Articles Posted in DUI

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Under Illinois DUI law, whether a DUI is charged as a misdemeanor or felony depends in part on whether any enhancing factors exist such as whether the defendant committed any prior violations of the DUI statute. While the Supreme Court of Illinois has definitively stated a previous conviction of the DUI is not necessary to prove a defendant committed a violation, it has not defined the scope of what evidence is admissible to establish a violation. While it is not precedential, in State v. Hastey the Maine Supreme Court recently held that extrinsic evidence outside of a DUI charge or conviction is admissible as evidence of an enhancing factor in charging a defendant with an aggravated DUI. If you face DUI charges and were previously charged with DUI, an experienced Illinois DUI attorney can help you determine what evidence the state may attempt to introduce against you and assist you in formulating a defense.

Facts of the Case

Purportedly, in Hastey, the defendant was charged with aggravated criminal OUI. Under Maine law, a person commits aggravated criminal OUI if he or she operates a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicants and has a prior criminal homicide conviction resulting from the operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicants.

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The United States Constitution prohibits unreasonable search and seizure, which means you cannot be stopped and you and your property cannot be searched without just cause. As set forth in State v. Walker, the right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure has been applied to suppress evidence obtained during an inappropriate search. As such, if you were stopped without cause while driving a motor vehicle and subsequently charged with a DUI due to evidence obtained during the stop, the state may not be able to use any of that evidence against you. An experienced Illinois DUI attorney can analyze the situation surrounding your detainment and the applicable laws to determine whether stopped you without reasonable suspicion.

Facts of the Case

Allegedly, the suspect in Walker was stopped for making an improper left turn. His license was suspended at the time he was stopped, and he was ticketed. The suspect filed a motion to suppress evidence from the stop, arguing the officer lacked reasonable suspicion the suspect violated the law, and that any evidence obtained via the stop violated the suspect’s right to be free of unreasonable search and seizure. The trial court heard testimony that suspect made a left hand turn into the far lane of a road that had two lanes of traffic in each direction. The court also heard testimony, however, that the applicable motor vehicle code stated a driver should turn into the near lane when possible, but did not prohibit a driver from turning into the far lane. As such, the court granted the suspect’s motion to suppress. The state appealed, arguing the officer did have reasonable suspicion to stop the defendant, and that the exclusionary rule should not be applied regardless. The Appellate Court of Illinois affirmed the trial court’s ruling.

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It goes without saying that in Illinois you must have a valid driver’s license to drive a vehicle. As such, if your license has been suspended or revoked, you cannot operate a motor vehicle. While you cannot drive a car without a license, you can drive a low-speed electric bicycle, as it is excluded from the definition of “motor vehicle” under the Illinois Vehicle Code. Due to an increase in popularity in low-speed bicycles and the lack of statutory regulations regarding their operation, the Illinois General Assembly recently passed laws clarifying the obligations imposed on owners of low-speed bicycles.

Electric and gas low-speed bicycles are perceived differently under the eyes of the law. To be defined as a low-speed electric bicycle, the bicycle must have fully functional pedals and an electric motor that is less than 750 watts. Low speed electric bicycles are classified into three groups: Class 1, Class 2 and Class 3.

The motor in a Class 1 bicycle only provides the rider with assistance if the rider is pedaling and stops providing assistance when the bicycle reaches 20 mph. If the rider is not pedaling or the bicycle reaches 20 mph, the motor is deactivated.

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Police officers in Delray Beach, Florida recently responded to a car accident in which a man driving a pick-up truck collided with a minivan, resulting in the death of all four occupants of the minivan. In investigating the crash, the driver of the pick-up truck submitted to blood testing and was ultimately charged with DUI manslaughter. While DUI-related car crashes are an unfortunately common occurrence, this one is distinctive because the driver did not consume any alcohol or any illicit drugs. Instead, the blood test revealed the driver was under the influence of difluoroethane, a liquefied gas used as a propellant. Upon further investigation, the police uncovered that the driver had huffed Dust-Off, a household cleaner, prior to the crash to get high.The driver’s attorney has set forth the argument that since Florida does not have a defined legal limit of inhalants a driver can consume before he or she is considered impaired, the DUI charge is improper. The driver has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting a jury trial. While the pick-up truck driver’s case is the first case since 2014 in which a driver was charged with DUI manslaughter due to intoxication by inhalants, there were other instances in which drivers caused fatal crashes after inhaling intoxicants, but those drivers were not charged with DUI. The increase in charges due to intoxication by inhalants is evident throughout the country as well, including in Illinois DUI cases.

