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All citizens are subject to the same criminal laws, including police officers. That does not necessarily mean that all crimes are investigated and prosecuted equally, however. This was demonstrated recently in Colorado, where a police officer who was found unconscious and intoxicated in his police car was not prosecuted for DUI. Generally, however, most people must comply with the law and can be charged with DUI for operating a vehicle while intoxicated. If you are faced with charges of a DUI offense in Illinois, it is prudent to meet with a seasoned Illinois DUI attorney to discuss your potential defenses.

Colorado Police Officer Found Intoxicated in his Patrol Car

It is reported that police officers encountered one of their own intoxicated and unconscious in a patrol car, while armed and in uniform, on a street in Aurora, Colorado. Footage from the incident indicates the officers that responded to the scene believed the officer was intoxicated. None of the officers advised EMS that they smelled alcohol, however, and a DUI specialist who arrived at the scene was told not to conduct an investigation.

Allegedly, a blood draw taken at the hospital indicated the officer’s BAC was five times the legal limit. The District Attorney advised he could not use it to prosecute the officer, however, due to medical privacy laws, and restrictions regarding information in internal affairs reports. Thus, the District Attorney did not have sufficient evidence to charge the officer, which he admitted was a source of frustration, stating that if anyone else had been in the car, he or she would have been treated differently.

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Although the recreational use of marijuana is now legal in Illinois, people who ingest marijuana must nonetheless do so responsibly. Thus, people who drive after smoking or ingesting marijuana may be charged with DUI if they are too impaired to operate a vehicle safely. The police cannot legally stop a person for suspicion of DUI or any other crime unless they have reasonable grounds to believe that the person is intoxicated. Recently, the question arose as to whether the smell of marijuana emanating from a vehicle is sufficient cause for the police to conduct a warrantless search of a vehicle, now that the use of marijuana is legal. The Illinois Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments on the issue, and an answer should be forthcoming in the near future. If you are charged with a DUI due to the use of marijuana, it is advisable to consult a proficient Illinois DUI attorney regarding your case.

The Illinois Case on Appeal  

It is reported that the stop and search that was conducted by an Illinois officer occurred prior to the legalization of marijuana. The officer allegedly smelled marijuana coming from the vehicle, and when he walked up to the vehicle saw a bud of marijuana in the backseat. Thus, the officer believed he had probable cause to search the vehicle. During the search, the officer did not find marijuana but found crack cocaine, which led to the defendant being charged with possession. The defendant’s attorney argued that the smell of marijuana is not sufficient grounds to believe a crime is being committed, and therefore, the police officer lacked probable cause to search the defendant’s car. Thus, the issue before the court is, now that the use of marijuana is legal, whether an officer has probable cause to search a person’s vehicle when the smell of marijuana is coming from the vehicle.

Laws Regarding Warrantless Searches and Marijuana Throughout the Country

Other states have grappled with the subject issue as well. In Pennsylvania, Colorado, and Massachusetts, the courts have ruled that the smell of marijuana, in and of itself, does not provide an officer with probable cause to search a vehicle, as it no longer indicates a person is committing a criminal act. Conversely, in Maryland, the courts have ruled that a search conducted based on the smell of marijuana is permitted because marijuana is contraband. The Maryland court stated that simply because the use of marijuana was decriminalized, it did not mean that the use was necessarily legal, as most people did not have the right to use marijuana at that time. Notably, Maryland and Pennsylvania both permit the use of medicinal marijuana but arrived at different conclusions on the same issue.

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In the majority of DUI investigations, the investigating officer will administer a breath test to the DUI suspect via a breathalyzer machine. Thus, the prosecution’s sole or primary evidence in many DUI cases are the results of a breath test. Accordingly, the results must be accurate. Recently, however, it came to light that the breathalyzer machines used by Michigan police may be compromised, affecting hundreds of cases. Further, there are questions regarding it represents a conflict of interest for the police to be conducting the probe into the matter. While the outcome of the Michigan investigation remains to be seen, it is prudent for anyone charged with DUI in Illinois following a breath test to speak with a trusted Illinois DUI attorney to discuss what defenses may be available.

