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Appellate court grants police significant leeway to board a pleasure boat

The Illinois court system consists of three layers. The first is the trial court, which is situated in the downtown area of all of Illinois’ 102 counties.

A single judge presides over a trial. In most cases, including Illinois DUI cases, a jury trial is available.

In that instance, the judge’s job is to rule what evidence the jury will and will not be allowed to hear and to instruct the jury on what the law is. The jury then decides how the facts as the jurors interpret them will be applied to the law.

A trial without a jury is known as a “bench trial”.  The judge (who sits on the bench) decides all questions of law and of fact.

Cases may not even reach the trial stage. In DUI cases, the defendant may attempt to suppress (throw out) evidence the state wishes to use against him or her on that basis that it was obtained in contravention of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

That Amendment provides that the government may not engage in unreasonable searches and seizures. When the police do seize evidence or conduct searches that violate the Fourth Amendment, the remedy is to throw it out. In many instances, that will result in the state being unable to prove its case and being forced to dismiss the charges. Many people call this a “technicality” but the “technicality” involves protecting your rights as an American citizen.

Probably the most case that is the most important in the realm of search and seizure (Fourth Amendment) law as pertains to DUI charges is Mapp vs. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643, 81 S. Ct. 1684, 6 L. Ed. 2d 1081, 84 A.L.R.2d 933, 86 Ohio Law Abs. 513, 16 O.O.2d 384 (1961) This 1961 United States Supreme Court case decided that the police do not have to have probable cause to approach a citizen but must have a reasonable suspicion of recent, or ongoing, or imminent criminal activity.  Absent that suspicion, any contact they initiate with a citizen and evidence gathered in that connection may be thrown out if the state brings criminal charges against that citizen.

Thus, if you are driving along and not violating any laws or otherwise conducting yourself in a manner that presents a threat or past threat or likely future threat, the police cannot legally detain you, interrogate you or search your person or belongings.  If they do so and subsequently gather evidence to charge you with DUI, the judge is likely to grant a motion to suppress all evidence of what the officer observed, seized and gathered.

Absent such evidence, the state would have no means of proving its case against you, as the only testimony the officer would be able to give is that he pulled you over. Everything after that would be considered “fruit of the poisonous tree”.

In a recent case known as People v. Butorac, 2013 IL App (2d) 110953, 2013 WL 6843479, the appellate court in Elgin Illinois, which consists of three judges instead of just one, ruled that the laws for Boating Under the Influence (BUI) are different.  The police are permitted to board a boat at any time to check if the boat and its contents comply with boat safety laws.

The court based its decision on earlier cases that involved ships on the high seas. Even though in this case, the “ship” was a pleasure boat and the “high seas” was the Fox River.

Related posts:

Fourth Amendment Rights in Driving Under the Influence Prosecutions April 29, 2011, Illinois DUI Lawyer Blawg

Illinois BUI (Boating Under the Influence) law bears similarity to DUI December 6, 2013, Illinois DUI Lawyer Blawg


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