Articles Posted in DUI

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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implied consent law deemed anyone driving on Wisconsin roads to consent to a blood draw, and the defendant had not withdrawn his consent.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.

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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.