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Illinois Appeals Court Upholds Ruling for DUI Defendant Based on Officer’s Unconvincing Testimony

A defendant was charged with DUI and filed a motion to quash the arrest and suppress evidence.

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In August 2015, he was involved in a single-vehicle motorcycle accident at the intersection of Main Street and Crescent Avenue in Peoria. An officer of the Peoria police department responded to the scene and issued the defendant citations for improper lane usage, failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident, and DUI.

In December 2015, the trial court granted the defendant’s motion to suppress evidence and quash the arrest, reasoning that the officer’s testimony that Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) testing can determine the level of intoxication was wrong under Illinois law. This caused the court to question his credibility on the issue of impairment in this case as well as the HGN test itself in terms of the officer’s experience, his knowledge of the standards, and how it was conducted. The court also took issue with the officer’s failure to investigate whether the defendant had a head injury that may have affected his performance on the HGN test and the prosecution’s failure to call the security guard to testify about his observations of the defendant’s driving.

The Illinois appeals court agreed with the trial court. At the suppression hearing, it reasoned, the trial court stated that it questioned the officer’s “credibility on the issue of impairment in this case.” If the trial court finds the state’s primary or only witness at a suppression hearing to lack credibility, the trial court does not err in granting the defendant’s motion to suppress. Since the officer was the only witness to testify at the suppression hearing, and the trial court questioned his credibility, the trial court properly granted the defendant’s motion to suppress.

The prosecution next argued that the trial court erred in denying its motions to reconsider, asserting that the court misapplied section 11-501.2(c) of the Illinois Vehicle Code by refusing to consider the defendant’s post-arrest refusal to submit to chemical testing.

The appeals court disagreed with the state, holding the trial court did not err in refusing to consider that evidence at the suppression hearing. Evidence must be relevant to be admissible. The only issue at the suppression hearing was whether the officer had probable cause to arrest the defendant for DUI. Any post-arrest actions by the defendant were not and could not have been used by the officer as probable cause for arresting the defendant for DUI. Thus, the evidence was not relevant, and the trial court properly refused to consider it.

Finally, the prosecution argued that the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to grant the defendant’s petition to rescind because it appealed the trial court’s order granting the defendant’s motion to suppress before the court ruled on the defendant’s petition to rescind.

The appeals court again disagreed, holding the trial court did not err in considering evidence from the suppression hearing in granting the defendant’s petition to rescind. The issue at the defendant’s suppression hearing was whether the officer had probable cause to arrest the defendant for DUI. The issue at the rescission hearing was whether there were reasonable grounds for believing the defendant was driving under the influence. Since those issues are identical, the trial court could rely on evidence from the suppression hearing to make its decision on the defendant’s petition to rescind.

Moreover, the appeals court held the prosecution waived any objection to the admission of evidence from the suppression hearing. Not only did the state fail to object to the trial court’s consideration of evidence from the suppression hearing, but also it stipulated to the admission of the officer’s testimony from the suppression hearing. Thus, the state waived any alleged error.

For these reasons, the judgment of the lower court was affirmed.

If you have been charged with a DUI offense in Illinois, it is crucial to speak to an experienced Illinois DUI lawyer as soon as possible. Harvatin Law Offices, PC provides knowledgeable representation to people in Springfield and throughout Illinois. We have considerable experience defending individuals charged with DUI offenses and representing drivers with revoked licenses before the Illinois Secretary of State. 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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Issues With Breathalyzer Means Thousands of Oklahoma DUI Cases Dismissed, Illinois DUI Lawyer Blog, April 3, 2017.