The Illinois State Bar Association submitted a bill to the Illinois legislature last month seeking to amend Illinois’ no-tolerance DUI law.
The bill refers to a 2011 incident in Lake Island where driver Scott Shirey was charged with homicide when his son died in a car crash. The accident was not Shirey’s fault, but he was nonetheless charged because he smoked marijuana one month before the incident.
Law enforcement officials are legally required to take blood tests of all drivers involved in car crashes that result in death or serious bodily injury.
Under the current law, Illinois drivers can be charged with a DUI even if they were neither under the influence nor at fault when the accident occurred. Defense attorneys who aided in drafting the new bill believe that the DUI law should not punish an individual based on substances in a person’s system that do not impair him or her.
Local defense attorneys seem less than enthusiastic about this law. Some have called the law “draconian and ridiculous” while others believe the law actually creates two victims — first, the person gravely injured in the accident, and second, the driver who is punished simply because he had some measurement of substance in his system that was unconnected to the incident. Scott Shirey’s case is widely recognized among defense attorneys as a “worst-case scenario” — Shirey was charged with felony aggravated DUI for smoking marijuana a month before the incident that killed one of his sons when a pickup truck caused an accident while broadsiding his car.
The Illinois State Bar Association agrees with these defense attorneys, arguing that the DUI law should not apply to drivers who were not impaired when the accident occurred.
Law enforcement officials, prosecutors, and the state Attorney General, however, continue to support the law.
“I don’t see any problem with the law,” said Limey Nargelenas, who serves as deputy director of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police. He explained, matter-of-factly, that if a blood test reveals marijuana in the body of a person who does not possess a medical marijuana license, he or she will be imprisoned.
Shirey was charged several months after the crash when a blood test revealed trace measurements of marijuana in his system. He was not permitted to present as a defense the fact that he was unimpaired when the other driver ran a red light and hit his car. Shirey pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 30 months of probation.
“We had no choice,” said Shirey’s defense attorney. “We had no defense.” The attorney felt lucky that the judge sentenced his client to probation and not prison.
If you have been charged with a DUI crime in Illinois, it is crucial to speak to an experienced Illinois DUI, DWI, or drunk driving lawyer as soon as possible. Harvatin Law Offices, PC provides knowledgeable representation for those in Springfield and throughout Illinois. We have considerable experience defending individuals charged with DUI offenses. To learn more and to set up a free initial consultation, contact us online or call us toll-free at 1-800-829-8513.
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Illinois Courts Interpret McNeely, Illinois DUI Lawyer Blawg, November 28, 2014