Articles Posted in DUI Appeal

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It is not uncommon for a person that observes someone driving erratically to call 911 to report reckless driving. If a police officer stops a driver based on an anonymous tip, however, and the driver is subsequently charged with DUI, an issue often arises regarding whether a 911 call in and of itself is grounds for reasonable suspicion that a crime or traffic violation was committed. Despite a United States Supreme Court ruling addressing the issue of whether an anonymous tip is sufficient to warrant a traffic stop, the law largely remains unsettled throughout the country as shown by a recent Ohio case in which the court stated it would hear oral arguments regarding whether a bystander’s warning is adequate cause for effectuating a traffic stop. If you were charged with DUI in Illinois after being stopped due to a 911 call, it is prudent to speak with an assertive Illinois DUI defense attorney to discuss your rights.

Facts of the Ohio Case

Allegedly, the defendant was stopped by a police officer and charged with DUI after a passerby yelled to the officer that the defendant was drunk. In response to the assertion, the officer stopped the defendant and noticed she had signs of intoxication, including slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, and an odor of alcohol. The passerby was never identified. The defendant argued that the stop was not justified, as the officer was only acting on an anonymous tip of uncertain reliability and, therefore, did not have reasonable suspicion that the defendant was committing a crime. The lower courts found in favor of the defendant, noting that the tip lacked any details regarding why the passerby believed the defendant was intoxicated.

Rulings Regarding DUI Arrests Arising Out of Anonymous Tips

In Navarette v. California, the United States Supreme Court ruled that a tip provided by an anonymous source in a 911 call was sufficiently reliable to justify a traffic stop, as it provided details regarding the make and model of the car and details regarding the fact that the car was being driven erratically. The Court further stated that because the call made through the 911 system it was reliable because the calls are recorded, and people may be prosecuted for making false reports.

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One of the tenets of DUI law throughout the country is that the police must have reasonable suspicion that a person operating a vehicle committed a crime or violated a traffic law prior to effectuating a traffic stop. Thus, if an officer lacks sufficient grounds to stop a motorist, any evidence obtained during the stop may be precluded at a subsequent DUI trial. What constitutes sufficient grounds to effectuate a stop varies from State to State, but generally, more than mere suspicion is required, as demonstrated in a recent Pennsylvania case. If you live in Illinois and were stopped without just cause and subsequently charged with a DUI crime, it is in your best interest to speak with a trusted Illinois DUI attorney regarding your potential defenses.

Details of the Pennsylvania Case

Allegedly, an officer stopped the defendant due to a “hunch” that she was doing something illegal. Specifically, the officer, who was dispatched on another call, stopped the defendant because he believed she was trying to evade him because she turned several times. The officer admitted, however, that the defendant did not exhibit any signs of intoxication while driving, did not violate any traffic laws, and there were no defects on her car that would cause suspicion. Following the stop, the defendant was charged with and convicted of DUI. After her conviction, she appealed, arguing that the officer lacked reasonable suspicion to stop her. The appellate court overturned her conviction and remanded the case to the lower court, ordering suppression of the evidence obtained during the stop.

Reasonable Suspicion Under Illinois Law

Under Illinois law, stopping a vehicle is considered a search and seizure. For a stop to be lawful, an Illinois police officer must possess a rational belief that the person stopped has committed or intends to commit a crime. The suspicion must be both articulable and reasonable. In other words, a totality of the facts present at the time of the stop must be sufficient to inspire the belief in a person of ordinary caution that the stop was appropriate, which requires more than a hunch or vague suspicion that criminal activity has occurred or is about to occur. While Illinois does not have a bright-line rule for whether a stop is reasonable, and each case is evaluated on its particular facts, it is likely that in Illinois a stop based on a hunch, with no evidence of illegal activity or a violation of a traffic law, would be deemed improper.

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Many people are unaware of the fact that in most states, you can be charged with a DUI offense for sleeping in your car while intoxicated. Specifically, the law in many states dictates that a person can be charged with DUI if they are in actual physical control of a car while intoxicated, regardless of whether they are driving or intend to drive. Recently, the New Hampshire legislature weighed the benefits and detriments of modifying the DUI statute to permit drivers to sleep in their cars without being charged with DUI. While laws modifying the DUI statute have yet to pass, it is interesting to consider how the proposed modification could affect the laws in other states, such as Illinois, where drivers can be convicted of DUI for sleeping in cars while intoxicated. If you are faced with an Illinois DUI charge after you were arrested while sleeping in your car, you should speak with a knowledgeable DUI defense attorney regarding your case.

