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The United States Constitution affords people in every state numerous rights, including the right against unreasonable search and seizure. What constitutes a violation of that right varies, but in many states, a person cannot be arrested for a misdemeanor crime absent a warrant or an observation by a police officer of the person committing the crime, and any evidence produced after the arrest may be dismissed. This was demonstrated recently in Idaho, in a case in which felony DUI charges were dismissed due to the unlawful nature of the misdemeanor DUI arrest that led to the felony charge. If you were recently charged with DUI in Illinois following an arrest, it is prudent to speak to an experienced Illinois DUI defense attorney to determine whether your arrest was improper and whether you may be able to avoid a conviction.

The Idaho Case

Reportedly, the police received a call regarding an erratic driver that was allegedly intoxicated. Subsequently, the police observed the defendant’s vehicle, which was parked in the defendant’s driveway. The defendant was not in his vehicle at the time. The defendant was arrested for misdemeanor DUI and transported to the police station, where he underwent a breath test. Following the breath test, it was revealed that the defendant had prior DUI convictions, and therefore, his charge was increased to a felony.

The defendant filed a motion to suppress the results of his breath test, arguing it constituted an illegal search and seizure as, under Idaho law, an officer cannot arrest a person for a misdemeanor absent an observation of a crime or a warrant. The court granted the motion and ultimately dismissed the felony DUI charge, due to the fact that the misdemeanor arrest was illegal, as the officer did not have a warrant or observe any illegal activity.

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When most people contemplate what constitutes grounds to charge a person with DUI, they think of driving while intoxicated due to the consumption of alcohol. In many states, however, a person can be convicted of DUI for driving while under the influence of other substances, such as illicit or prescription drugs. In some cases, misinterpretation of DUI laws allowing for charges to arise out of driving while under the influence of drugs leads to absurd results, as demonstrated in a recent Pennsylvania case in which a man was convicted of DUI for having metabolites of a prescribed narcotic in his system, despite the fact that it was not illegal to drive under the influence of the narcotic. If you live in Illinois and were charged with a DUI due to evidence of metabolites in your blood, you should consult a seasoned Illinois DUI defense attorney regarding what actions you can take to protect your rights.

Facts of the Pennsylvania Case

Allegedly, the police responded to a call from the defendant’s father, who observed the defendant’s car in his driveway but could not find the defendant. The police ultimately found the defendant by a ravine in his parent’s backyard. He appeared intoxicated and admitted to consuming several beers after he arrived at his parents’ house, to build up the courage to tell his parents his father had terminal cancer. He was arrested for DUI and transported to a police station, where he underwent a blood test that revealed, in part, metabolites of fentanyl in his blood.

It is reported that the defendant was subsequently charged with multiple DUI offenses, including DUI-metabolite. Following a trial, he was convicted of DUI-metabolite, after which he appealed. Upon consideration of the evidence on appeal, the court reversed the defendant’s conviction, finding that the defendant could not be found guilty of DUI for driving with the metabolite of a prescribed substance in his blood when driving while under the influence of the controlled substance was not illegal.

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It is not uncommon for a person that observes someone driving erratically to call 911 to report reckless driving. If a police officer stops a driver based on an anonymous tip, however, and the driver is subsequently charged with DUI, an issue often arises regarding whether a 911 call in and of itself is grounds for reasonable suspicion that a crime or traffic violation was committed. Despite a United States Supreme Court ruling addressing the issue of whether an anonymous tip is sufficient to warrant a traffic stop, the law largely remains unsettled throughout the country as shown by a recent Ohio case in which the court stated it would hear oral arguments regarding whether a bystander’s warning is adequate cause for effectuating a traffic stop. If you were charged with DUI in Illinois after being stopped due to a 911 call, it is prudent to speak with an assertive Illinois DUI defense attorney to discuss your rights.

Facts of the Ohio Case

Allegedly, the defendant was stopped by a police officer and charged with DUI after a passerby yelled to the officer that the defendant was drunk. In response to the assertion, the officer stopped the defendant and noticed she had signs of intoxication, including slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, and an odor of alcohol. The passerby was never identified. The defendant argued that the stop was not justified, as the officer was only acting on an anonymous tip of uncertain reliability and, therefore, did not have reasonable suspicion that the defendant was committing a crime. The lower courts found in favor of the defendant, noting that the tip lacked any details regarding why the passerby believed the defendant was intoxicated.

Rulings Regarding DUI Arrests Arising Out of Anonymous Tips

In Navarette v. California, the United States Supreme Court ruled that a tip provided by an anonymous source in a 911 call was sufficiently reliable to justify a traffic stop, as it provided details regarding the make and model of the car and details regarding the fact that the car was being driven erratically. The Court further stated that because the call made through the 911 system it was reliable because the calls are recorded, and people may be prosecuted for making false reports.

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One of the tenets of DUI law throughout the country is that the police must have reasonable suspicion that a person operating a vehicle committed a crime or violated a traffic law prior to effectuating a traffic stop. Thus, if an officer lacks sufficient grounds to stop a motorist, any evidence obtained during the stop may be precluded at a subsequent DUI trial. What constitutes sufficient grounds to effectuate a stop varies from State to State, but generally, more than mere suspicion is required, as demonstrated in a recent Pennsylvania case. If you live in Illinois and were stopped without just cause and subsequently charged with a DUI crime, it is in your best interest to speak with a trusted Illinois DUI attorney regarding your potential defenses.

