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Illinois Appeals Court Upholds Defendant’s Aggravated DUI But Vacates Public Defender Fee

The Illinois Court of Appeals recently affirmed a defendant’s conviction for aggravated DUI despite his argument that the trial court erroneously allowed the officer to testify as to the admonitions given before he refused a chemical test. However, the appeals court vacated the lower court’s order requiring the defendant to pay a $450 public defender fee.

Following a jury trial, defendant Weston Romanowski was convicted of aggravated DUI. On appeal, Romanowski contended that his conviction should be reversed because the circuit court erroneously permitted the arresting officer to testify that he was told of the potential civil penalties if he refused to submit to a blood-alcohol test. Romanowski further contended that the circuit court’s order requiring him to pay a public defender fee in the amount of $450 should be vacated, since no hearing was held concerning his ability to pay such a fee.

Under Illinois law, any individual who “drives or is in actual physical control of a motor vehicle upon the public highways of this State shall be deemed to have given consent  to a chemical test or tests of blood, breath, or urine for the purpose of determining the content of alcohol in the person’s blood” upon their arrest for driving while under the influence. A driver asked to submit to such a test must be warned by the law enforcement officer that a refusal to be tested will result in a 12-month suspension for a first offender or a three-year suspension for a repeat offender.

Romanowski contended that the circuit court erred in admitting the arresting officer’s testimony regarding the contents of the warning to motorists because such testimony is not specifically made admissible by section 11-501.2(c)(1) and that the statute should be interpreted to prohibit the admission of such evidence in this case.

Relying in part on precedent, the appeals court held that the contents of the warning to motorists are relevant circumstantial evidence of a defendant’s consciousness of his own guilt. By refusing to be tested, Mr. Romanowski guaranteed that he would not be able to obtain a driver’s license for at least a year, twice as long as if he submitted to testing and returned a positive result. Therefore, the probative value of Romanowski’s refusal to be subjected to a blood-alcohol test was most fully recognized when put in the context of the civil penalties Mr. Romanowski knowingly accepted as a consequence of his decision.

In rejecting Romanowski’s argument, the court finally emphasized its faith that the jury would have come out the same way, regardless of the officer’s testimony regarding the admonitions. Specifically, the officer testified that the defendant did not have a valid driver’s license, was found in his running car smelling of alcohol with empty beer cans, and failed multiple sobriety tests.

Romanowski next argued that the $450 fee the circuit court ordered him to pay as reimbursement for the services of his public defender should be vacated because (1) he was not provided with notice of a hearing, (2) the amount of attorney fees was not properly established, and (3) no effort was made to determine his ability to pay. The court agreed with Romanowski that since no inquiry into his ability to pay was made within the statutory time period, the lower court erred. Accordingly, the appeals court vacated the public defender fee and declined the State’s invitation to remand this matter for a belated hearing.

If you have been charged with a DUI offense in Illinois, it is crucial to speak to an experienced Illinois DUI lawyer as soon as possible. Harvatin Law Offices, PC provides knowledgeable representation to people in Springfield and throughout Illinois. We have considerable experience defending individuals charged with DUI offenses and representing drivers with revoked licenses before the Illinois Secretary of State. To learn more, and to set up a free initial consultation, contact us online or call us at 217.525.0520.

More Blog Posts:

Illinois Appeals Court Rejects DUI Defendant’s Claims of Ineffective Assistance as Matters of Trial Strategy, Illinois DUI Lawyer Blawg, August 1, 2016.

Supreme Court Holds Fourth Amendment Permits Warrantless Breath Tests, But Not Warrantless Blood Tests, Illinois DUI Lawyer Blawg, July 1, 2016.

Illinois Appeals Court Upholds DUI Defendant’s Summary Suspension Despite Hearing Delay, Illinois DUI Lawyer Blawg, June 2, 2016.

Arizona Supreme Court Holds That Officer’s Assertion of Lawful Authority to Search Does Not Negate Totality of the Circumstances Test, Illinois DUI Lawyer Blawg, May 7, 2016.

New Mexico Governor Announces Program to Monitor DUI Cases, Illinois DUI Lawyer Blawg, May 2, 2016.

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