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Under Illinois DUI law, whether a DUI is charged as a misdemeanor or felony depends in part on whether any enhancing factors exist such as whether the defendant committed any prior violations of the DUI statute. While the Supreme Court of Illinois has definitively stated a previous conviction of the DUI is not necessary to prove a defendant committed a violation, it has not defined the scope of what evidence is admissible to establish a violation. While it is not precedential, in State v. Hastey the Maine Supreme Court recently held that extrinsic evidence outside of a DUI charge or conviction is admissible as evidence of an enhancing factor in charging a defendant with an aggravated DUI. If you face DUI charges and were previously charged with DUI, an experienced Illinois DUI attorney can help you determine what evidence the state may attempt to introduce against you and assist you in formulating a defense.

Facts of the Case

Purportedly, in Hastey, the defendant was charged with aggravated criminal OUI. Under Maine law, a person commits aggravated criminal OUI if he or she operates a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicants and has a prior criminal homicide conviction resulting from the operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicants.

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The Supreme Court of the United State’s ruling in Birchfield v. North Dakota has resulted in countless appeals all over the country, as defense attorneys and prosecutors try to discern the implications of the ruling. One issue that frequently arises is whether the refusal to undergo a blood test without a warrant is admissible to prove guilt at a trial for DUI charges. The Nebraska Supreme Court recently addressed this issue in Nebraska v. Hood, ruling that Birchfield did not prohibit the introduction of such evidence. If you are charged with a DUI and refused to undergo a warrantless blood test, it is important to know your rights.  A seasoned Illinois DUI attorney can assist you in analyzing what defenses may be available to the charges you face.

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Facts of the Case

Allegedly, the suspect in Hood was driving a vehicle involved in a two-car collision. The driver of the other vehicle died at the scene and a passenger from the other vehicle died 9 days later. An off-duty police officer arrived at the scene shortly after the accident and observed a strong odor of alcohol on the suspect’s breath. An officer who responded to the accident drove the suspect to the hospital. The responding officer also noted alcohol on the suspect’s breath and observed that the suspect’s speech was slurred and his eyes were bloodshot. An open bottle of liquor was found in the suspect’s vehicle as well. When he was asked if he had been drinking the suspect stated he had consumed four beers the night before. He was asked to undergo a preliminary breath test and refused. He was then asked to undergo a blood test and refused that as well.

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In Birchfield v. North Dakota, the United States Supreme Court ruled that a warrant is required to obtain a blood test from a DUI suspect, and that a DUI suspect could not face criminal penalties for refusing to submit to a warrantless blood test. Birchfield did not address, however, what penalties could be imposed on a DUI suspect for refusal to comply with a search warrant for a blood test.  Recently in Wyoming, DUI suspects who refused to comply with search warrants for blood tests were charged and found guilty of interference with a police officer. Similarly, under Illinois DUI law, a refusal to comply with a warrant for a blood test may result in an obstruction of justice charge. If you were charged with a DUI and refused to submit to a search warrant for a blood test, it is important to know what penalties you may face. A seasoned Illinois DUI attorney can advise you of what defenses may be available to the charges you face and assist you in obtaining a favorable result.

Wyoming Implied Consent Advisement 

Two separate cases in Wyoming arose under similar facts and ended in the same penalties for the drivers involved. It was alleged in both cases that the defendants were stopped due to suspicion of DUI and refused to submit to chemical testing. Under Wyoming’s Implied Consent Advisement, police can obtain a search warrant for a blood test if a DUI suspect refuses to submit to a blood test voluntarily. In both cases the police obtained search warrants for blood tests, and both suspects subsequently refused to comply with the search warrants. While neither suspect was convicted of DUI, both were convicted with interference with a police officer for refusing to submit to their respective warrants for blood tests, and sentenced to jail time. Both cases were appealed and the appeals are pending.

