Articles Posted in DUI

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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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The COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect many aspects of life throughout the state and country, including driver’s rights. Many people have questions regarding how to renew their license or registration, upcoming hearings, and the removal of ignition interlock devices, and are faced with multiple conflicting sources of information. Fortunately, however, the Illinois Secretary of State recently addressed questions pertaining to driving rights that many people throughout the state have asked. If you were recently charged with or convicted of a DUI, it is advisable to consult a trusted Illinois DUI defense attorney to discuss how the COVID-19 pandemic may affect your rights.

 COVID-19 Impact on Driver’s Rights in Illinois

Many people’s driver’s licenses, commercial driver’s licenses, and vehicle registration stickers either expired before or during the COVID-19 pandemic or will expire in the near future. The Secretary of State’s office is closed due to the pandemic, however. Fortunately, the Governor extended licenses and registrations for at least 90 days after the end of the disaster. Certain people are eligible to renew their driver’s licenses online as well.

Drivers who wish to obtain a copy of their driving abstract or record during the pandemic can visit www.cyberdriveillinois.com to purchase a copy. Once payment is made, the record or abstract will be available to print. Additionally, the person will receive an email with a receipt of the transaction that will allow the person to print his or her record for five days after the purchase.

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As marijuana use becomes increasingly legal throughout the country, legislatures and courts are slowly establishing laws, further defining and limiting its use. For example, an issue that keeps arising is whether the smell of marijuana emanating from a car provides probable cause for the police to believe the driver of the car is operating the vehicle while intoxicated. This issue was recently addressed by a California court that ultimately found that the smell of marijuana alone was insufficient to effectuate a stop. Conversely, the issue of whether the smell of marijuana is adequate grounds to stop a driver is before the Illinois Supreme Court, with a ruling likely to be issued in the near future. If you are faced with marijuana-related DUI charges, it is in your best interest to consult a seasoned Illinois DUI defense attorney to discuss your potential defenses.

The California Ruling

It is reported that a California appellate court recently issued a ruling stating that the smell of marijuana in a vehicle is not sufficient grounds for the police to conduct a search of the entire vehicle. In that case, the police were on DUI patrol when a car without a front license plate drove by. The police stopped the car, and after approaching the vehicle, smelled marijuana. The police questioned the driver who admitted to having marijuana in his console. The police then searched the entire vehicle and found a loaded gun under the driver’s seat. The defendant was charged with possession of an illegal weapon. During the trial, the search of the defendant’s vehicle was deemed legal, but on appeal, that ruling was overturned. The court stated that marijuana use is legal, and the only evidence the police relied on as grounds to search the car was the smell of marijuana, which the court stated was not evidence of a crime.

Illinois’s Standpoint on the Issue

The issue of whether the smell of marijuana is adequate to provide a police officer probable cause to stop a motorist and search his or her vehicle was recently argued before the Illinois Supreme Court, but a ruling has not yet been issued. That case arose under similar circumstances as the California case, in that the officer stopped the defendant because he smelled an odor of marijuana coming from the defendant’s car. The defendant’s car was searched, and during the search, the police found crack cocaine, which led to the defendant being charged with drug crimes. While the stop occurred prior to the legalization of marijuana in Illinois, the argument before the Illinois Supreme Court was held after marijuana use was legalized.

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All citizens are subject to the same criminal laws, including police officers. That does not necessarily mean that all crimes are investigated and prosecuted equally, however. This was demonstrated recently in Colorado, where a police officer who was found unconscious and intoxicated in his police car was not prosecuted for DUI. Generally, however, most people must comply with the law and can be charged with DUI for operating a vehicle while intoxicated. If you are faced with charges of a DUI offense in Illinois, it is prudent to meet with a seasoned Illinois DUI attorney to discuss your potential defenses.

Colorado Police Officer Found Intoxicated in his Patrol Car

It is reported that police officers encountered one of their own intoxicated and unconscious in a patrol car, while armed and in uniform, on a street in Aurora, Colorado. Footage from the incident indicates the officers that responded to the scene believed the officer was intoxicated. None of the officers advised EMS that they smelled alcohol, however, and a DUI specialist who arrived at the scene was told not to conduct an investigation.

