Articles Posted in DUI

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Although most police officers are thoroughly trained in the signs of intoxication, their actions do not always comport with their training. For example, a woman in Phoenix, Arizona, was recently detained and charged with DUI despite the fact there was no evidence that she was intoxicated. The woman subsequently filed a complaint against the police department, shedding light on the concerning issue of inappropriate arrests. If you were charged with a DUI despite a lack of evidence that you were intoxicated while operating a vehicle, you should meet with a skillful Illinois DUI attorney regarding your case.

Factual Background of the Phoenix Arrest

It is reported that the Phoenix police pulled over a 29-year-old woman who was driving late at night with her boyfriend. The woman, who pulled over into a parking lot of a business, described the officer as having an intimidating attitude. The woman received a ticket for an unsafe lane change, a red light violation, and an improper turn. The officer reportedly observed an odor of alcohol coming from the car and therefore attempted to conduct a field sobriety test. The woman advised the officer that she had a severe fear of men and of the police and requested that a female officer come to the scene. The officer noted the woman’s anxiety in his report repeatedly. A female officer was not dispatched, however, but more male officers arrived.

It is alleged that the woman admitted to consuming sake four hours prior to being stopped, and a breathalyzer test indicated her blood-alcohol level was .02. Under Phoenix law, an officer cannot arrest a person with a blood-alcohol level of less than .05 unless it is suspected the person is under the influence of drugs. Thus, the officer then began questioning the woman regarding whether she consumed drugs, which she denied. The woman was ultimately arrested and charged with DUI for drugs and alcohol. The charges against her were dismissed two months later, and her case was closed, but the woman had to spend hundreds of dollars defending the claim, and the DUI arrest remains on her record. To help prevent similar occurrences in the future, the woman filed a complaint against the Phoenix police department and asked that the police receive more training in crisis prevention.

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A recent DUI case arising out of Florida illustrates how a defendant can avoid a DUI conviction if the State fails to follow proper procedures for gathering and maintaining evidence. In that case, the defendant was only convicted of a misdemeanor DUI charge despite the prosecution’s wish to charge her with DUI manslaughter, due to errors in the police investigation. If you reside in Illinois and are faced with DUI charges it is prudent to meet with a knowledgeable Illinois DUI attorney to discuss your case.

Facts and Procedure of the Florida Case

Reportedly, a husband and wife went out to celebrate the husband’s birthday, leaving their daughter with a babysitter. They used a ride-sharing app to get to their destination but accepted a ride from the defendant to travel back home. The defendant failed to yield to a car traveling towards her before attempting to make a left-turn and her car was t-boned. The accident happened at 3:00 am. The defendant’s blood, which was drawn approximately three hours after the crash, was .14. The legal limit in Florida is .08.

It is alleged that the defendant was not charged with any serious crimes due to the lack of evidence. Specifically, there were no photographs taken of the intersection where the accident occurred, and the road was improperly marked during the investigation. Additionally, the photographs taken at the scene were not reviewed prior to the close of the investigation, so the deficiencies were not identified until later. The police also lacked sufficient evidence to establish the defendant’s speed at the time of the accident. Based on the lack of evidence of a more serious crime, the defendant was merely charged with a DUI misdemeanor. She was convicted and sentenced to 30 days imprisonment to be served on weekends.

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It is a well-known fact that people taken into custody by the police must be advised of their right against self-incrimination via Miranda warnings. In some instances, however, an issue arises as to what constitutes a person being taken into police custody for purposes of evaluating whether incriminating statements should be precluded. Recently, two courts tasked with addressing this issue came to different conclusions, highlighting the inconsistencies of the rulings throughout the nation. If you live in Illinois and are charged with a DUI, it is essential to retain an assertive Illinois DUI attorney to aid you in protecting your rights.

Nevada Decision Regarding Incriminating Statements

Reportedly, in a recent Nevada appellate court case, the court addressed whether a defendant’s incriminating statements should be admissible at trial. In that case, the defendant was stopped by police while he was at a convenience store because he looked like someone the police were trying to find. He was removed from the store and questioned by the police, during which he admitted to drinking and driving. He was then arrested for DUI. He filed a motion to suppress his statements, which the trial court granted. The State appealed.