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The United States Constitution prohibits unreasonable search and seizure, which means you cannot be stopped and you and your property cannot be searched without just cause. As set forth in State v. Walker, the right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure has been applied to suppress evidence obtained during an inappropriate search. As such, if you were stopped without cause while driving a motor vehicle and subsequently charged with a DUI due to evidence obtained during the stop, the state may not be able to use any of that evidence against you. An experienced Illinois DUI attorney can analyze the situation surrounding your detainment and the applicable laws to determine whether stopped you without reasonable suspicion.

Facts of the Case

Allegedly, the suspect in Walker was stopped for making an improper left turn. His license was suspended at the time he was stopped, and he was ticketed. The suspect filed a motion to suppress evidence from the stop, arguing the officer lacked reasonable suspicion the suspect violated the law, and that any evidence obtained via the stop violated the suspect’s right to be free of unreasonable search and seizure. The trial court heard testimony that suspect made a left hand turn into the far lane of a road that had two lanes of traffic in each direction. The court also heard testimony, however, that the applicable motor vehicle code stated a driver should turn into the near lane when possible, but did not prohibit a driver from turning into the far lane. As such, the court granted the suspect’s motion to suppress. The state appealed, arguing the officer did have reasonable suspicion to stop the defendant, and that the exclusionary rule should not be applied regardless. The Appellate Court of Illinois affirmed the trial court’s ruling.

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Birchfield v. North Dakota, which was decided by the United States Supreme Court in 2016, continues to raise questions in courts throughout the country as to how DUI cases can be prosecuted and what evidence can be admitted against defendants charged with DUI. Recently, in Vermont v. Rajda, the Vermont Supreme Court held that a defendant’s refusal to submit to a blood test could be introduced at trial as evidence of guilt. Illinois DUI law remains unsettled as to whether a defendant’s refusal to submit to a blood test can be admitted as evidence of guilt, but as courts throughout the country continue to face this issue, it is likely only a matter of time before it is addressed by the Illinois courts.

In Vermont, defendants in several cases filed motions in limine to suppress evidence of their refusal to submit to blood tests from being introduced at trial. The trial court granted the motions, based on its belief that Birchfield recognized a constitutional right to refuse a blood test, which the court believed superseded the Vermont implied consent law and prohibited the admission of a defendant’s refusal to submit to a blood test into evidence. The state appealed, arguing that Birchfield held that evidence of refusal to submit to a blood test was admissible at trial, and further, that an amendment to Vermont’s implied consent law rendered the constitutional issue moot. On appeal, the court held that the trial court erred in granting defendants’ motions in limine, reversing the trial court ruling.

In its analysis, the court noted that the amended Vermont implied consent law stated that a defendant had a right to refuse to submit to evidentiary testing, but evidence of any refusal of a breath test could be introduced as evidence in a criminal proceeding. Defendants interpreted this language as implying that the legislature intended for refusal of breath tests to be permitted into evidence, but not refusal of blood tests. The court disagreed, noting that as the statute did not expressly prohibit admission of a refusal to submit to a blood test, such evidence could be admitted unless it was unconstitutional. Regarding the constitutional issue, the court noted that several other states that addressed the issue found that the Fourth Amendment did not bar evidence of refusal to submit to a blood test, and joined those courts in concluding evidence of refusal to submit to a blood test did not warrant constitutional protection. The court noted that Birchfield only barred the criminalization of a refusal to submit to a blood test, and did not prohibit the prosecution from entering evidence of the refusal. As such, the court held the admission of evidence of a defendant’s refusal to undergo blood testing was permitted.

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It goes without saying that in Illinois you must have a valid driver’s license to drive a vehicle. As such, if your license has been suspended or revoked, you cannot operate a motor vehicle. While you cannot drive a car without a license, you can drive a low-speed electric bicycle, as it is excluded from the definition of “motor vehicle” under the Illinois Vehicle Code. Due to an increase in popularity in low-speed bicycles and the lack of statutory regulations regarding their operation, the Illinois General Assembly recently passed laws clarifying the obligations imposed on owners of low-speed bicycles.

Electric and gas low-speed bicycles are perceived differently under the eyes of the law. To be defined as a low-speed electric bicycle, the bicycle must have fully functional pedals and an electric motor that is less than 750 watts. Low speed electric bicycles are classified into three groups: Class 1, Class 2 and Class 3.