Unlike Florida, Illinois has a broader DUI statute that allows a person to be charged with DUI for reasons other than impairment due to the consumption of alcohol. Specifically, the Illinois DUI statute states that a person shall not drive if they are under the influence of an “intoxicating compound” to a degree that renders him or her unable to drive safely. These catchall provisions are specifically aimed at preventing people from driving while under the influence of non-traditional intoxicants, such as paint, markers, and aerosol spray. As a result, an Illinois license holder who inhales household intoxicants and then drives can be charged with DUI.

There have been multiple cases prosecuted in Illinois criminal courts in recent years in which drivers were charged with and convicted of DUI due to huffing. Unlike the signs of intoxication due to alcohol, such as odor, bloodshot eyes, and stumbling, the signs of intoxication due to inhalation of intoxicating substances are not always easily observable. In some cases, a person who has inhaled intoxicants may not exhibit any symptoms of intoxication at all. As a result, the prosecution may face an uphill battle in proving an individual who drove after inhaling intoxicants was impaired. Additionally, defense attorneys have questioned the constitutionality of the provision of the Illinois DUI statute regarding “intoxicating compound,” arguing it is vague.

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The Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Birchfield v. North Dakota continues to affect DUI law throughout the country. The Birchfield ruling stated, among other things, that DUI suspects who refused to submit to a blood test without a warrant could not be subject to increased criminal penalties for their refusal. Last month, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania granted an appeal on the narrow issue of whether it is unconstitutional to introduce evidence of a suspect’s refusal to submit to a warrantless blood test at trial as evidence of the suspect’s guilt. While the court’s ruling will only be applicable in Pennsylvania, it is anticipated it will be persuasive for courts in other states ruling on the same issue, and may impact the prosecution of DUI cases throughout the country, including Illinois DUI cases.

In Commonwealth v. Bell, the suspect was detained for inadequately illuminated headlights. On approaching the suspect’s vehicle the officer observed the suspect had glassy and bloodshot eyes, and an odor of alcohol. The suspect subsequently admitted he consumed four beers. The officer then administered a field sobriety test, which the suspect failed, and a Breathalyzer test, which indicated the suspect had a blood alcohol concentration of .127%. The suspect was arrested for DUI and taken to a hospital for testing of his blood alcohol content. After the suspect was read the chemical testing warnings, however, he refused to submit to a blood test.

The suspect was charged with DUI. Prior to his trial he filed a motion to dismiss the charge, arguing he had a constitutional right to refuse to submit to the blood test, and therefore, his refusal should not be admitted into evidence. The suspect’s motion was denied and the prosecution was permitted to introduce evidence of the suspect’s refusal to submit to the blood test. The suspect was subsequently convicted of DUI.

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Impaired drivers are a hazard of the road and cause thousands of fatal collisions each year. While alcohol has been the leading cause of impaired driving for decades, drugs recently surpassed alcohol as the leading cause of impairment in collisions involving an impaired driver. The increase in drug related collisions is likely due to several factors, including the opioid epidemic and legalization of marijuana. While many drivers are impaired due to the use of illicit drugs, drivers who are using legally prescribed medications still face the risk of impairment if they are unfamiliar with the side effects of their medication.

Presently, there is no national standard for testing a driver suspected of DUI for opioids, marijuana or other drugs, and police officers often struggle with recognizing the signs a driver is impaired due to drugs. Under the current law, Illinois DUI suspects can be subjected to testing of their blood, urine or breath if impairment is suspected. The currently available drug tests, which utilize a suspect’s blood and urine, can be costly and take a long time to administer, which may allow for the suspect’s body to eliminate some or all of the drug. As such, police departments have been searching for technology that would allow for quick, easy, and accurate testing of whether a suspect has ingested any prescribed or illicit drugs that would cause impairment, similar to the way a Breathalyzer test detects alcohol.

In the near future, the Police Department of Carol Stream Illinois will begin testing newly developed technology by administering drug tests via a mouth swab, which will allow them to test for opioids, marijuana, and amphetamines. The Carol Stream Police Department appears to be the first police department in Illinois to begin using driver drug tests. The tests not only give a positive result if the suspect has drugs in his or her system, but will provide measurements of the amount of drugs present. The Carol Stream police plan to conduct field tests to determine the accuracy of the mouth swab tests, by asking DUI suspects who submit to a blood test to submit to the mouth swab as well, so the results of both tests can be compared.

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In the ever-changing landscape of Illinois DUI law, it can be unclear what rights and protections are afforded an individual detained on suspicion of DUI. While individuals who refuse to submit to roadside sobriety testing or a Breathalyzer test face an automatic suspension of their drivers’ license, they could avoid being convicted of a DUI due to the lack of evidence of their blood alcohol level.

