The Illinois Supreme Court just ruled that property owner associations may use private security officers to enforce traffic rules on their roads. The high court rejected an association member’s claim that security personnel couldn’t pull him over and fine him for speeding. The decision resolves debate over whether homeowners groups can enforce local policies.
The case stems from an incident involving a member of the Lake Holiday Property Owners Association, a 1,500-acre private community in LaSalle County. A private security officer employed by the association saw the homeowner driving 9 mph above the speed limit on one of the community’s private roads. The officer pulled the driver over, told him to get back in his car after attempting to exit, asked for a driver’s license and association membership card, then issued him a citation for speeding.
The driver filed suit claiming the security department unlawfully stopped and fined him for a traffic violation, and falsely imprisoned him by preventing him from leaving. After losing in the Circuit Court, the driver appealed to the Appellate Court, which ruled that the officer could not stop drivers for violating association rules.
The Supreme Court, though, reversed, noting the security officers only cite association members for violating association rules on private association property. “The association was not unlawfully exercising police powers that it did not possess,” the opinion says, “but rather was acting within its authority as a voluntary association to adopt and enforce its own rules and regulations.”
The potential impact on Private Security Contractor Agencies who decide to provide traffic enforcement services to their private homeowner association clients could be unforeseen and possibly severe. Significant training issues arise after only a few seconds thought — Where will your security officers be trained to conduct traffic stops? Will an agency be liable for failing to give an armed security officer the same hundreds of hours of gun training that are given to police officers? Inevitably, a security officer will eventually stop an actual, armed burglar on the prowl who will not appreciate the difference between your employee and a fully trained law enforcement officer.
These are but a few of the many potential issues that will need to be addressed by an agency before it engages to provide traffic enforcement services. Please note also that we have already defended several such “traffic stops” by security officers who performed private traffic enforcement in a less than professional manner, in front of IDFPR.
The case is Kenneth Poris v. Lake Holiday Property Owners Association et al., No. 113907.. Choice of counsel in commercial disputes, liability defense, or other actions has never been a casual or uncomplicated decision. Personal relationships, expertise, fees, and even reputation are vital components to consider in choosing an attorney to pursue a breach of contract claim, defend a tort claim, or to sue a government employee. As a client, you can expect and demand a high level of commitment, detail, and energy from us as your attorney.
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