Allegedly, a blood draw taken at the hospital indicated the officer’s BAC was five times the legal limit. The District Attorney advised he could not use it to prosecute the officer, however, due to medical privacy laws, and restrictions regarding information in internal affairs reports. Thus, the District Attorney did not have sufficient evidence to charge the officer, which he admitted was a source of frustration, stating that if anyone else had been in the car, he or she would have been treated differently.

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In the majority of DUI investigations, the investigating officer will administer a breath test to the DUI suspect via a breathalyzer machine. Thus, the prosecution’s sole or primary evidence in many DUI cases are the results of a breath test. Accordingly, the results must be accurate. Recently, however, it came to light that the breathalyzer machines used by Michigan police may be compromised, affecting hundreds of cases. Further, there are questions regarding it represents a conflict of interest for the police to be conducting the probe into the matter. While the outcome of the Michigan investigation remains to be seen, it is prudent for anyone charged with DUI in Illinois following a breath test to speak with a trusted Illinois DUI attorney to discuss what defenses may be available.

Michigan Breathalyzer Probe

Reportedly, the Michigan State Police recently stopped using over two hundred breathalyzer machines, due to the fact that the contractor that calibrates the machines is accused of fraud. Thus, the State Police began conducting a criminal investigation into the contractor and noted issues with the performance of many breathalyzer machines. As a result, many police agencies currently have to use blood tests rather than breath tests in the investigation of DUIs, which means both greater resources and time have to be devoted to DUI arrests.

The issue, which may stem back to 2018, is not only draining the resources of police throughout the state, it has also called into question whether the police should be conducting the investigation into one of their own contractors. Specifically, many criminal defense attorneys believe an independent investigation is necessary to determine the scope of the issue, and to protect the rights of criminal defendants whose cases may be affected by the results of the investigation. Others have stated that allowing the police to conduct the investigation essentially allows them to determine whether the contractor the police hired violated the law.

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Although citizens in every state in the nation are charged with DUI offenses, some states experience a higher rate of DUI crimes than others. Recently, the United States Drug Test Centers conducted research regarding DUI trends throughout the country in the last several years and set forth a report delineating, in part, which states had the highest rate of DUI arrests. While Illinois had one of the lowest rates of DUI arrests, Illinois residents charged with DUI offenses should nonetheless be vigilant in protecting their rights and should consult a seasoned Illinois DUI attorney to assist them with asserting a strong defense.

Recent Statistics Regarding DUI Arrests Throughout the Country

Allegedly, according to the report, there were over one million DUI arrests throughout the country in 2018, which represented a decline from the number of arrests in 2014 but a slight increase from 2017. The report also indicated that men are three times more likely than women to be arrested for DUI, with men making up close to seventy-five percent of total DUI arrests. Additionally, when the race of the person arrested was indicated, white people were far more likely to be arrested for DUI than any other race, making up over eighty percent of total DUI arrests.

The total number of DUI arrests varied greatly from state to state, with states in the Western region of the country experiencing higher rates than other parts of the country. A total of twenty-eight states have greater DUI arrest rates than the national average, while Illinois and Delaware have DUI rates lower than the national average. While DUI rates have increased in fourteen states, overall, the population-adjusted rates of DUI have fallen throughout the country. In Illinois, specifically, DUI arrest rates decreased over thirty percent from 2009 to 2018. From 2014 to 2018 alone, DUI arrest rates in Illinois decreased by approximately twenty-two percent.

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In some instances, when a person is convicted of a DUI offense, the person is required to install an ignition interlock device in his or her vehicle. Essentially, the device prevents people from driving while intoxicated by requiring them to submit to a breath test prior to driving. While ignition interlock devices are not widely employed, recent federal legislation seeks to make them mandatory in all new vehicles, regardless of whether the driver has ever been convicted of a DUI offense. Proponents of the bill fail to consider the potentially detrimental repercussions of requiring all drivers to install ignition interlock devices in their cars, however, including the harm that can be caused by inaccurate readings. If you are charged with an Illinois DUI offense following a breathalyzer test, it is prudent to speak with a trusted DUI defense attorney to discuss your potential defenses.