On appeal, it was noted that the defendant was not advised that he was not under arrest, and the court found that he was in custody for practical purposes. Thus, he should have been read his Miranda rights. As such, the court affirmed the trial court ruling.

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As states throughout the country continue to decriminalize the use of marijuana, the laws regarding the operation of vehicles after ingesting marijuana continue to change as well. The changes in the law can drastically affect how marijuana-related DUI charges are prosecuted, as shown in a recent case arising out of an Illinois Appellate Court. If you are a resident of Illinois and are charged with a DUI arising out of your use of marijuana it is crucial to engage a proficient Illinois DUI attorney with experience handling marijuana-related DUI charges to help you set forth a defense.

Facts of the Underlying Case

Reportedly, the defendant was involved in a single-vehicle accident in which his car left the road, and his passenger was ejected from the vehicle. The passenger later died from his injuries. The defendant, who allegedly had marijuana in his system at the time of the accident, was charged with aggravated driving under the influence. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to twelve years in prison. He subsequently appealed, arguing that the DUI statute was unconstitutional, and his sentence was unjust. On appeal, the court affirmed.

At the time of the defendant’s conviction, the DUI statute prohibited a person from driving if he or she had any marijuana in his or her blood. Under the statute, any amount of marijuana use was criminal, and the State only had to prove that the defendant used marijuana prior to driving to obtain a conviction. The statute was later amended to remove marijuana-related offense, and a new provision was added that established the elements of marijuana-related DUI crimes.

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Recently, the Supreme Court of the United States issued a ruling on a pressing issue in DUI cases: whether the Fourth Amendment bars states from conducting a blood draw on an unconscious person suspected of drunk driving. Prior to the decision, the states were divided as to whether drawing and testing the blood of an unconscious defendant was constitutional, with close to thirty states permitting such testing. In light of the Court’s recent decision, it is anticipated that the rights of DUI suspects who have been subjected to warrantless blood draws will be diminished. If you are charged with a DUI, you should meet with a trusted DUI attorney to discuss your options for preserving your rights.

Facts of the Underlying Case

It is alleged that the defendant in the underlying case was found covered in sand and slurring his words on a beach in Wisconsin. The police suspected the defendant of driving while intoxicated and asked him to submit to a preliminary breath test. The results of the test showed the defendant’s BAC was more than three times over the legal limit. As such, the police arrested the defendant and took him to the hospital so they could conduct a legal blood draw. Prior to arriving at the hospital, however, the defendant passed out. The blood test was conducted regardless, and the results of the test showed that the defendant’s BAC was .22. The defendant was charged with and convicted of a DUI.

It is reported that the defendant appealed, arguing that the blood draw violated his Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure. In response, the State argued that Wisconsin’s implied consent law deemed anyone driving on Wisconsin roads to consent to a blood draw, and the defendant had not withdrawn his consent. The case ultimately proceeded to the United States Supreme Court, on the issue of whether states are permitted to statutorily state that drivers impliedly consent to blood alcohol tests. In issuing its ruling, however, the Court did not answer the precise question with which it was presented. Rather, the court merely stated that when a driver is unconscious and exigent-circumstances are present, the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution does not generally bar States from conducting a blood draw without a warrant.

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With marijuana use becoming increasingly legal, laws have been enacted throughout the country that allows drivers to be prosecuted for DUI based on the levels of THC in their blood. A recent study illustrated that THC levels may not accurately reflect a driver’s level of impairment, however, and deemed the use of THC levels as the standard of impairment as irrational. Illinois is one of many states that imposes a legal limit on a driver’s blood THC levels and allows for the presumption that a driver with a blood THC level over the legal limit is driving under the influence. If you are an Illinois resident charged with a DUI based on your blood THC level, it is in your best interest to engage a knowledgeable Illinois DUI attorney to help you protect your rights.

Study Regarding THC Levels in Drivers’ Blood

The study, which was conducted in Canada, reported that there was no statistically significant relationship between a blood test that was positive for THC and driving behavior that contributed to collisions. The researchers analyzed over 3,000 accidents that resulted in injuries, in which the drivers were tested for the use of marijuana and alcohol. The researchers found that drivers who had a blood THC level of less than 5 nanograms did not pose an increased risk of causing crashes.

