People typically know that they can be charged with DUI crimes for driving while intoxicated, but they are often surprised to learn that they may face charges for simply sitting in their cars while under the influence of alcohol. While the law in most states allows for such charges, a woman in New Mexico recently filed a civil lawsuit alleging that that police violated her rights when they entered her garage and charged her with a DUI crime when she was simply sitting in a parked car. The court ultimately agreed with the defendant and threw out the criminal charges against her, but it remains to be seen whether her civil suit will be successful. Regardless of the outcome, it raises important concerns regarding the privacy rights of DUI defendants in Illinois and throughout the country. If you are accused of a DUI crime, it is smart to contact an Illinois DUI defense attorney to determine your rights.
The Defendant’s Criminal and Civil Cases
It is alleged that police in Rio Rancho, New Mexico received a call from a woman who stated that she got into a verbal altercation with the defendant at a gas station. The woman advised the police that the defendant smelled of alcohol and provided the police with the defendant’s license plate number. The police then tracked down the defendant at her residence. When they arrived, they entered her garage, where she was sitting in her parked car.
Reportedly, the defendant submitted to numerous field sobriety tests, which she failed, and she was arrested and charged with DWI and other crimes. The court ultimately dismissed the charges against her, finding that the entry into her garage was unlawful. She subsequently filed a civil lawsuit against the police, seeking damages for the violation of her privacy rights.
DUI Crimes Under Illinois Law
In Illinois, as in many states, a person can be charged with a DUI offense even if they are not observed driving a vehicle while intoxicated. Specifically, the Illinois DUI law provides that people who are in physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or higher are guilty of DUI. The Illinois courts have found people who are sleeping or sitting in parked cars to be in physical control of their vehicles as defined by the DUI law.
While people do not have to be observed driving a car while intoxicated to be charged with DUI crimes, the police must nonetheless have just caused for detaining them. In other words, the police must have a reasonable suspicion that the defendant is engaged in criminal activity, and if they stop a person despite the lack of reasonable suspicion, the stop, and subsequent search may be unlawful.
Meet with a Trusted Illinois DUI Defense Attorney
While it is unclear whether an unlawful stop justifies the imposition of penalties on the police, it may be grounds for dismissing DUI charges that arose out of evidence obtained during the stop. If you are charged with a DUI offense, it is in your best interest to speak to an attorney about your potential defenses. Theodore J. Harvatin, of the Harvatin Law Offices, PC, is a trusted Illinois DUI defense lawyer who can aid you in the pursuit of a just outcome. You can reach Mr. Harvatin by calling 217.525.0520 or using the form online to set up a meeting.