The motor in a Class 1 bicycle only provides the rider with assistance if the rider is pedaling and stops providing assistance when the bicycle reaches 20 mph. If the rider is not pedaling or the bicycle reaches 20 mph, the motor is deactivated.

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Police officers in Delray Beach, Florida recently responded to a car accident in which a man driving a pick-up truck collided with a minivan, resulting in the death of all four occupants of the minivan. In investigating the crash, the driver of the pick-up truck submitted to blood testing and was ultimately charged with DUI manslaughter. While DUI-related car crashes are an unfortunately common occurrence, this one is distinctive because the driver did not consume any alcohol or any illicit drugs. Instead, the blood test revealed the driver was under the influence of difluoroethane, a liquefied gas used as a propellant. Upon further investigation, the police uncovered that the driver had huffed Dust-Off, a household cleaner, prior to the crash to get high.The driver’s attorney has set forth the argument that since Florida does not have a defined legal limit of inhalants a driver can consume before he or she is considered impaired, the DUI charge is improper. The driver has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting a jury trial. While the pick-up truck driver’s case is the first case since 2014 in which a driver was charged with DUI manslaughter due to intoxication by inhalants, there were other instances in which drivers caused fatal crashes after inhaling intoxicants, but those drivers were not charged with DUI. The increase in charges due to intoxication by inhalants is evident throughout the country as well, including in Illinois DUI cases.

Unlike Florida, Illinois has a broader DUI statute that allows a person to be charged with DUI for reasons other than impairment due to the consumption of alcohol. Specifically, the Illinois DUI statute states that a person shall not drive if they are under the influence of an “intoxicating compound” to a degree that renders him or her unable to drive safely. These catchall provisions are specifically aimed at preventing people from driving while under the influence of non-traditional intoxicants, such as paint, markers, and aerosol spray. As a result, an Illinois license holder who inhales household intoxicants and then drives can be charged with DUI.

There have been multiple cases prosecuted in Illinois criminal courts in recent years in which drivers were charged with and convicted of DUI due to huffing. Unlike the signs of intoxication due to alcohol, such as odor, bloodshot eyes, and stumbling, the signs of intoxication due to inhalation of intoxicating substances are not always easily observable. In some cases, a person who has inhaled intoxicants may not exhibit any symptoms of intoxication at all. As a result, the prosecution may face an uphill battle in proving an individual who drove after inhaling intoxicants was impaired. Additionally, defense attorneys have questioned the constitutionality of the provision of the Illinois DUI statute regarding “intoxicating compound,” arguing it is vague.

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Language barriers frequently arise in every day life. While apps and websites that provide quick translations to and from English and other languages are convenient, they are not suitable for all purposes. In a recent case heard in the United States District Court of the District of Kansas, U.S. v. Omar Cruz-Zamora, the court ruled that Google translate was insufficient for obtaining proper consent from a non-English speaking suspect prior to searching the suspect’s vehicle. The court held the language barriers between the suspect and arresting officers were not overcome by Google translate, and therefore the consent to search a vehicle was not given freely and intelligently and was invalid. As such, the search of the car was unconstitutional and the evidence against the suspect was suppressed. While the ruling in Omar Cruz-Zamora does not have precedential value in Illinois, it may be viewed as persuasive if the issue of adequate translation arises in Illinois DUI cases.

The suspect in Omar Cruz-Zamora was stopped for a traffic violation. Under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution individuals are protected against unreasonable search and seizure. As such, since the officers did not have a warrant, they were required to make sure the suspect understood he could refuse to allow them to search the vehicle and obtain the suspect’s consent to search the vehicle.  The suspect spoke very limited English and could not understand the officers’ questions. The officers did not know they had access to a live human translator and used Google translate to advise the suspect of his rights and obtain his consent. The translations provided did not accurately communicate the information the officers were trying to convey and there was no evidence the suspect understood his right to refuse to allow his vehicle to be searched or the purposes for which his consent was requested. The suspect ultimately consented to the search, and upon searching the vehicle the officers found illicit drugs and arrested the suspect.