Michigan Breathalyzer Probe

Reportedly, the Michigan State Police recently stopped using over two hundred breathalyzer machines, due to the fact that the contractor that calibrates the machines is accused of fraud. Thus, the State Police began conducting a criminal investigation into the contractor and noted issues with the performance of many breathalyzer machines. As a result, many police agencies currently have to use blood tests rather than breath tests in the investigation of DUIs, which means both greater resources and time have to be devoted to DUI arrests.

The issue, which may stem back to 2018, is not only draining the resources of police throughout the state, it has also called into question whether the police should be conducting the investigation into one of their own contractors. Specifically, many criminal defense attorneys believe an independent investigation is necessary to determine the scope of the issue, and to protect the rights of criminal defendants whose cases may be affected by the results of the investigation. Others have stated that allowing the police to conduct the investigation essentially allows them to determine whether the contractor the police hired violated the law.

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Although citizens in every state in the nation are charged with DUI offenses, some states experience a higher rate of DUI crimes than others. Recently, the United States Drug Test Centers conducted research regarding DUI trends throughout the country in the last several years and set forth a report delineating, in part, which states had the highest rate of DUI arrests. While Illinois had one of the lowest rates of DUI arrests, Illinois residents charged with DUI offenses should nonetheless be vigilant in protecting their rights and should consult a seasoned Illinois DUI attorney to assist them with asserting a strong defense.

Recent Statistics Regarding DUI Arrests Throughout the Country

Allegedly, according to the report, there were over one million DUI arrests throughout the country in 2018, which represented a decline from the number of arrests in 2014 but a slight increase from 2017. The report also indicated that men are three times more likely than women to be arrested for DUI, with men making up close to seventy-five percent of total DUI arrests. Additionally, when the race of the person arrested was indicated, white people were far more likely to be arrested for DUI than any other race, making up over eighty percent of total DUI arrests.

The total number of DUI arrests varied greatly from state to state, with states in the Western region of the country experiencing higher rates than other parts of the country. A total of twenty-eight states have greater DUI arrest rates than the national average, while Illinois and Delaware have DUI rates lower than the national average. While DUI rates have increased in fourteen states, overall, the population-adjusted rates of DUI have fallen throughout the country. In Illinois, specifically, DUI arrest rates decreased over thirty percent from 2009 to 2018. From 2014 to 2018 alone, DUI arrest rates in Illinois decreased by approximately twenty-two percent.

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In some instances, when a person is convicted of a DUI offense, the person is required to install an ignition interlock device in his or her vehicle. Essentially, the device prevents people from driving while intoxicated by requiring them to submit to a breath test prior to driving. While ignition interlock devices are not widely employed, recent federal legislation seeks to make them mandatory in all new vehicles, regardless of whether the driver has ever been convicted of a DUI offense. Proponents of the bill fail to consider the potentially detrimental repercussions of requiring all drivers to install ignition interlock devices in their cars, however, including the harm that can be caused by inaccurate readings. If you are charged with an Illinois DUI offense following a breathalyzer test, it is prudent to speak with a trusted DUI defense attorney to discuss your potential defenses.

The Ride Act

The Reduce Impaired Driving for Everyone Act of 2019, commonly referred to as the Ride Act seeks to make it mandatory for all new cars to come with alcohol detection systems. Specifically, the law would require any car manufactured in 2024 and beyond to have a factory-installed alcohol detection device. Prior to installation, however, the National Highway Safety Administration would work with manufacturers to develop safe and effective technology. Additionally, the bill provides for funding for researching and developing the technology, which will be tested on vehicles prior to becoming a requirement for consumers.

Although the precise technology proposed by the Ride Act is unclear, it is likely to be similar to the ignition interlock devices installed in cars of people convicted of certain DUI crimes. Those devices require a driver to submit to a breathalyzer test prior to starting the vehicle, and at random intervals when the driver is operating the vehicle, which are referred to as rolling tests. If any of the tests indicate the driver is over the legal limit, the car will cease to operate.