Proposed Changes to New Hampshire DUI Laws

It is reported that the New Hampshire Senate passed a bill that would create exceptions to the current DUI law. Specifically, the bill would modify the current law to include certain exclusions for the definition of driving and actual physical control, including people who are sleeping in the car. Advocates of the bill argue that it is necessary to prevent people who are trying to sleep off intoxication before driving home from being harassed by police officers. Those in opposition are less convinced that the modifications are wise, stating that the burden is then placed on the police to determine if a person intends to drive. Opponents argue that a person sleeping in a car can advise the police that he or she does not intend to drive and then drive a short time later, causing a devastating accident. Currently, it appears that the bill will need to be modified before it will be approved by the House.

DUI Charge for Sleeping in a Car

Under Illinois law, a person can be charged with and convicted of DUI for being in actual physical control of the vehicle while impaired due to the ingestion of alcohol. The courts have interpreted physical control to mean that the defendant was in the vehicle and in a position to start the engine and move the vehicle, thereby exercising control over the vehicle. Thus, the courts have held that people sleeping in vehicles in Illinois are guilty of DUI, regardless of whether they intended to drive. The courts generally assess whether a defendant had the keys to the vehicle in his or her possession, whether there was anyone else in the vehicle, and whether the defendant had the ability to drive the vehicle to determine if the defendant was in actual physical control of the vehicle.

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North Carolina recently called attention to a rare but notable condition that can affect DUI cases:  auto-brewery syndrome. Although not many people suffer from the condition, it can cause unwarranted DUI arrests and convictions. While some courts throughout the country have been faced with the auto-brewery defense, it has not been widely established as a justification for a BAC above the legal limit. If you are charged with an Illinois DUI offense, it is prudent to meet with a proficient DUI defense attorney to discuss which defenses you may be able to assert.

Auto-Brewery Syndrome Explained

Reportedly, a North Carolina man was arrested in 2011 for driving while intoxicated. The man argued that he had not been drinking, but to no avail. In 2015, however, the man was diagnosed with auto-brewery syndrome, which is often known as gut fermentation syndrome. In essence, the syndrome causes certain people’s digestive systems to convert carbohydrates into alcohol. Thus, if a person with auto-brewery syndrome eats pasta or bread, the food is fermented in their guts and subsequently turns into alcohol. Accordingly, a person suffering from auto-brewery syndrome may have an elevated BAC level despite not consuming any alcohol.

Doctors who have analyzed auto-brewery syndrome have noted that people with the syndrome suffer the medical and legal effects of alcoholism, including drunk driving arrests and public intoxication. It is believed that the North Carolina man developed the syndrome after he took an antibiotic for an injury. Following his diagnosis, he was treated with anti-fungal medication and probiotics, and he has been symptom-free for about 18 months.

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One of the many rights afforded to criminal defendants is the right to a trial by an impartial jury. Thus, prior to trial defense counsel and the prosecution will question potential jurors to assess whether they may be biased, and will challenge the selection of any impartial jurors. A recent case arising out of Indiana highlighted the importance of vetting jurors and protecting a criminal defendant’s right to a fair trial, as the trial court’s failure to conduct a hearing regarding a juror’s potential bias resulted in the appellate court granting a new trial. If you face DUI charges, it is important to retain a zealous Illinois DUI attorney who will fight on your behalf to protect your right to a fair trial.

Facts of the Indiana Case

Reportedly, the defendant was found unconscious behind the wheel of her vehicle by emergency personnel. She was charged with two counts of DUI, and the case proceeded to trial. The trial court gathered the potential jurors and explained the process of voir dire. After the first six jurors were questioned and selected, one of the jurors submitted a note to the bailiff that disclosed that one of her family members was killed by a drunk driver.

