Articles Posted in New Law

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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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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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The laws regarding what evidence may be admitted at a DUI criminal trial continue to change throughout the country. In many states, including Illinois, the laws allow the State to introduce evidence of a defendant’s refusal to submit to a breath test as evidence of guilt at trial. Lately, however, there have been challenges to implied consent statutes and the constitutionality of admitting evidence of a refusal to submit to chemical testing throughout the country.

Recently, in Elliot v. Georgia, the Supreme Court of Georgia held that a Georgia statute which permitted the State to introduce evidence of a defendant’s refusal to submit to a breath test was unconstitutional because it violated the defendant’s Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. If you are charged with an Illinois DUI, it is important to retain a seasoned Illinois DUI attorney who will aggressively advocate on your behalf to help you retain your rights.

Facts Regarding the Defendant’s Arrest 

Allegedly, the defendant was stopped due to suspicion of DUI. She was arrested, after which she refused to submit to a breath test. Prior to her trial, the defendant filed a motion to suppress evidence of her refusal to submit to chemical testing, arguing that the introduction of the evidence would violate her right against self-incrimination under the Georgia Constitution. The court denied the defendant’s motion, after which she appealed.

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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