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Many people are unaware of the fact that in most states, you can be charged with a DUI offense for sleeping in your car while intoxicated. Specifically, the law in many states dictates that a person can be charged with DUI if they are in actual physical control of a car while intoxicated, regardless of whether they are driving or intend to drive. Recently, the New Hampshire legislature weighed the benefits and detriments of modifying the DUI statute to permit drivers to sleep in their cars without being charged with DUI. While laws modifying the DUI statute have yet to pass, it is interesting to consider how the proposed modification could affect the laws in other states, such as Illinois, where drivers can be convicted of DUI for sleeping in cars while intoxicated. If you are faced with an Illinois DUI charge after you were arrested while sleeping in your car, you should speak with a knowledgeable DUI defense attorney regarding your case.

Proposed Changes to New Hampshire DUI Laws

It is reported that the New Hampshire Senate passed a bill that would create exceptions to the current DUI law. Specifically, the bill would modify the current law to include certain exclusions for the definition of driving and actual physical control, including people who are sleeping in the car. Advocates of the bill argue that it is necessary to prevent people who are trying to sleep off intoxication before driving home from being harassed by police officers. Those in opposition are less convinced that the modifications are wise, stating that the burden is then placed on the police to determine if a person intends to drive. Opponents argue that a person sleeping in a car can advise the police that he or she does not intend to drive and then drive a short time later, causing a devastating accident. Currently, it appears that the bill will need to be modified before it will be approved by the House.

DUI Charge for Sleeping in a Car

Under Illinois law, a person can be charged with and convicted of DUI for being in actual physical control of the vehicle while impaired due to the ingestion of alcohol. The courts have interpreted physical control to mean that the defendant was in the vehicle and in a position to start the engine and move the vehicle, thereby exercising control over the vehicle. Thus, the courts have held that people sleeping in vehicles in Illinois are guilty of DUI, regardless of whether they intended to drive. The courts generally assess whether a defendant had the keys to the vehicle in his or her possession, whether there was anyone else in the vehicle, and whether the defendant had the ability to drive the vehicle to determine if the defendant was in actual physical control of the vehicle.

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While the use of marijuana for recreational purposes is legal in a handful of states, many of their conservative neighboring states are not inclined to legalize marijuana. Additionally, many states that neighbor states where marijuana use is legal have expressed concerns regarding how the legalization of marijuana use outside of their jurisdiction could affect the crime and accident rates within their state. For example, Oklahoma and Nebraska brought a suit against Colorado, alleging that the dangerous repercussions of legalizing marijuana would leak into their state. Similarly, Idaho voiced displeasure with Washington’s recent legalization of marijuana, implying it would cause the rate of criminal activity and collisions to increase in Idaho.

A recent study suggests, however, that the legalization of marijuana use in Washington actually led to a decrease in alcohol-related car accident rates in Idaho. Although Illinois recently passed laws legalizing the use of marijuana that will become effective in 2020, the use of marijuana is not legal in any of the states neighboring Illinois. Thus, Illinois’s neighbors may experience a decrease in DUI related crashes as well. If you reside in Illinois and are faced with DUI charges, it is advisable to speak with a seasoned Illinois DUI lawyer regarding your case.

Impact of Legalization of Marijuana in Washington on Idaho DUI Crashes

It is reported that an economics professor at Utah State University analyzed data regarding car crashes in Idaho for the four years before and after the legalization of marijuana in Washington, as well as data regarding internet searches in Idaho for places to buy marijuana in Washington, and data pertaining to police search and seizures of people who were caught with marijuana in Idaho. Ultimately, the professor’s study indicated that the rate of alcohol-related collisions in Idaho decreased by 18% overall after the legalization of marijuana in Washington. Additionally, the decrease in accidents was greater in counties that bordered Washington than in those that were farther away. Thus, it was reported that the study suggests that as people have greater access to marijuana, there are fewer alcohol-related accidents.