Recently an Illinois man who had previously been convicted of DUI on five occasions managed to evade a sixth DUI conviction where a jury found the prosecution lacked any concrete evidence he was driving while impaired. T.W., of Algonquin, Illinois, was traveling on Route 31 in Crystal Lake when he was pulled over by the police for speeding. When he approached the car, the police officer that stopped T.W. noticed he had glassy eyes, slurred speech and an odor of alcohol. The officer also observed an open can of beer in the car. T.W., who was also previously convicted four times for driving with a suspended or revoked license, admitted to the officer he was driving with a suspended license, but tried to convince the officer to let him go since he was close to his house.

T.W. refused to submit to a roadside sobriety test or undergo a Breathalyzer test. He was arrested and charged with aggravated driving under the influence, which is a felony. At trial, the arresting officer testified that during the traffic stop T.W. had bloodshot eyes and “mush mouth.” He further testified that T.W. became belligerent while being transported to the police station, yelling at the officer to go find real criminals. T.W. also accused the officer of drinking and driving, but being able to get away with it due to his badge.

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Do you know whether the machine used to administer the breath test in your DUI case was properly certified? Most states, including Illinois, have regulations to ensure the accuracy of breath test machines. If the state relies on results from an improperly certified breath test machine in prosecuting a DUI case against you, it can greatly affect the outcome of your case and may provide grounds for avoiding or overturning a conviction.

Recently, the impact of certification issues was felt by prosecutors throughout Nebraska, when hundreds of DUI cases were affected when it was revealed the machines used for official breath tests were improperly certified. While Nebraska police officers administer preliminary breath tests when they suspect a person is driving under the influence of alcohol, many DUI cases rely on results from official breath test machines, which are usually in jails. State regulations require the official breath test machines to be tested regularly to ensure accuracy.

While defending a DUI charge against a client, a Nebraska criminal defense attorney noticed discrepancies in certifications for the official breath test machines. His discovery prompted an investigation which revealed that the individual responsible for testing and certifying the accuracy of breath test machines throughout the state had not actually tested the machines. Subsequently, all DUI cases relying on results from the official breath tests were affected. In cases that relied solely on the official breath tests, prosecutors lacked any evidence with which to convict the defendants.  Moreover, the lack of certification greatly impacted the prosecution’s ability to prove cases in which it was alleged the defendant had committed an aggravated DUI, which requires proof the defendant had a blood alcohol concentration higher than 0.15 percent in Nebraska.

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After failing field sobriety tests, an Illinois defendant was arrested for DUI. At the police station, an officer read the defendant the required admonitions, and the defendant submitted to a breathalyzer test, showing his blood alcohol content was within the legal limit. Then, the officer requested that the defendant submit to blood or urine testing. The defendant refused, and his driver’s license was suspended. He filed a petition to rescind the suspension, which the trial court denied. He appealed, arguing that his petition should have been granted because the officers (1) lacked a reasonable suspicion to request blood or urine testing and (2) failed to issue him a second warning before requesting blood or urine testing. In a case relevant to all Illinois DUI law, this fall, the Illinois Court of Appeals for the Third District affirmed.

At the hearing, the Shorewood police officer testified that while on patrol at around 1:12 a.m. on April 4, 2016, he observed the defendant commit multiple lane violations. The defendant’s vehicle veered toward his patrol car, crossed over the double yellow line three times, veered into the painted median twice, and veered toward the opposite lane of traffic. After observing the defendant commit “approximately five lane violations,” the officer effectuated a traffic stop.

The officer approached and asked the defendant for his license. In attempting to retrieve his license, the defendant’s hands slipped multiple times, and before handing the license to the officer, the defendant dropped it in his lap. He also dropped his cell phone in his lap. The officer asked the defendant if he had drunk alcohol or was on any medication, and the defendant answered in the negative to both.

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Pursuant to Georgia law, a trial judge may decide whether a procedure in question has reached a stage of scientific certainty. The trial court makes this determination based on evidence presented to it during trial, or based on exhibits, treatises, or cases from other jurisdictions. The trial court ultimately decides based on the evidence available to him rather than by calculating the consensus in the scientific community. This issue came up before the Georgia Supreme Court this fall in the context of a DUI appeal. It could play a role in Illinois DUI proceedings at some time as well.

Following a jury trial, a Georgia woman was convicted of DUI and possession of an open container. She appealed the DUI. The appeals court affirmed, and the Georgia Supreme Court granted certiorari to consider whether the intermediate court erred in holding that the trial court properly admitted the police officer’s testimony correlating her horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test results with her blood alcohol content (BAC). The Georgia Supreme Court reversed her conviction because the testimony lacked a sufficient foundation.

The defendant was pulled over for a broken headlight, and the officer observed that her speech was slurred and she smelled of alcohol. Moreover, she was wearing a wristband from a bar, and there was a plastic cup in the center console that seemingly contained alcohol. The officer administered an HGN test, which revealed four out of six cues suggesting impairment.