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Illinois DUI enforcement and civil rights

“Civil rights” refers to your right to be free from overreaching government action. There was a time when someone arrested for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) enjoyed the same civil rights as every other citizen. Not so much any longer with DUI (and a few other politically unpopular crimes).

In the realm of DUI law, we are primarily dealing with the Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. To a lesser extent, there are issues of self-incrimination enshrined in the Fifth Amendment (“Miranda rights”) and the Sixth Amendment right to counsel.

You should understand that there are essentially two related but separate aspects to a DUI offense. The first, and the one that generally has the most immediate impact, involves driver’s license suspension, revocation and reinstatement. The other is the DUI charge, a criminal offense.

During a DUI arrest, you will be asked to perform standard field sobriety tests, including the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN), the one-legged stand and the walk-and-turn test. You should also anticipate being asked to perform a portable breath test (PBT).

Although your performance on these tests will be used to determine whether or not you are arrested for DUI, you are not entitled to demand the presence of an attorney while you perform them. Your only options are to refuse to perform the tests (which can and will be used against you in a court of law) or take the tests and risk incriminating yourself.


After the police decide to arrest you, you will be placed in the squad car and taken to jail or the police station. There, you will be asked to submit a breath sample to determine your breath alcohol contents. Again, you have no right to a lawyer. Your refusal to submit to testing can be used against you in court as “evidence of a guilty mind”.

A recent trend in Illinois is “no refusal nights or weekends” In a barbaric practice, a suspect who refuses to submit to a breath or blood test voluntarily is ordered to give his blood under the threat of contempt of court or a felony charge for obstruction of justice. Some jurisdictions have even approved of involuntary blood draws, where you are strapped to a gurney and blood is forcibly drawn. This is your government in action.

DUI roadblocks have unfortunately become a favorite tool of law enforcement. You are driving home from work, minding your own business. For no reason at all, the police have erected a roadblock. They demand that you produce your license, proof of insurance and vehicle registration. And you thought this only happened in Nazi Germany.

George Orwell’s famous book, “1984”, predicted that one day citizens of countries that grew lax in honoring civil rights would stand idly by while the government rewarded its citizens for spying on their neighbors. We are there.

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