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Police officers with ax to grind can create difficult DUI environment

In all likelihood, the vast majority of police officers are honest people trying to do their jobs. They may have a different take as far as the specifics of a particular arrest for DUI are concerned and sometimes they may be mistaken. But for the most part, they call it as they see it.

Unfortunately, on occasion, a police officer appears to be predisposed to making a DUI arrest when none is justified. This may occur due to past encounters between the accused and the officer, a long standing personal history, racial animus or any of the other reasons that some people in power abuse it.

There are numerous opportunities for a dishonest cop to exaggerate, distort and even fabricate evidence and observations. In many cases, it comes down to the word of the accused versus the officer.

The officer has two advantages: First of all, he carries a badge. The other is that he, unlike the person arrested, the assumption is that he has no dog in the hunt, in other words, he is neutral.

Close examination of a DUI arrest shows the stages at which evidence is gathered and can be manipulated. The police must have some reason to come into contact with a driver in the first place, unless there is a roadblock/safety check, in which case specific safeguards must be in place in terms of the timing and execution of the roadblock.

Police may also stop a driver based upon an anonymous tip provided they can prove to the judge that the tipster was “reliable”. People. v. Hansen, 2012 Il. App (4th) 110603 Another encounter can occur when the police are executing a “community caretaker function” such as helping a driver with a flat tire.

Traffic violations, crashes, evidence of bad driving that does not rise to a traffic offense, equipment violations and dozing at a stop light are common grounds for driver-police encounters. Most of these grounds for police contact are supported solely by a single officer’s observations. A dishonest officer leads to a dishonest report.

An encounter alone does not justify a DUI arrest. The officer must have reason to believe the driver is under the influence. General observations such as slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, confusion, trouble standing and difficulty locating a driver’s license are standard fare. And these depend to a substantial degree upon the observations of the reporting officer and are only as accurate as he is honest.

There are also specific tools available to the police beyond mere observations. These are known as the standardized field sobriety tests, as well as the preliminary breath tests (PBT). 625 ILCS 5/11-501.5
The officer conducts the standardized field sobriety tests. The officer is given guidelines for the proper administration of the field sobriety tests. But the interpretation of the results are based upon the officer’s discretion and are only as reliable as the officer is honest.

Related posts:

Springfield Illinois DUI Roadblocks Illinois DUI Lawyer Blawg, January 28, 2011
Breath test considerations in Illinois DUI arrests Illinois DUI Lawyer Blawg, July 22, 2011

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