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car-1492912Illinois altered its laws affecting drivers with multiple DUI convictions with House Bill 1446, which was signed into law in August and becomes effective on the first day of the new year. Under prior Illinois law, a driver with four or more DUI convictions was not permitted to seek a hearing for relief (either in the form of a Restricted Driving Permit (RDP) or a full reinstatement of driving privileges). Illinois precedent dictated that a hearing was barred regardless of whether the arrest occurred in Illinois or elsewhere, even if the out-of-state conviction was not recorded on the driver’s Illinois record.

This situation created problems for both Illinois residents and nonresidents. Given reciprocal laws and comity within the United States, almost all states honored the DUI revocation. The perverse result was to preclude nonresidents from obtaining driving privileges in any state.

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Stroger Hospital executive Robert Vais was sentenced to 100 days in prison for fatally striking a young chef who was biking home from work on December 7, 2013. Vais was driving home drunk from a Christmas party.drunk-drive-1171456

During an emotional sentencing hearing last month, Vais tearfully apologized for the death of 28-year-old Hector Avalos. Avalos’ mother, Ingrid Cossio, cried on the witness stand, explaining to the full courtroom how she wanted to die after her son’s death. “[Vais] needs to face the consequences,” she said. “He didn’t just kill my son. He killed me too.”

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drunk-1327880After the Georgia Supreme Court ruled this past May that mere compliance with the statutory implied consent law did not, per se, amount to actual and voluntary consent to a blood test, Georgia defense lawyers have been successful in getting evidence thrown out in their clients’ DUI cases under the theory that they were – ironically – too drunk to consent.

In Williams v. State, the defendant appealed his conviction for DUI and failure to maintain lane. The trial court denied his motion to suppress the results of the blood test on the basis that it was obtained without a warrant in contravention of his Fourth Amendment rights. The Georgia Supreme Court vacated the state court judgments and remanded to reconsider the defendant’s suppression motion.

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Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 11.49.31 AMJermaine Phillips challenged his DUI conviction, claiming that the evidence failed to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Specifically, he argued that his blood-alcohol level of .059 was below the legal limit, and other circumstantial evidence of his guilt was weak. An Illinois appellate court affirmed Phillips’ conviction, holding that the state presented sufficient evidence that Phillips emitted a strong odor of alcohol, exhibited slurred speech, had bloodshot eyes, and performed poorly on the field-sobriety tests. The court reached this conclusion despite the fact that Illinois law eliminates the presumption of impairment when a defendant’s blood-alcohol level is between .05 and the legal limit of .08, like Phillips’.

In 2010, Phillips was charged with three offenses:  (1) driving under the influence of alcohol; (2) driving under the combined influence of alcohol, other drugs, or intoxicants; and (3) driving with no registration light.

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This September, the Illinois Supreme Court held that the Illinois implied consent statute was unconstitutional as applied to a driver when the test was requested two days after the motor vehicle accident.law-education-series-2-1467427

In May 2012, Kevin McElwain was involved in a traffic accident. He was stopped at an intersection and began to make an U-turn when a motorcycle collided with the side of his vehicle. The driver and passenger of the motorcycle had substantial injuries, and the passenger died. On the date of the accident, McElwain did not receive any tickets and was not asked to take any chemical tests. The officers present on the date of the accident did not think he appeared to be under the influence of any illicit substance.

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Last month, Governor Bruce Rauner and the Illinois General Assembly decided to give four-time DUI offenders – whose licenses were permanently revoked under former state laws – a second chance. Recent data from the Illinois Secretary of State’s office suggests the law will effect 5,085 drivers, 55% of whom live in the Chicago metropolitan area.car-1492912

Under the new law, which becomes effective on January 1, four-time DUI offenders can apply for restricted driving permits, enabling them to drive in specific circumstances, such as going to work, driving their kids to school, or visiting the doctor.

The law only applies to those whose licenses have been revoked for at least five years. Additionally, applicants must prove that they’ve been sober and that they’ve equipped their cars with breath ignition interlock devices, which prevent their cars from starting if they’ve consumed alcohol. Eligible drivers will be overseen by one of nine companies the state employs to supervise breath ignition interlock devices.

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Last month, a Florida judge recommended permanent disbarment for three lawyers who set up their legal opponent to be arrested for a DUI. His findings will be sent to the Florida Supreme Court, which will decide the lawyers’ ultimate punishment.   Gavel

A month earlier, Judge W. Douglas Baird found the lawyers Stephen Diaco, Robert Adams, and Adam Filhaut guilty of arranging the 2013 DUI arrest of opposing attorney C. Phillip Campbell to gain an advantage in a multimillion-dollar defamation lawsuit. Diaco, Adams, and Filhaut represented the defendant, a radio personality who was being sued by his rival for slander.

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breathalyzer-1240974This July, the Montana Supreme Court decided whether the intermediate court erred in concluding that the state’s 24/7 Sobriety Program was unconstitutional. The high court concluded that, while the 24/7 Program did not, on its face, violate the state or federal constitutions, the statute was unconstitutional as applied to the defendant because the trial court did not conduct an individualized assessment to determine whether he was an appropriate candidate for the program.

Montana enacted the 24/7 Sobriety Program Act in 2011 in response to high levels of drunk driving in the state. The Act’s purpose was to protect the public by reducing the number of people on Montana’s highways who drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and to strengthen the options available to prosecutors and judges in responding to repeat DUI offenders.

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breathalyzer-1240974With marijuana’s increasing popularity and acceptance, it was only a matter of time before the advent of a handheld device to measure the presence of THC in an individual’s system. A THC breathalyzer would supplant blood and urine tests, which are currently the only available method to determine whether someone is under the influence of THC, the psychoactive element of cannabis.

Vancouver’s Cannabix Technologies, one of several companies developing a THC breathalyzer, hopes to be the first to unleash such a product on the market. The device uses a technology that can identify recent consumption of THC. Cannabix has not revealed when the product will go on sale, but it has stated that a patent is pending.

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Louisville, Kentucky Metro Corrections officer Liliana Hernandez has been suspended after being accused of lying under oath last month. According to court records, Hernandez falsely claimed on a form that a suspect refused to take a breath test, for which the suspect’s license was automatically suspended. She repeated the same fabrication while testifying in court under oath. A video recording from the jail shows that the suspect expressed an unequivocal willingness to take the test. jailhouse-1-1232950

An internal investigation is looking into other potential misconduct, which could jeopardize hundreds of drunk-driving cases.

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