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Outrage over lack of jail time for Illinois man with DUI and speeding 142 MPH is misplaced

An Illinois motorist was arrested for DUI in suburban Chicago. Nothing unusual about that but much of the media is in high dudgeon because there is evidence he was traveling 142 MPH.

The defendant lost control of the 2008 Dodge Charger he was operating, struck a curb and flipped and rolled the car. Police came to the scene, and after observing the motorist, suspected he might have been driving under the influence.

He performed standardized field sobriety tests (SFST) which he failed. First among the tests that he was administered was the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN).

Based upon what can only loosely be called “science”, an officer waves a pencil or other small object across the driver’s face. Based upon the officer’s subjective observations of how the accused’s eyes “track” the movement of the object, the officer “scores” the results and decides whether the driver “passed”.

Even if the officer performs every single step of the multi-step process perfectly correctly and even if he is 100% accurate in interpreting the results, the test is less than 70% accurate in estimating if the test subject’s BAC is above the legal driving limit of .08. Any mistakes in the administration or interpretation of the test can only serve to reduce its accuracy.

And nobody other than the officer has an opportunity to view his observations and interpretations. The judge and jury only see a video in which a policeman is moving a pencil in front of someone’s eyes. Yet this test is the first step in what will no doubt culminate in a DUI arrest.

The second SFST is the walk-and-turn, commonly referred to as “walking a straight line”. But under testing protocol, the straight line is imaginary. Under testing protocol, the slightest deviation from the very strict protocol is scored against you. For instance, if instead of marching on your right foot as you turn around, you pivot, as any normal person would, it is marked against you.

The only person injured in this accident was the fool driver. It was his first offense, which rendered him eligible for court supervision. The judge cannot order jail time if he decides that supervision is an appropriate disposition. While the BAC and the speed were high, this outcome is defensible.

The final test is the one-legged-stand. Try standing on one leg, counting to 30, while looking at your leg, keeping it exactly six inches off the ground and maintaining your hands at your side the entire time, on the side of the road, police lights and squad cars everywhere, with a cop staring down your throat. If this test is designed to show whether you are a safe driver, they should be administering it at the DMV before they give anyone a driver’s license.

Following these tests, you will be asked to submit to a Preliminary Breath Test (PBT) to test your blood alcohol content. This happens even though the results of the PBT are not admissible to prove your BAC.

After the DUI arrest, you will be asked to submit to a chemical test (blood or breath using a different machine) to determine your BAC. In the case of the speeding motorist, the BAC was .20. By the way, his speed was determined by the “black box” computer in his car.

The judge would have known that the fool driver was the only one injured in the crash, that this was his first offense and that he would be subject to alcohol. Since as a first offender, the defendant was eligible for and received court supervision, jail was not an option. 730 ILCS 5/5-6-1

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