While drivers with a blood THC level of 5 nanograms or higher were slightly more likely to be deemed responsible for accidents, the researchers did not find the increase in the likelihood of accidents among such drivers to be statistically significant. By contrast, drivers under the influence of alcohol or sedatives were six times more likely to be deemed responsible for accidents. Ultimately, the study found that marijuana’s impact on driving ability is less significant than alcohol’s, and a driver can test positive for THC when they are not impaired. The study concluded, therefore, that it is irrational to assume a driver that tests positive for THC is impaired.

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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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Although the use of marijuana is legal in many states, drivers are still prohibited from operating a vehicle while impaired, which includes impairment due to marijuana. States across the country have struggled with the issue of how to test whether a person is under the influence of marijuana, with some states, including Illinois, choosing to employ blood tests. Recently, Michigan’s Impaired Driving Commission has recommended that the state bypass blood tests to prove a person is under the influence of marijuana, and choose to employ field sobriety tests instead. If you live in Illinois and were recently charged with a marijuana-related DUI charge it is vital to retain a skilled Illinois DUI attorney to assist you in planning your defense.

Michigan’s Impaired Driving Commission’s Findings

Following a two-year review, the State Impaired Driving Commission recommended that the state legislature not set a limit for how much THC a driver is permitted to have in his or her blood. Rather, the Commission recommended that police investing a driver for suspected intoxication due to marijuana employ filed sobriety tests to assess the person’s fitness to operate a motor vehicle. This recommendation was based on the fact that THC blood levels do not correlate to a person’s level of intoxication. THC, unlike alcohol, is fat soluble and stays in a person’s body well after a person is no longer affected by the marijuana he or she ingested. Further, the Commission found that THC limits set in other states are wholly arbitrary and are not based on sound evidence. Additionally, the State has been able to convict people of DUIs absent any chemical testing. While Michigan currently has a zero-tolerance level for any THC in a driver’s blood it will be interesting to see if the law changes based on the Commission’s recommendations.

Illinois Marijuana Law

Currently, under Illinois law, a person is not permitted to drive while under the influence of any drug, including marijuana, that affects the person to the point where he is or she is incapable of driving safely. Thus, a person can be charged with DUI for the use of marijuana. Illinois has set a threshold of 5 nanograms of THC in whole blood for the level at which it will be presumed a driver was under the influence of marijuana. For cases where the defendant’s blood concentration of THC is less than 5 nanograms, the person’s THC blood level can be considered along with other competent evidence to determine if the person was under the influence of marijuana. While the Michigan Impaired Driving Commission’s recent findings will not affect Illinois law, they may be persuasive as to whether Illinois and other states should continue to employ THC blood levels in the prosecution of DUIs.
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In response to the legalization of marijuana in states throughout the country, some states have considered enacting laws restricting the use or possession of marijuana while in a vehicle, similar to the laws restricting the use of alcohol. For example, the Massachusetts Special Commission on Operating Under the Influence and Impaired Driving (the Commission) has recommended that the legislature enact laws to prohibit open containers of marijuana in vehicles. While currently, Illinois’ open container law only applies to open containers of alcohol, the Commission’s recommendations could be a sign of changes to come throughout the country. If you are charged with a DUI or violation of Illinois’ open container law, you should speak with an experienced Illinois DUI attorney as soon as possible to discuss the facts of your case.

The Commission’s Findings

Reportedly, the Commission recommended passing a law prohibiting drivers from traveling with open containers of marijuana, making it a civil infraction. The Commission further recommended that a person found to be in violation of the law face a $500.00 fine. The Commission also recommended that a person who refused to submit to a roadside drug test suffer a six-month license suspension, similar to the penalty for refusing to submit to a breath test. Further, the Commission recommended instituting electronic warrants to allow police officers to obtain blood tests in an expedient manner.

Notably, the Commission voted on extending the open container law to marijuana, despite valid concerns regarding how the law would be implemented. One of the main concerns was the lack of clarity as to how the law would apply to a bag of marijuana or edible forms of cannabis. The Commission also set forth recommendations regarding education as to the intoxicating effects of marijuana. Specifically, it was recommended that police officers undergo more extensive training regarding signs of drug impairment. It also recommended launching a public awareness campaign regarding the dangers of driving while under the influence of marijuana.

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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.