At the trial, the suspect testified he was confused as to what the officers were asking and did not know he had the right to refuse to allow them to search the vehicle. Translators called upon to assess the accuracy of Google translate testified it often provided a literal but nonsensical translation, and therefore was not a reliable translation tool. The suspect argued that any evidence obtained during the search was obtained without his consent and should be suppressed. Upon reviewing the evidence, the court found it was clear the suspect did not understand what the officers were asking when he consented to the search. Further, the court found the good-faith exception the exclusionary rule of evidence obtained via unlawful searches did not apply because it was unreasonable for the officers to rely on Google translate. As such, the court granted the suspect’s motion to suppress.

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The Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Birchfield v. North Dakota continues to affect DUI law throughout the country. The Birchfield ruling stated, among other things, that DUI suspects who refused to submit to a blood test without a warrant could not be subject to increased criminal penalties for their refusal. Last month, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania granted an appeal on the narrow issue of whether it is unconstitutional to introduce evidence of a suspect’s refusal to submit to a warrantless blood test at trial as evidence of the suspect’s guilt. While the court’s ruling will only be applicable in Pennsylvania, it is anticipated it will be persuasive for courts in other states ruling on the same issue, and may impact the prosecution of DUI cases throughout the country, including Illinois DUI cases.

In Commonwealth v. Bell, the suspect was detained for inadequately illuminated headlights. On approaching the suspect’s vehicle the officer observed the suspect had glassy and bloodshot eyes, and an odor of alcohol. The suspect subsequently admitted he consumed four beers. The officer then administered a field sobriety test, which the suspect failed, and a Breathalyzer test, which indicated the suspect had a blood alcohol concentration of .127%. The suspect was arrested for DUI and taken to a hospital for testing of his blood alcohol content. After the suspect was read the chemical testing warnings, however, he refused to submit to a blood test.

The suspect was charged with DUI. Prior to his trial he filed a motion to dismiss the charge, arguing he had a constitutional right to refuse to submit to the blood test, and therefore, his refusal should not be admitted into evidence. The suspect’s motion was denied and the prosecution was permitted to introduce evidence of the suspect’s refusal to submit to the blood test. The suspect was subsequently convicted of DUI.

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Impaired drivers are a hazard of the road and cause thousands of fatal collisions each year. While alcohol has been the leading cause of impaired driving for decades, drugs recently surpassed alcohol as the leading cause of impairment in collisions involving an impaired driver. The increase in drug related collisions is likely due to several factors, including the opioid epidemic and legalization of marijuana. While many drivers are impaired due to the use of illicit drugs, drivers who are using legally prescribed medications still face the risk of impairment if they are unfamiliar with the side effects of their medication.

Presently, there is no national standard for testing a driver suspected of DUI for opioids, marijuana or other drugs, and police officers often struggle with recognizing the signs a driver is impaired due to drugs. Under the current law, Illinois DUI suspects can be subjected to testing of their blood, urine or breath if impairment is suspected. The currently available drug tests, which utilize a suspect’s blood and urine, can be costly and take a long time to administer, which may allow for the suspect’s body to eliminate some or all of the drug. As such, police departments have been searching for technology that would allow for quick, easy, and accurate testing of whether a suspect has ingested any prescribed or illicit drugs that would cause impairment, similar to the way a Breathalyzer test detects alcohol.

In the near future, the Police Department of Carol Stream Illinois will begin testing newly developed technology by administering drug tests via a mouth swab, which will allow them to test for opioids, marijuana, and amphetamines. The Carol Stream Police Department appears to be the first police department in Illinois to begin using driver drug tests. The tests not only give a positive result if the suspect has drugs in his or her system, but will provide measurements of the amount of drugs present. The Carol Stream police plan to conduct field tests to determine the accuracy of the mouth swab tests, by asking DUI suspects who submit to a blood test to submit to the mouth swab as well, so the results of both tests can be compared.