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If the police stop a person for suspicion of DUI, they must establish that the search is lawful; otherwise, any evidence arising out of the search may be deemed inadmissible. In other words, the State must demonstrate that the police had reasonable suspicion that a person is under the influence prior to effectuating a stop. While typically DUI charges arise out stop to investigate erratic driving, some are the result of DUI checkpoints. Whether such a stop constitutes a reasonable search and seizure was the topic of a recent North Carolina ruling, in which the court ultimately found the stop to be illegal. If you are accused of a DUI crime arising out of a DUI checkpoint, it is in your best interest to confer with a trusted Illinois DUI defense attorney about your potential defenses.

The North Carolina Ruling

It is reported that the defendant was stopped at a DUI checkpoint in a town in North Carolina. The investigating officer smelled alcohol on the defendant’s breath, and she admitted to consuming two shots of alcohol. She submitted to field sobriety testing, which she failed, and a breathalyzer test, which resulted in a BAC of 0.11%. She was charged with DUI. Her attorney filed a motion to suppress the evidence obtained during the stop, arguing it was unlawful, but the motion was denied.

Allegedly, the defendant appealed, and on appeal, the court ruled in her favor. Specifically, it found that the trial court had not evaluated whether the arrest met the three standards established by the State Supreme Court to determine if the arrest was constitutional: the weight of the public interest; the degree to which the arrest advances the public interest, and the severity of its interference with personal liberty. Continue reading →

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Judges and prosecutors have distinct roles in the criminal justice system, and generally, they refrain from exercising powers outside of the scope of their authority. If they do overstep their bounds, however, it may lead to unexpected outcomes. For example, a prosecutor in North Dakota recently sued a judge, arguing that the judge violated the separation of powers by refusing to approve a plea deal that would have ignored one of the defendant’s prior DUI convictions. The lawsuit, which alleges that defendants convicted of fourth DUIs are subject to less stringent penalties than those convicted of third DUIs, seeks to remedy a perceived injustice. If you are charged with a third or subsequent DUI offense, it is smart to meet with a knowledgeable Illinois DUI defense attorney to assess your rights.

The North Dakota Case

It is reported that the North Dakota legislature recently increased the penalties for repeat DUI offenders. Specifically, a person convicted of a third DUI, which is a class A misdemeanor, faces a 120-day jail sentence, while a person convicted of a fourth DUI crime, which is a Class C felony, may be imprisoned for one year and one day. The prosecutor alleges that, essentially, sentences for fourth DUIs are paper penalties, in that parties convicted of such offenses spend significantly less time in prison than those convicted of lesser crimes.

Allegedly, the prosecutor attempted to subvert the sentencing deficiencies by entering into a plea agreement with a defendant that would have reduced the number of the defendant’s prior DUI convictions, which would have resulted in a lesser sentence on paper but arguably more time in prison. When the judge refused to adopt the plea agreement, the prosecution filed suit, arguing the judge violated the separation of powers. Continue reading →

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It is not uncommon for intoxicated drivers to cause collisions, and many DUI related accidents are fatal. Thus, a person may not only be charged with a DUI crime but other, more serious, offenses. Whether a fatality caused by a drunk driving accident constitutes murder, however, is unsettled throughout the Nation. This issue was recently resolved in Nevada, though, where the Nevada Supreme Court set forth a ruling prohibiting prosecutors from charging people with second-degree murder for their involvement in DUI fatalities. While the ruling has no precedent in Illinois, it provides insight into how other courts view DUI cases involving deaths. If you were involved in a fatal DUI accident, it is in your best interest to speak with an Illinois DUI defense attorney to discuss your possible defenses.

The Nevada Ruling

It is reported that the Nevada Supreme Court recently issued an order requiring prosecutors to change the manner in which they handle DUI cases. Specifically, the court barred prosecutors from charging DUI defendants with second-degree murder. The ruling arose out of a matter in which the defendant reportedly caused a fatal crash while driving with marijuana in his system. The order, which was signed by seven justices, explained that while malice could be inferred from the facts out of which the charges arose and would support a second-degree murder charge, the legislature pre-empted such charges for matters involving unintentional vehicular homicide. It was noted that the ruling might inspire the legislature to impose stricter penalties on felony DUI cases involving deaths.

Charges for DUI Related Deaths in Illinois

In Illinois, a person can be charged with aggravated DUI (driving under the influence) if the individual was involved in an accident that resulted in a fatality. An aggravated DUI that results in the death of another person is a Class 2 felony. If only one person is killed in a DUI accident, the defendant faces a minimum sentence of three years imprisonment and a maximum sentence of fourteen years. If more than one person dies due to a DUI accident, an aggravated DUI sentence can range from six to twenty-eight years in prison.