Details of the Pennsylvania Case

Allegedly, an officer stopped the defendant due to a “hunch” that she was doing something illegal. Specifically, the officer, who was dispatched on another call, stopped the defendant because he believed she was trying to evade him because she turned several times. The officer admitted, however, that the defendant did not exhibit any signs of intoxication while driving, did not violate any traffic laws, and there were no defects on her car that would cause suspicion. Following the stop, the defendant was charged with and convicted of DUI. After her conviction, she appealed, arguing that the officer lacked reasonable suspicion to stop her. The appellate court overturned her conviction and remanded the case to the lower court, ordering suppression of the evidence obtained during the stop.

Reasonable Suspicion Under Illinois Law

Under Illinois law, stopping a vehicle is considered a search and seizure. For a stop to be lawful, an Illinois police officer must possess a rational belief that the person stopped has committed or intends to commit a crime. The suspicion must be both articulable and reasonable. In other words, a totality of the facts present at the time of the stop must be sufficient to inspire the belief in a person of ordinary caution that the stop was appropriate, which requires more than a hunch or vague suspicion that criminal activity has occurred or is about to occur. While Illinois does not have a bright-line rule for whether a stop is reasonable, and each case is evaluated on its particular facts, it is likely that in Illinois a stop based on a hunch, with no evidence of illegal activity or a violation of a traffic law, would be deemed improper.

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The COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect many aspects of life throughout the state and country, including driver’s rights. Many people have questions regarding how to renew their license or registration, upcoming hearings, and the removal of ignition interlock devices, and are faced with multiple conflicting sources of information. Fortunately, however, the Illinois Secretary of State recently addressed questions pertaining to driving rights that many people throughout the state have asked. If you were recently charged with or convicted of a DUI, it is advisable to consult a trusted Illinois DUI defense attorney to discuss how the COVID-19 pandemic may affect your rights.

 COVID-19 Impact on Driver’s Rights in Illinois

Many people’s driver’s licenses, commercial driver’s licenses, and vehicle registration stickers either expired before or during the COVID-19 pandemic or will expire in the near future. The Secretary of State’s office is closed due to the pandemic, however. Fortunately, the Governor extended licenses and registrations for at least 90 days after the end of the disaster. Certain people are eligible to renew their driver’s licenses online as well.

Drivers who wish to obtain a copy of their driving abstract or record during the pandemic can visit www.cyberdriveillinois.com to purchase a copy. Once payment is made, the record or abstract will be available to print. Additionally, the person will receive an email with a receipt of the transaction that will allow the person to print his or her record for five days after the purchase.

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Although all states criminalize driving while intoxicated, a DUI conviction does not carry the same penalty in each state. Further, the states do not necessarily categorize subsequent DUI convictions in the same manner. Discrepancies in the treatment of DUI convictions among states can pose a problem if a person convicted of DUI offenses moves from one state to another, as demonstrated recently when a Pennsylvania resident relocated to Florida where his DUI conviction was treated as a felony. If you are charged with a subsequent DUI offense, it is important to understand the consequences you may face if you are convicted, and you should speak to a knowledgeable Illinois DUI defense attorney regarding your rights.

Florida’s Treatment of a Third Pennsylvania DUI

Reportedly, a Pennsylvania resident was convicted of a third DUI, which was charged as a misdemeanor crime. Following his conviction, he was sentenced to five years of probation. While he was still subject to the terms of his probation, he moved to Florida. Four years later, while he was still on probation, he attempted to rent a house, when he was informed that Florida treated his Pennsylvania misdemeanor DUI conviction as a felony.

Subsequently, the man was informed that the Interstate Compact for Adult Offender Supervision advises states to apply their own standards to residents who move to their state while they are on probation for convictions in another state. The man ultimately sued multiple Florida government entities, arguing that increasing the severity of his conviction violated his civil rights, but his lawsuit was dismissed.

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As marijuana use becomes increasingly legal throughout the country, legislatures and courts are slowly establishing laws, further defining and limiting its use. For example, an issue that keeps arising is whether the smell of marijuana emanating from a car provides probable cause for the police to believe the driver of the car is operating the vehicle while intoxicated. This issue was recently addressed by a California court that ultimately found that the smell of marijuana alone was insufficient to effectuate a stop. Conversely, the issue of whether the smell of marijuana is adequate grounds to stop a driver is before the Illinois Supreme Court, with a ruling likely to be issued in the near future. If you are faced with marijuana-related DUI charges, it is in your best interest to consult a seasoned Illinois DUI defense attorney to discuss your potential defenses.

The California Ruling

It is reported that a California appellate court recently issued a ruling stating that the smell of marijuana in a vehicle is not sufficient grounds for the police to conduct a search of the entire vehicle. In that case, the police were on DUI patrol when a car without a front license plate drove by. The police stopped the car, and after approaching the vehicle, smelled marijuana. The police questioned the driver who admitted to having marijuana in his console. The police then searched the entire vehicle and found a loaded gun under the driver’s seat. The defendant was charged with possession of an illegal weapon. During the trial, the search of the defendant’s vehicle was deemed legal, but on appeal, that ruling was overturned. The court stated that marijuana use is legal, and the only evidence the police relied on as grounds to search the car was the smell of marijuana, which the court stated was not evidence of a crime.

Illinois’s Standpoint on the Issue

The issue of whether the smell of marijuana is adequate to provide a police officer probable cause to stop a motorist and search his or her vehicle was recently argued before the Illinois Supreme Court, but a ruling has not yet been issued. That case arose under similar circumstances as the California case, in that the officer stopped the defendant because he smelled an odor of marijuana coming from the defendant’s car. The defendant’s car was searched, and during the search, the police found crack cocaine, which led to the defendant being charged with drug crimes. While the stop occurred prior to the legalization of marijuana in Illinois, the argument before the Illinois Supreme Court was held after marijuana use was legalized.

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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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