A woman in Carmi, Illinois was recently arrested for Driving Under the Influence (DUI). There are several interesting questions that this article reporting the arrest raises.
The driver was first brought to the attention of the police due to an unidentified citizen's report, made through a 911 call, of erratic driving. The 911 call alone could, under the proper circumstances, allow the police to stop a driver and investigate a DUI. However, such a stop would be justified only if the caller identified himself or otherwise had presented "indicia of reliability" such as being known as a reliable informant based upon past contact with law enforcement. Alabama v. White, 496 U.S. 325, 110 L.Ed.2d 301, 110 S.Ct. 2412 (1990); People v. Ertl, 292 Ill.App.3d 863, 686 N.E.2d 738, 226 Ill.Dec. 955 (2d Dist. 1997)
Thus, in the case of the Carmi woman, the anonymous phone call would not, without any other evidence, be sufficient to justify the police stopping her. On the other hand, the police do have grounds to stop a driver if the officer has a reasonable suspicion the driver has committed, or is about to commit, an illegal act, including traffic offenses. Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 20 L.Ed.2d 889, 88 S.Ct. 1868 (1968)
The phone call brought the driver's vehicle to the officer's attention. He then followed the car and claimed to have notice a traffic violation; she made a wide turn and nearly struck oncoming traffic. It is significant to keep in mind that the officer's observation of a traffic violation need not be correct, so long as he held a good faith belief in its validity.
Thus, a parade of witnesses testifying that there was no wide turn would not present a defense to the initial stop if the officer was able to testify convincingly that he believed he saw the driver make a wide turn. By contrast, if the officer believed that the driver had committed an illegal act but the act was not in fact illegal, the stop would not be justified. People v. Cole, 369 Ill.App.3d 960, 874 N.E.2d 81, 314 Ill.Dec. 171 (4th Dist. 2007)
The driver was then arrested for DUI. In this particular case, the officer suspected that the driver was under the influence, apparently based upon his general observations and upon her performance when completely standardized field sobriety tests.
But apparently lacking any evidence of alcohol intoxication, the officer allegedly elicited an admission from the driver that she had been taking a number of prescription medications. In Illinois, it is illegal to drive at a time that your ability to operate a motor vehicle is impaired due to ingestion of medication or medications, even if they are prescribed. 625 ILCS 5/11-501(a)(3), (b). The driver was taken to a nearby hospital in order to determine, by blood and/or urine tests, what if any medications were in her system and the amount of those medications.
To be clear, driving while taking prescription medications is not illegal in Illinois. However, driving with prescription medications, either alone or in combination with alcohol or other drugs, that impair your ability to operate a motor vehicle, places you at risk of receiving a DUI and losing your driver's license.