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When people think of DUI crimes, they usually contemplate a person charged with an offense after being caught driving a car, truck, or SUV while intoxicated. In many states, though, a person can be charged with a DUI crime for operating any motorized vehicle. This was demonstrated recently in Kansas, where a man was charged with a DUI offense after operating a lawnmower while impaired due to alcohol. If you are accused of a DUI crime, it is advisable to speak to a trusted Illinois DUI defense attorney to determine your rights.

The Kansas Arrest

It is reported that police officers in Shawnee County, Kansas, pulled over a man who was driving down the shoulder of a highway. When they spoke to the man, his demeanor led them to suspect that he was intoxicated. The police administered field sobriety tests to the man, which he failed. He was then arrested and charged with DUI. While the crime was not novel, the man’s choice of vehicle was, as he was operating a lawnmower. In Kansas, though, a DUI offense can arise out of the operation of any motor vehicle while intoxicated.

DUI Offenses in Illinois

Illinois is similar to Kansas in that a person need not be driving a car to be charged with a DUI offense. Specifically, the DUI law prohibits a person from driving or being in actual physical control of any vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. Notably, the statute does not limit the term “vehicle” to a car, SUV, or any other automobile that is typically operated on public streets.

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In theory, police officers should only investigate crimes or make traffic stops due to a reasonable suspicion of unlawful activity. Unfortunately, though, in some cases, the police may have incentives to charge people with criminal offenses other than the desire to uphold the law—for example, some cities reward officers for issuing citations or have rules establishing ticket quotas. As demonstrated in a recent Illinois ruling, such rules are likely to lead to unjust DUI arrests and other citations and are unlawful. If you were charged with a DUI offense, it is prudent to meet with a seasoned Illinois DUI defense attorney to assess your options.

The Ticket Quota

It is alleged that the City of Sparta had a policy in place that assigned points to certain activities and used the points to evaluate the performance of its officers. Under the policy, all full-time police officers were required to meet a monthly points minimum. Officers who worked the night shift were obligated to obtain 65 points, while those working the day shift needed 82 points. Different activities garnered different points, and issuing citations had a two-point value. Officers that failed to meet the minimum monthly points would be disciplined in a progressive manner. Further, points were used to determine the officer of the month and of the year.

Reportedly, the Policeman’s Benevolent Labor Committee (Union) filed a declaratory judgment action seeking an opinion that the activity-points policy established an unlawful ticket quota that violated Section 11-1-12 of the Illinois Municipal Code. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of the City of Sparta, and the Union appealed. The appellate court reversed, finding in favor of the Union. The City then appealed.

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Generally, in DUI cases, the State’s main witness will be the officer that arrested the defendant. Thus, if the officer is unavailable, the State’s case may fall apart, resulting in the dismissal of the defendant’s charges. This scenario unfolded in Albuquerque recently, when over a dozen DUI cases were dismissed after the officer-involved was fired when it was revealed that he made false statements and arrested people for DUI without cause. If you are charged with an Illinois crime, and you believe your rights may have been violated during your arrest, it is advisable to consult an experienced Illinois DUI attorney about your case.

The Albuquerque Arrests and Dismissals

It is reported that approximately nineteen DUI cases were dismissed after the officer that made the arrests in the cases was terminated for cause. Several other cases are currently under investigation to determine whether they should be dismissed as well. The officer’s termination arose after he arrested a woman for DUI without probable cause. The impetus for his false arrests was not disclosed, and he is currently appealing his termination. It was disclosed, though, that the officer violated procedure and made false statements in the course of the arrest that initially called his integrity into question. Thus, all of the pending charges in which he made the initial arrest are under scrutiny, as the evidence in those cases may be tainted as well.

DUI Arrests in Illinois

Under Illinois law, a person who operates a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs or who drives with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or higher can be charged with a DUI offense. In Illinois, as in other states, a police officer must have reasonable suspicion that a crime is being committed or a traffic violation has occurred prior to stopping a driver. If an officer stops a person without just cause, the stop may be unconstitutional, and any subsequent detainment may be considered a false arrest. Further, charges that arise out of an improper arrest may constitute malicious prosecution.

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Many people convicted of criminal offenses lose their right to own firearms. While all criminal charges are a cause for concern, only convictions for serious crimes will result in the loss of the right to own a weapon, but what constitutes a serious crime is not always clear. Recently, a federal court sitting in Pennsylvania set forth an opinion addressing the issue of whether a misdemeanor DUI crime constitutes a serious crime for purposes of disarmament, ultimately ruling that it does. While the Pennsylvania ruling does not impact people in Illinois, it may illustrate how the law may be interpreted in the state in the future. If you are an Illinois resident currently charged with driving while intoxicated, it is prudent to speak with a knowledgeable Illinois DUI attorney regarding your case.

