Articles Posted in DUI

DUIThe question posted in the title to this article is one that I am frequently asked by my clients. There’s no easy answer to this question. When asked this question, the best I can do is explain the consequences of taking a breathalyzer test and the consequences of refusing to take a breathalyzer test.

First, let’s talk about what a breathalyzer test is. Basically, a breathalyzer test refers to the test that is used by the police to measure the amount of alcohol in the breath of the person that is taking the test.  This test is almost always administered at the police station.  If the test is administered properly and the machine is functioning properly, the results from that test can be used in court to prove that you were driving a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol.  Before you are asked to take a breathalyzer test the police officer has to have reasonable suspicion to believe that you were driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol. Typically, what an officer will do first is to ask you to perform field sobriety tests to determine if you are under the influence of alcohol.  The field sobriety test is really three standardized tests performed on the side of the road that can tell a police officer if you are under the influence of alcohol. The three tests are the horizontal gaze nystagmus, the walk-and-turn and the one-leg stand.  Police officers receive specialized training on how to perform these tests and on how to properly score the results. If a police officer determines that you failed these tests, the officer may ask you to take a preliminary breath test (PBT). The PBT is a handheld device that the officer carries in their police vehicle that is not accurate enough to be allowed by the courts to be used to prove that you were driving under the influence of alcohol. But it can be used as evidence to help form a basis for reasonable suspicion for the officer to place you under arrest and to take you down to the police station so that you can be asked to take a breathalyzer test.  In other words, the PBT, along with the police officer’s observations and the results of the field sobriety test can be used to by the prosecutor to provide the court with a basis for the reasonable suspicion needed to place you under arrest and to take you down to the police station to request that you take a Breathalyzer test.  Unlike a breathalyzer test Illinois Law does not impose any penalties on a refusal to submit to a PBT.

If you are taken down to the police station the police officer will ask you to take a breathalyzer test. At that point you have a decision to make. You can either agree to take it or refuse to take the test. If you agree to take the test you will be informed by the police officer that if the results of the breathalyzer test indicate that your blood alcohol level is .08 or above your license will be suspended for 6 months if you are a first-time DUI offender. If you are not a first-time offender you will be advised that your driving privileges will be suspended for at least 3 years. You were involved in an accident that caused personal injury to another person, your license will be suspended for 12 months.

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DUIIt’s been a tough week.  You have been swamped at work and you have been busy at home with activities with the kids.  Finally it’s Friday and you made it. Your co-workers invite you to go out for drinks to relax after the end of a long week and you accept.  After a couple of hours at a local bar of unwinding with your co-workers and after a few drinks, it’s time to go home.  You get in your car and start driving and after a few minutes you realize that you may be in no condition to drive.  You don’t know if it’s the alcohol or if you are just tired from your long week, so you decide to pull over and take a nap because you don’t want to take a chance of nodding off while driving and getting into an accident.  So you pull over on a side street, park your car, shut off the engine and take a nap.  After a few minutes you wake up to the sounds of knocking on your car window.  It’s a police officer who is trying to get your attention.  You explain to the officer that you are tired so you pulled over to take a nap before heading home.  The officer asks you if you have been drinking and you tell him you had a couple of drinks a while ago but had a long week and are just tired.  You pull your car keys out of your pocket and the officer asks you to exit your vehicle.  The officer asks you to perform certain tests and then informs you that your are under arrest for suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol.  So how can you be charged with a DUI when you were just taking a nap in your car?

This fact pattern is pretty common.  Unless you understand the law in Illinois, it’s hard to comprehend how you can be charged with a DUI when you were doing the responsible thing and getting off the road when you realized you were in no condition to drive.

The key factor in determining whether you could be charged with a DUI is if you had actual physical control of a motor vehicle.  Whether you had actual physical control of your motor vehicle depends on the specific facts of each case.  The Court will look at the totality of the circumstances to determine whether you had actual physical control of your motor vehicle.  The leading case on this issue in Illinois is City of Naperville v. Watson, 677 NE2d 955 (1977).  In this case, the police found Watson sitting in the driver’s seat asleep with his head on the passenger seat.  Watson had the engine running so he could have the heat on.  There was no evidence that he was driving or that he was planning on driving his vehicle.  Yet, in this case the Court found that he was in actual physical control of his vehicle based on the fact that he was sitting in the front seat, the keys were in the ignition and the car was running.  Since he was in actual physical control of his vehicle, he could be charged with a DUI.  What seemed to be important in that case was that Watson had possession of the keys to the vehicle.  The Court specifically found that “sleeping it off” is not a defense to a DUI.  The Court refused to give an intoxicated motorist a “good citizen discount” for realizing they were in no condition to drive.  Rather the court doesn’t want someone who is intoxicated from entering a motor vehicle unless they are a passenger.

