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On July 29, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed Senate Bill 2228, which decriminalizes minor marijuana possession. The new law–filed by Senator Heather Steans and sponsored by Representative Kelly Cassidy–renders possessing up to 10 grams of marijuana a civil, rather than criminal, offense. The civil citation is punishable by a fine of between $100 and $200.

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More than 100 local Illinois governments–including Chicago–have decriminalized possession of small quantities of marijuana. SB 2228, however, will extend decriminalization across the entire state. SB 2228 marks Illinois’ progress toward criminal justice reform. Last year, the Republican governor vetoed a bill that sought to decriminalize slightly larger amounts.

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The Illinois Court of Appeals recently affirmed a defendant’s conviction for aggravated DUI despite his argument that the trial court erroneously allowed the officer to testify as to the admonitions given before he refused a chemical test. However, the appeals court vacated the lower court’s order requiring the defendant to pay a $450 public defender fee.

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Following a jury trial, defendant Weston Romanowski was convicted of aggravated DUI. On appeal, Romanowski contended that his conviction should be reversed because the circuit court erroneously permitted the arresting officer to testify that he was told of the potential civil penalties if he refused to submit to a blood-alcohol test. Romanowski further contended that the circuit court’s order requiring him to pay a public defender fee in the amount of $450 should be vacated, since no hearing was held concerning his ability to pay such a fee.

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The Illinois Appeals Court for the Fourth District recently upheld a defendant’s DUI conviction, reasoning that the trial court did not err by refusing to appoint new counsel following her claims of ineffective assistance. car keys

In May 2012, Thelma G. Lawson was charged with two counts of DUI. At trial, officer Sean Bowsher testified that at approximately 11 PM on May 8, 2012, he responded to a call of disorderly conduct in a residential neighborhood. There, he encountered Lawson, who was “loud and disorderly” and appeared intoxicated, holding a 40-ounce beer in her hand. Officer Bowsher left the scene after Lawson agreed to stay in her house for the rest of the night.

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Based on a new guidance released by the U.S. State Department (State Dept.), people who have nonimmigrant visas in the U.S. may face grave results if they are arrested for DUI or a DUI-related offense. In March of this year, the State Dept. publicized all material that is not classified within Volume 9 of its Foreign Affairs Manual, the State Dept. policy manual. Volume 9 authorizes the State Dept. to revoke a visa when it is notified of an arrest or conviction of a DUI or DUI-related offense.

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The new policy is based on the State Dept.’s escalating concerns over drunk driving and DUI offenses. It reflects a significantly more stringent approach to addressing these issues than past policies. Under the new policy, the State Dept. can revoke an otherwise legitimate nonimmigrant visa instantly upon being notified of the DUI arrest. This can occur even when the person is physically within the U.S. The rationale is that the person is ineligible for the visa for mental or physical health-related reasons.

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The Washington Supreme Court recently held in Washington v. Mecham that the Fourth Amendment does not authorize a defendant to refuse a roadside sobriety test. In a divided opinion, the state high court held that a police officer may stop any motorist he believes to be inebriated and ask him to perform roadside tests such as standing on one leg, the “stop and turn,” and the horizontal gaze nystagmus, which tests eye movement. If the driver refuses, the district attorney is permitted to tell the jury that his refusal is proof of his guilt. red eye

Defendant Mark Mecham would not take the allegedly “voluntary” field sobriety tests after being pulled over in Bellevue, Washington in May 2011. The officer did not think Mecham was driving while intoxicated. Instead, he stopped Mecham because he was driving with an outstanding warrant, which the officer learned after looking up his license plate number. After stopping the defendant, however, Officer Campbell observed signs of Mecham’s inebriation and found a beer can in the vehicle. Officer Campbell then took Mecham to the police station, and Mecham refused a breath test.

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The United States Supreme Court recently held in three consolidated appeals that the Fourth Amendment permits warrantless breath tests incident to arrest for drunk driving, but not warrantless blood tests.blood test

To combat drunk driving, all states prohibit individuals from driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over a prescribed level. BAC is generally determined using a blood or breath test. To enforce drivers’ cooperation, states have enacted “implied consent” laws requiring drivers to submit to BAC tests. The initial penalty for refusing these tests was a drivers’ license suspension. Over time, however, states have strengthened their DUI laws and have imposed stricter penalties for defendants with high BAC levels. Therefore, drivers fearing harsher punishments have greater reason to refuse testing. Some states now make it illegal to reject testing.

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The Illinois Court of Appeals for the Second District recently held that a delay in a hearing regarding the summary suspension of a defendant’s driving privileges attributable to a continuance did not entitle him to rescission of the suspension on the ground that he was not afforded a hearing within 30 days. gavel

In January 2015, Mario Guillermo was arrested for DUI. According to the police report, Guillermo was served with immediate notice of the suspension of his driving privileges because he refused to submit to testing.

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The Arizona Supreme Court held last month that a trial court should examine the totality of the circumstances to decide whether consent to a search was voluntary, even when it was given after a law enforcement officer’s assertion of his lawful authority to search. Put differently, an officer’s assertion of his lawful authority to search does not negate the court’s need to engage in a totality of the circumstances test to determine whether consent was voluntary.

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In August 2012, an Arizona officer found appellant Francisco Valenzuela asleep in the driver’s seat of his stopped truck with the engine running. After spotting an open container, detecting an odor of alcohol, and observing other signs that Valenzuela was impaired, the officer arrested Valenzuela on suspicion of a DUI.

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Last month, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez announced an initiative that will put volunteer monitors in courtrooms to police DUIs and report findings on social media to indicate whether these monitors, with no or minimal legal training, believe, in their lay opinion, that offenders were let off too easily. Governor Martinez said this is a way to hold offenders and judges accountable. Others believe is is an intimidation tactic.

The volunteers will attend DUI hearings and report on how the courts are handling drunk driving. They will then send details regarding the sentences to state officials, who will identify repeat DUI offenders and judges in tweets and Facebook posts.

The program, spearheaded by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), is part of the Governor’s executive initiative to combat DUIs. Many believe that these public shaming tactics harken back to the “Scarlett Letter” days of Nathaniel Hawthorne.

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Florida Circuit Judge Charles Burton recently upheld North Lauderdale defendant Kenneth Jenkins’ 33-year sentence for DUI manslaughter, the longest sentence ever imposed in Florida for this crime. beer-cup-1516057

Jenkins pleaded guilty to causing a 2008 head-on collision on Interstate 95 that killed three victims. Jenkins’ blood-alcohol level that night was .182, more than two times the legal limit. In fact, Jenkins was so drunk that he has no memory of the crash.

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