The Pennsylvania Case

It is reported that in 2002, the defendant was arrested for suspicion of DUI. A subsequent blood test determined his blood alcohol content (BAC) to be .192% at the time of the offense. He was charged with and convicted of DUI at the highest blood alcohol content, which is a misdemeanor crime. In 2016, the defendant attempted to purchase a firearm, but his efforts were denied due to his prior DUI conviction. The defendant then sued the Attorney General of the United States, arguing that the federal disarmament statute was unconstitutional as applied to him. The trial court found in favor of the Attorney General and the defendant appealed.

The court ultimately ruled that although the underlying crime was labeled a misdemeanor, it constituted a serious offense and the defendant’s loss of gun rights was proper. Specifically, the court explained that any crime that presents a possibility of the risk or danger of harm to oneself or others constitutes a serious offense.

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Under State and Federal law, the police typically need a warrant to enter a home or search a person. There are some exceptions, though, such as when the police are actively pursuing a suspect. There is a split among the states, though, as to whether the hot pursuit exception to the warrant requirement applies when the person being pursued is suspected of committing a misdemeanor as opposed to a felony. Recently, the Supreme Court of the United States decided to rule on the issue in a case arising out of California. While the ruling on the matter will not be issued until sometime next year, it could impact people’s rights in Illinois and throughout the country. If you live in Illinois and you were subjected to a warrantless search during a DUI investigation, it is in your best interest to speak to a skillful Illinois DUI attorney to assess your rights.

The California Case

It is reported that the defendant was followed by a patrolman for violating a state traffic law. The officer activated his lights but not his sirens, but the defendant did not stop. The defendant pulled into his garage, after which the patrolman entered the garage by placing his foot under the garage door when it was closing. Once in the garage, the patrolman spoke with the defendant and noticed that his breath smelled of alcohol. The defendant was subsequently charged with DUI.

Allegedly, at trial, the defendant argued that the patrolman’s entry into his garage violated his Fourth Amendment right against warrantless searches, and therefore the evidence against him must be precluded. The court rejected this argument, stating that the hot pursuit exception to the warrant requirement applied, regardless of the fact that the defendant was being pursued for a misdemeanor. The matter was appealed to the Supreme Court, who decided to rule on the issue, with an oral argument scheduled for February 2021 or later.

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In most states, DUI crimes are not limited to driving while under the influence of alcohol. Rather, a person can typically be charged with a DUI offense for driving while impaired due to the use of prescription, illicit, or recreational drugs, such as marijuana. While the police usually employ chemical testing to determine if a person is impaired due to the use of alcohol, such testing must be warranted under the circumstances. This was demonstrated in a recent Illinois case in which marijuana-related DUI charges stemming from a fatal car accident were dismissed due to the lack of evidence the defendant was impaired. If you are an Illinois resident faced with marijuana-related DUI charges, it is advisable to speak with a trusted Illinois DUI attorney regarding your possible defenses.

Dismissal of DUI Charges Following Suppression of Evidence

It is reported that the defendant, who works as a truck driver, was involved in a car crash in the early morning hours in July 2017. The driver of the other vehicle in the crash ultimately died due to her injuries. When the police arrived at the scene to investigate the accident, they spoke with the defendant, who was not observed to show any signs of impairment.

Allegedly, in response to questions from the police, the defendant admitted to smoking marijuana the night before the accident. He was subsequently asked to submit to chemical testing and, based on the results of the test, charged with aggravated DUI causing death. He subsequently filed a motion to suppress his chemical test results and statements, arguing there was no probable cause to suspect him of DUI and that he was questioned without being advised of his Miranda rights. The court agreed with the defendant and granted the motion, which ultimately resulted in the dismissal of the DUI charges.

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A person convicted of a DUI offense can face significant criminal and civil penalties, such as fines, incarceration, and the loss of driving privileges. Shockingly, if a person’s vehicle is used in the commission of a DUI offense, it may result in the loss of the vehicle as well, even if the person did not commit any crime. This was demonstrated recently in Minnesota, when a woman’s car was seized by the police following the arrest of a driver the woman permitted to operate the vehicle. Similarly, under Illinois law, the police may be able to seize a person’s assets following a DUI arrest.  If you were charged with a DUI crime in Illinois or your car was seized following another person’s arrest, you should speak to a skillful Illinois DUI defense attorney to determine your options.

Minnesota’s Seizure of Assets Following DUI Arrests

Reportedly, under Minnesota law, the police have the right to seize a person’s assets and sell them, even if the person was never convicted with a crime. Additionally, the police have the right to keep the proceeds of any sale of the property they seize. While generally, the person whose property is taken at the very least is charged with a criminal offense, it is not necessary under the law, which can lead to alarming results.

For example, police in Minnesota allegedly recently seized a woman’s car following a DWI traffic stop and sold the car at an auction, pursuant to Minnesota’s forfeiture law. Incomprehensibly, however, the woman was not driving at the time of the traffic stop and was not charged with or convicted of any DWI offense. Regardless, the woman, who was able to purchase her car back for $4,000, had to place special license plates on the vehicle to indicate it had previously been involved in a DWI arrest.

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