Allegedly, defense counsel requested that the juror be brought back for additional questioning regarding her impartiality, to which the court stated there was nothing they could do. The remaining jurors were selected, and all the jurors were sworn in. Defense counsel moved to have the juror removed. The court denied the motion, and the defendant was found guilty on both charges. The defendant appealed.

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It is axiomatic that the police are not lawfully permitted to institute a traffic stop unless they have reasonable suspicion that a law has been violated. While it is undisputed that reasonable suspicion is the burden of proof that must be met for a traffic stop to be legal, it is not always clear what constitutes reasonable suspicion. Recently, the United States Supreme Court issued a writ of certiorari in a case arising out of Kansas, to address the issue of whether an officer had reasonable suspicion sufficient to effectuate a traffic stop, based on evidence that the owner of the vehicle had a revoked driver’s license. If you are charged with an Illinois DUI arising out of traffic stop that may not have been lawful it is vital to engage a seasoned Illinois DUI attorney to discuss your viable defenses.

Facts Regarding the Kansas Case

Reportedly, in the Kansas case, a police officer who was patrolling ran a registration check on a truck. After running the check, the officer learned that the truck was owned by the defendant and that the defendant’s license was revoked. The officer then effectuated a traffic stop based upon the suspicion that the defendant was driving the truck despite not having a valid license. The defendant, who was driving the truck, was subsequently charged with habitually violating Kansas traffic laws.

It is alleged that the defendant filed a motion to suppress the evidence obtained during the stop, arguing that the officer lacked reasonable suspicion to pull him over and that an officer cannot infer that the owner of a vehicle is the person driving the vehicle. The court granted the defendant’s motion, after which the State appealed. The appellate court reversed the trial court ruling, and the Kansas Supreme Court granted review. Upon review, the Kansas Supreme Court reversed the appellate court ruling. The case is now before the United States Supreme Court, to address the issue of whether it is reasonable for an officer to infer that a vehicle is being driven by its registered owner for purposes of an investigative stop. Continue reading →

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The Maine Supreme Judicial Court recently analyzed a rare defense in a DUI case: the defendant should not be found guilty due to gut fermentation syndrome. The court ultimately rejected the defense based on the defendant’s failure to produce expert testimony, but the court raised concerns regarding the effect such a defense may have on DUI cases in general. If you are currently facing an Illinois DUI charge, it is in your best interest to meet with a skilled DUI defense attorney regarding the potential defenses in your case.

Gut Fermentation Syndrome

Reportedly, the defendant in the Maine case was stopped due to suspicion of DUI. Chemical testing revealed that the defendant’s blood alcohol level was almost four times the legal limit. As such, the defendant was charged with DUI. The defendant’s attorney argued that the defendant should not be found guilty because he suffers from gut fermentation syndrome. Gut fermentation syndrome is a rare disorder in which a person’s body involuntarily ferments alcohol in the digestive syndrome. Gut fermentation syndrome ultimately results in intoxication, even if the person suffering from the syndrome has not consumed alcohol.

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Whether the machine used to administer your breath test was properly certified could make or break the state’s case against you. Illinois regulations set forth several parameters and guidelines the state must comply with to ensure that any machine used to administer a blood or breath test is accurate. If the machine used to administer a breath or blood test was not properly calibrated or tested, any results from the test should arguably be precluded as their accuracy cannot be verified. When it is revealed that the state cannot prove a machine used to administer chemical testing to DUI suspects is accurate, it often affects more than one case and the effects can be far-reaching.

Recently, in State v. Cassidy, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that any results from machines that were not properly calibrated for several years were inadmissible, and ordered the state to notify all affected defendants so they could seek appropriate relief. It is estimated that over 20,0000 convictions will be affected by the Cassidy decision, arguably making it one of the most substantial rulings in favor of DUI defendants in recent times. If you are charged with a DUI you should retain an experienced Illinois DUI to attorney analyze the accuracy of any evidence that may be used against you.

New Jersey Supreme Court Ruling

Reportedly, the police officer in charge of calibrating the breath test machines for several New Jersey counties and ensuring that the machines were accurate failed to take a required step in the process, potentially affecting over 20,0000 breath test results. In State v. Cassidy, the Supreme Court of New Jersey analyzed whether the failure to perform all the tests needed to ensure the accuracy of the machines called into question the reliability of the tests.

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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.

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