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MarijuanaOn July 27 we reported that the DEA was considering reclassifying marijuana from a Class 1 Drug to something less.  Advocates for the legalization of marijuana were looking at this possibility as an important step to the possible legalization of marijuana.  On Wednesday the DEA made it’s decision public, and the decision did not make marijuana legalization advocates happy.  The DEA decided to keep marijuana in Class 1, which is the most serious classification of illegal drugs.  But what is especially troubling was the reason given by the DEA for denying the application to remove marijuana from the Class 1 category.  The DEA found that there is no accepted medical benefit for the use of marijuana and that it is highly vulnerable to abuse.  The DEA found that marijuana is not a safe and effective medicine.  This decision flies in the face of 42 states, and the District of Columbia, which allow for some form of medical marijuana use.

Today, sources are reporting that as early as today, the Obama Administration will issue new regulations which will make it easier for researchers to obtain the marijuana needed to conduct medical research. Currently, marijuana grown at the University of Mississippi has been the only source of medical marijuana available to medical researchers.  Currently, in order to obtain permission from the federal government to grow marijuana for medical research purposes, the process is so restrictive that it could take years to obtain it and is virtually impossible to get.  The new regulations will make it much easier to obtain permission to grow a supply of research grade marijuana.  The details are unclear but people who have seen the regulations believe that these changes could signal a major step towards the eventual legalization of marijuana.

Recently, Illinois has joined a growing group of states that are moving towards a more accepting treatment of marijuana.  Illinois allows for the use of Medical Marijuana.  The Illinois Legislature has accepted that there are medical benefits to the use of marijuana and they have set up a highly regulated process by which people who suffer from certain medical conditions can legally buy, possess and use medical marijuana as long as they have a valid prescription and obtain permission from the State of Illinois.  While the Illinois medical marijuana program is one of the most strict in the country, it is the product of a long and difficult fight in Springfield that took many twists and turns.

Illinois DUI

Most DUI’s in Illinois are a misdemeanor.  If you are operating a motor vehicle on the public roads with a blood alcohol level of .08 or above, you could be charged with a DUI. The maximum criminal punishment for a Class A misdemeanor in Illinois is up to one year in jail and a fine up to $2,500.00.  But there are situations where you could be charged with a felony.  This is known as Aggravated Driving Under the Influence, or Aggravated DUI.  This article discusses how you can be charged with an Aggravated DUI.

Special rules apply to people have have previously been convicted of a DUI.  If you are convicted of a 3rd or subsequent DUI, you could be charged with a Class 2 felony.  Generally, you could be facing a penalty of between 3 to 7 years in prison, probation up to 48 months, along with fines, fees and drug treatment.  If your blood alcohol level was .16 or above, you will be facing a mandatory 90 day jail sentence.   A fourth offense is non-probationable and carries a mandatory 3 to 7 year prison sentence.  A 5th offense is a non-probationable Class 1 felony that carries 4 to 15 years in prison.  A 6th offense is a non-probationable Class X felony which carries a mandatory 6 to 30 year prison sentence.  If the DUI results in the death of another, even if it’s your first DUI, you could be charged with a Class 2 felony.  You are eligible for probation, but in order to be sentenced to probation, the Judge has to find extraordinary circumstances to avoid imposing a prison sentence.  If you are sentenced to a prison sentence, you are facing 3 to 14 years for one death, and 6 to 28 years for 2 or more deaths.

The following instances allow the state to charge you with a Class 4 felony of Aggravated DUI:

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DUIOn Friday the United States Supreme Court issued a decision in a DUI case that many criminal defense attorneys have been closely following.  The case is actually three separate cases consolidated into one case captioned, Birchfield v. North Dakota.  What united all 3 cases was that they all dealt with a North Dakota law which made it an actual crime to refuse to take a breathalyzer and a blood test when requested to do so by the police.  There is no such law in Illinois.  A refusal to take a breathalyzer or blood test can result in the suspension of your diving privileges but is not an actual crime in Illinois.  However, 13 other states make a refusal to submit to a breathalyzer or blood test a crime.  Both North Dakota and Illinois have “implied consent” laws which state that when you operate a motor vehicle upon the public roads, you consent to submitting to a breathalyzer and a blood test when requested by the police.  Illinois warns you that failure to consent could result in the suspension of your driving privileges while North Dakota warns you that failure to consent could result in criminal prosecution.  Refusing to submit to a breathalyzer or a blood test is not a crime in Illinois.  The refusal to submit to such testing can only result in the suspension of your license for a period of time, usually one year, if this is your first DUI.  Sometimes, refusing to submit to a breathalyzer or blood test could benefit the underlying DUI case making it harder for the state to prove their case with test results, but will not stop the suspension of your driver’s license.  Refusing to submit to a breathalyzer or a blood test is a misdemeanor in North Dakota.  By making it a crime to refuse to submit to a breathalyzer or a blood test, a driver would be more likely to consent to such testing, thereby making it easier for the state to prove guilt in an underlying DUI prosecution.