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While the use of marijuana is legal in many states throughout the nation, it has not been permitted for long, and the effects of the legalization of marijuana have only recently begun to be apparent. For example, Washington reporters recently assessed the consequences of the legalization of marijuana and laws regulating the use of marijuana, noting that there are pitfalls to prosecuting marijuana DUIs, and that the legalization may not have had the impact on crime rates that was anticipated. Illinois recently decriminalized the use of marijuana, though the law will not go into effect until 2020, and the results of decriminalization are likely to be the same as those experienced in Washington.  If you live in Illinois and were recently charged with a marijuana-related DUI, it is prudent to meet with a skillful Illinois DUI attorney to discuss your case.

Crime Following Washington’s Legalization of the Use of Marijuana

It is reported that Washington allows a person to be charged with a marijuana-related DUI if the person is impaired or has a whole blood THC level of 5 nanograms or higher. It appears that many prosecutors and law enforcement officers are dismayed by Washington’s current 5 nanogram limit, stating that it places pressure on them to produce test results at a trial arising out of a marijuana DUI charge, but blood tests are not administered in each case. Further, many people do not want evidence of marijuana-related impairment used as a basis for DUI, but would rather stick to the defined blood level. Marijuana is not processed the same way as alcohol, however, so testing methods that work for alcohol may not work as well for marijuana. Thus, entities in Washington continue to pursue more accurate tests.

The article also noted that not accounting for a decrease in marijuana-related arrests, crime rates in Washington did not change after marijuana was legalized. Further, there was no reduction in black market sales of marijuana. As such, studies regarding the effect of the legalization of marijuana on criminal activity were being pursued as well.

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North Carolina recently called attention to a rare but notable condition that can affect DUI cases:  auto-brewery syndrome. Although not many people suffer from the condition, it can cause unwarranted DUI arrests and convictions. While some courts throughout the country have been faced with the auto-brewery defense, it has not been widely established as a justification for a BAC above the legal limit. If you are charged with an Illinois DUI offense, it is prudent to meet with a proficient DUI defense attorney to discuss which defenses you may be able to assert.

Auto-Brewery Syndrome Explained

Reportedly, a North Carolina man was arrested in 2011 for driving while intoxicated. The man argued that he had not been drinking, but to no avail. In 2015, however, the man was diagnosed with auto-brewery syndrome, which is often known as gut fermentation syndrome. In essence, the syndrome causes certain people’s digestive systems to convert carbohydrates into alcohol. Thus, if a person with auto-brewery syndrome eats pasta or bread, the food is fermented in their guts and subsequently turns into alcohol. Accordingly, a person suffering from auto-brewery syndrome may have an elevated BAC level despite not consuming any alcohol.

Doctors who have analyzed auto-brewery syndrome have noted that people with the syndrome suffer the medical and legal effects of alcoholism, including drunk driving arrests and public intoxication. It is believed that the North Carolina man developed the syndrome after he took an antibiotic for an injury. Following his diagnosis, he was treated with anti-fungal medication and probiotics, and he has been symptom-free for about 18 months.

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One of the many rights afforded to criminal defendants is the right to a trial by an impartial jury. Thus, prior to trial defense counsel and the prosecution will question potential jurors to assess whether they may be biased, and will challenge the selection of any impartial jurors. A recent case arising out of Indiana highlighted the importance of vetting jurors and protecting a criminal defendant’s right to a fair trial, as the trial court’s failure to conduct a hearing regarding a juror’s potential bias resulted in the appellate court granting a new trial. If you face DUI charges, it is important to retain a zealous Illinois DUI attorney who will fight on your behalf to protect your right to a fair trial.

Facts of the Indiana Case

Reportedly, the defendant was found unconscious behind the wheel of her vehicle by emergency personnel. She was charged with two counts of DUI, and the case proceeded to trial. The trial court gathered the potential jurors and explained the process of voir dire. After the first six jurors were questioned and selected, one of the jurors submitted a note to the bailiff that disclosed that one of her family members was killed by a drunk driver.

Allegedly, defense counsel requested that the juror be brought back for additional questioning regarding her impartiality, to which the court stated there was nothing they could do. The remaining jurors were selected, and all the jurors were sworn in. Defense counsel moved to have the juror removed. The court denied the motion, and the defendant was found guilty on both charges. The defendant appealed.

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