, getting enhanced charges against an offender is tougher on that offender. Instead of posting a $100 bond to gain release from custody, prisoners charged with felonies may have to post $1,000 or more, and may face seizure of their vehicles if they have previous DUI convictions on their records.

Also, by statute the penalty for a felony conviction often carries a jail sentence. A Class 4 felony, which include aggravated driving while revoked, can carry a sentence of up to three years, although there is a provision for felony parole.

Since Feb. 14, Riverside police have sought and have succeeded in getting enhanced felony charges against four men arrested for driving either on a revoked or suspended license.

On Feb. 14 at 7:47 p.m., Riverside police pulled over a vehicle at Harlem Avenue and Burlington Street, reportedly because neither person in the vehicle was wearing a seatbelt. Officers, however, found that the driver, Lyons resident Phillip J. Carpenter, 28, had a revoked driver’s license due to five previous convictions for DUI between 1995 and 2000. As a result, Riverside had charges upgraded to felony status.

Riverside police on Feb. 17, charged Chicago resident Victor L. Sheehan, 44, with felony driving while revoked after they pulled him over because the license plate on his grey Chevy Tahoe was expired. After finding that his license was revoked for a previous DUI conviction, the department sought and received the enhanced charge.

On Feb. 19, Riverside police pulled over Chicago resident Joseph Kennedy, 74, who they reported driving erratically northbound on First Avenue between Forest Avenue and 31st Street. Kennedy’s 2000 Pontiac was reportedly traveling 20 mph below the posted speed limit and crossed the center line twice.

Kennedy allegedly failed field sobriety tests and was found to have a revoked driver’s license. As a result, in addition to a DUI charge, Kennedy was also hit with a felony driving while revoked charge.

Finally, on Feb. 20, Riverside police charged Chicago resident Craig Bobo, 36, with aggravated driving while suspended after an officer stopped him because his 1999 Chevy was reportedly without a rear license plate. In addition to finding that Bobo’s license was suspended because of a previous drunk driving conviction, they also found he was wanted on an outstanding warrant by the Cook County Sheriff’s Police on a probation violation.

DUI

Riverside police charged Brookfield resident Gerald J. Arp, 75, with driving under the influence and leaving the scene of an accident after he allegedly rear-ended another vehicle at the intersection of Harlem Avenue and Burlington Street at 11:30 p.m. on Feb. 8 and then drove away.

According to the police report, the victim called police, gave them a license plate number and said the car was heading westbound on Burlington Street. Police stopped Arp’s 1993 Chevy, which had front-end damage, in front of Riverside-Brookfield High School, and reported that he appeared intoxicated. After reportedly failing field sobriety tests, a breath test registered Arp’s blood-alcohol level at .102.

He was also cited for improper lane usage and failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident.

Theft

A resident of the 9500 block of Congress Park Avenue, Brookfield, reported to police that between Feb. 10 and 17 someone had stolen three concrete lawn statues from the front lawn of the residence.

Among the statues reported missing were one of St. Francis, valued at $100; a lion on a pedestal, valued at $400; and a woman pouring water, valued at $400.

These items were obtained from police reports filed by the Riverside and Brookfield police departments from Feb. 8 through Feb. 20 and which represents a portion of the incidents to which police responded. Unless otherwise indicated, anyone named in these reports has only been charged with a crime. The cases have not yet been adjudicated.

?”Compiled by Bob Uphues