The Ride Act

The Reduce Impaired Driving for Everyone Act of 2019, commonly referred to as the Ride Act seeks to make it mandatory for all new cars to come with alcohol detection systems. Specifically, the law would require any car manufactured in 2024 and beyond to have a factory-installed alcohol detection device. Prior to installation, however, the National Highway Safety Administration would work with manufacturers to develop safe and effective technology. Additionally, the bill provides for funding for researching and developing the technology, which will be tested on vehicles prior to becoming a requirement for consumers.

Although the precise technology proposed by the Ride Act is unclear, it is likely to be similar to the ignition interlock devices installed in cars of people convicted of certain DUI crimes. Those devices require a driver to submit to a breathalyzer test prior to starting the vehicle, and at random intervals when the driver is operating the vehicle, which are referred to as rolling tests. If any of the tests indicate the driver is over the legal limit, the car will cease to operate.

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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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While the use of marijuana for recreational purposes is legal in a handful of states, many of their conservative neighboring states are not inclined to legalize marijuana. Additionally, many states that neighbor states where marijuana use is legal have expressed concerns regarding how the legalization of marijuana use outside of their jurisdiction could affect the crime and accident rates within their state. For example, Oklahoma and Nebraska brought a suit against Colorado, alleging that the dangerous repercussions of legalizing marijuana would leak into their state. Similarly, Idaho voiced displeasure with Washington’s recent legalization of marijuana, implying it would cause the rate of criminal activity and collisions to increase in Idaho.

A recent study suggests, however, that the legalization of marijuana use in Washington actually led to a decrease in alcohol-related car accident rates in Idaho. Although Illinois recently passed laws legalizing the use of marijuana that will become effective in 2020, the use of marijuana is not legal in any of the states neighboring Illinois. Thus, Illinois’s neighbors may experience a decrease in DUI related crashes as well. If you reside in Illinois and are faced with DUI charges, it is advisable to speak with a seasoned Illinois DUI lawyer regarding your case.

Impact of Legalization of Marijuana in Washington on Idaho DUI Crashes

It is reported that an economics professor at Utah State University analyzed data regarding car crashes in Idaho for the four years before and after the legalization of marijuana in Washington, as well as data regarding internet searches in Idaho for places to buy marijuana in Washington, and data pertaining to police search and seizures of people who were caught with marijuana in Idaho. Ultimately, the professor’s study indicated that the rate of alcohol-related collisions in Idaho decreased by 18% overall after the legalization of marijuana in Washington. Additionally, the decrease in accidents was greater in counties that bordered Washington than in those that were farther away. Thus, it was reported that the study suggests that as people have greater access to marijuana, there are fewer alcohol-related accidents.

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While the use of marijuana is legal in many states throughout the nation, it has not been permitted for long, and the effects of the legalization of marijuana have only recently begun to be apparent. For example, Washington reporters recently assessed the consequences of the legalization of marijuana and laws regulating the use of marijuana, noting that there are pitfalls to prosecuting marijuana DUIs, and that the legalization may not have had the impact on crime rates that was anticipated. Illinois recently decriminalized the use of marijuana, though the law will not go into effect until 2020, and the results of decriminalization are likely to be the same as those experienced in Washington.  If you live in Illinois and were recently charged with a marijuana-related DUI, it is prudent to meet with a skillful Illinois DUI attorney to discuss your case.

Crime Following Washington’s Legalization of the Use of Marijuana

It is reported that Washington allows a person to be charged with a marijuana-related DUI if the person is impaired or has a whole blood THC level of 5 nanograms or higher. It appears that many prosecutors and law enforcement officers are dismayed by Washington’s current 5 nanogram limit, stating that it places pressure on them to produce test results at a trial arising out of a marijuana DUI charge, but blood tests are not administered in each case. Further, many people do not want evidence of marijuana-related impairment used as a basis for DUI, but would rather stick to the defined blood level. Marijuana is not processed the same way as alcohol, however, so testing methods that work for alcohol may not work as well for marijuana. Thus, entities in Washington continue to pursue more accurate tests.

The article also noted that not accounting for a decrease in marijuana-related arrests, crime rates in Washington did not change after marijuana was legalized. Further, there was no reduction in black market sales of marijuana. As such, studies regarding the effect of the legalization of marijuana on criminal activity were being pursued as well.

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