Articles Posted in New Law

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One of the many protections afforded individuals by the United States Constitution is the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure without a search warrant. There are certain exceptions to the shield provided by the Fourth Amendment, one of which is the automobile exception. Under the automobile exception, a police officer may search an automobile without a warrant as long as he or she has probable cause to believe there is evidence or contraband in the vehicle. While the automobile exception limits the protections provided by the Fourth Amendment, it is important to know the scope of authority police officers are afforded by the exception. If the automobile exception was unjustly applied to obtain evidence in your Illinois DUI case, you may be able to prevent the evidence from being used against you.Legal News Gavel

Recently, in Collins v. Virginia, the United States Supreme Court held that the automobile exception to the Fourth Amendment does not permit a warrantless entry of the curtilage of a home, and in doing so specifically declined to extend the exception to allow searches outside of the automobile itself. In Collins, police believed the suspect was in possession of a stolen motorcycle after an officer observed the motorcycle under a tarp in the suspect’s driveway. The officer then proceeded to walk up the driveway, uncover the motorcycle, and run the license plate number to confirm it was stolen. When the suspect returned to his home, he was arrested. During his trial, the suspect filed a motion to suppress the evidence, arguing that, in performing the search without a warrant, the officer trespassed on the curtilage of the suspect’s house. The trial court denied the suspect’s motion and he was convicted of receiving stolen property. On appeal, the Virginia Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court ruling, holding exigent circumstances justified the officer entering the property and uncovering the motorcycle to view the license plate. On further appeal, the State Supreme Court affirmed the trial court ruling on different grounds, holding that the officer was permitted to conduct the warrantless search by the automobile exception.

The case was then appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States. In ruling on the case, the Court noted that officers may search an automobile without a warrant as long as they have probable cause, but it declined to expand the scope of the automobile exception. The Court explained curtilage, which is defined as the area surrounding and associated with a house, is thought of as part of the house for purposes of the Fourth Amendment, and, as such, a search of the curtilage constitutes a Fourth Amendment search and is unreasonable without a warrant. The Court rejected Virginia’s argument that the automobile exception permitted a warrantless search of an automobile at any time, in any place, stating that to rule otherwise would defeat the Fourth Amendment protection that extends to a house and its curtilage, ultimately creating a much broader exception than was intended. The Court held that, contrary to the argument set forth by Virginia, the automobile exception does not afford officers the right to search any space outside of the automobile. The Court further noted that allowing warrantless searches of vehicles parked in the curtilage violated both the sanctity of the curtilage and the Fourth Amendment interest in the vehicle. Lastly, the Court declined to adopt Virginia’s reasoning that the automobile exception should allow warrantless searches of the curtilage only, and not the house associated with the curtilage, noting this would lead to both confusion and diminished protection for individuals who could not afford built-in garages.

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This year, Utah legislators lowered the state’s DUI threshold to the nation’s most severe. The measure (HB155), which was sponsored by Republican Representative Norman K. Thurston, lowered Utah’s blood-alcohol limit from .08 to .05 in an attempt to make roads safer. Governor Gary Herbert signed the law in March, and it is scheduled to take effect on December 30, 2018.

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A new report from Utah’s Department of Public Safety (DPS), however, demonstrates that drunk driving only contributed to roughly 13% of Utah’s 281 traffic-related fatalities last year. The highway safety office of the DPS is dedicated to developing, promoting, and coordinating traffic safety initiatives designed to reduce traffic accidents.

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In West Virginia, people often drive their ATVs on their own property after drinking a few beers. The West Virginia Supreme Court, however, struck down this common cultural practice in a decision last month.

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In a 4-1 opinion, the state high court ruled that the DMV can lawfully revoke driving privileges for drivers caught driving under the influence on private, as well as public, roads. The case came up to the state high court from the Monroe County Circuit Court.

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At the close of Tennessee’s 59th special legislative session last month, the state legislature approved changes to a DUI law that did not comply with federal law. The federal government said the statute, unaltered, could cost Tennessee $60 million in federal funding.

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The Tennessee law was out of compliance with federal law because the legislature had eliminated a provision that rendered the allowable BAC as .08. The bill’s purpose was to add stiffer penalties for underage drinkers. The federal government found that the law did not comply with the federal zero tolerance law, which requires states to set the allowable BAC at .02 for drivers under 21. The federal government reacted stringently, giving Tennessee until October 1 to align the state’s BAC limit for 18-year-olds to 21-year-olds with the federal law.

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On July 29, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed Senate Bill 2228, which decriminalizes minor marijuana possession. The new law–filed by Senator Heather Steans and sponsored by Representative Kelly Cassidy–renders possessing up to 10 grams of marijuana a civil, rather than criminal, offense. The civil citation is punishable by a fine of between $100 and $200.

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More than 100 local Illinois governments–including Chicago–have decriminalized possession of small quantities of marijuana. SB 2228, however, will extend decriminalization across the entire state. SB 2228 marks Illinois’ progress toward criminal justice reform. Last year, the Republican governor vetoed a bill that sought to decriminalize slightly larger amounts.

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