Articles Posted in DUI

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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.

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The grounds for detaining and arresting a driver suspected of driving under the influence vary from state to state. Utah, which arguably has the strictest DUI laws in the country, permits an officer to detain a driver due to reasonable suspicion of a DUI. Utah drivers can also be charged with a DUI without conclusive results from chemical testing, and drivers may have no recourse for inaccurate charges.

For example, the Utah courts recently held that a woman who was charged with a DUI prior to the results of her blood alcohol test could not recover on a claim against the officer who arrested her, on the grounds the officer had reasonable suspicion she was intoxicated. If you are charged with a DUI, you should meet with an Illinois DUI attorney to analyze whether your arrest and subsequent charge comply with the standards imposed by Illinois law.

Utah Standard Regarding Detention for DUI

Allegedly, the defendant was driving when she was stopped by police due to an expired license plate. She advised the police officer that her new plate was in the trunk of her car, which the officer verified. The officer suspected the defendant was intoxicated, however, in spite of the fact that she was not stumbling or slurring her speech and her eyes were not glassy or bloodshot. The defendant admitted she had one beer with lunch, and submitted to field sobriety tests, which she failed. The defendant argued, however, that she was given unclear instructions on how to perform the test. She was subsequently arrested and taken to the county jail to provide a blood sample. She was charged with a DUI prior to the results of the blood test. The blood test ultimately revealed her blood alcohol level to be .01%, which was well below the legal limit in Utah of .05%.

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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.