In a 5 to 3 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the police do not need a warrant to do a breathalyzer test but need a warrant to take a blood test.  The majority opinion was written by Justice Alito who held that “because breath tests are significantly less intrusive than blood tests and in most cases amply serve law enforcement interests, we conclude that a breath test, but not a blood test, may be administered as a search incident to a lawful arrest for drunk driving.”  Since it’s considered a search incident to a lawful arrest, a warrant is not needed.

Since the case involved 3 separate DUI arrests, there were 3 different outcomes.  One driver, Danny Birchfield, had his conviction for failing to consent to a blood test overturned.  The second driver, Danny Bernard, Jr., had his conviction for failure to submit to a breathalyzer test upheld.  The third driver, Steve Beylund, who consented to a blood test under threat of criminal prosecution, had his case returned to the trial in light of the holding that a warrant is required for a blood test.

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unnamedLast week the Illinois Court of Appeals held that in order to enter a residence without a warrant, the police need consent or demonstrate that an exception exists.  The case is People v. Swanson, 2016 IllApp (2d) 150340.  On the evening of January 7, 2015, Scott Swanson met a friend at a bar in Hinckley, Illinois. Swanson drank about 3 beers at the bar and left in his vehicle to go home.  It was icy outside with snow patches.  When he was roughly 2 miles from his home his car slid into a ditch, hit a stop sign, the airbags deployed and he cut his finger.  His vehicle could not start so he tried to call home but was unsuccessful.  It was below zero outside so he locked his vehicle and set out on foot to go home.  About a mile from the incident, he came upon the home of the Thompson family and knocked on the door.  The occupants answered the door but would not let him in. At some point a resident in the home pulled a gun and Swanson set out on foot to go home.  About a half a mile down the road Swanson encountered another home, but nobody answered the door so he set out to get to his house.  A DeKalb County Sheriff’s Deputy was dispatched to the Thompson home for a report of a disoriented person.  On his way to the Thompson home the deputy encountered Swanson’s disabled vehicle.  He noticed the damage to the vehicle, the deployed airbag and an open beer can on the passenger side floor.  He did not notice any blood in the vehicle.  Once it was determined that the vehicle belonged to the Swansons’ another officer went to the Swanson home and spoke to Swanson’s wife.  The officer informed Swanson’s wife that her husband had been involved in an accident and could not be found and left his card with her and requested that she call him if he came home. Shortly after the officer left the Swanson home, Scott Swanson arrived at the house.  His wife noticed that he was freezing cold, covered in snow, and his finger was bleeding. Swanson’s wife went upstairs and drew a warm bath.  When she went upstairs she noticed a glass of vodka and orange juice.  Swanson told her that he had poured the glass to warm up.  While Swanson’s wife dressed the wound he drank the glass of vodka.  After she drew the bath, Swanson’s wife called the officer and let the dispatcher who answered the call know that he was safe, he did not need any medical attention and that she would arrange to have the vehicle removed from the ditch.  According to Swanson’s wife, an officer broke in on the phone conversation and told her that the police had to see Swanson to make sure he was ok.  She insisted that he was fine  and that the police did not have to come to the house and if they did she would not let them in. Shortly after that phone call the police arrived at the Swanson home.  There was conflicting testimony at the hearing about exactly what happened.  Swanson’s wife insisted that she did not allow the police to enter the home while the police officers testified that she had given some form of consent to enter the home.  But at some point the police entered the home and placed Scott Swanson under arrest.  He was charged with Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol (DUI), Leaving the Scene of a Property Damage Accident, Illegal Transportation of Alcohol, Failure to Reduce Speed to Avoid an Accident and Improper Lane Usage.  Swanson filed a Motion to Suppress Evidence and a Petition to Rescind Statutory Summary Suspension.  After hearing the evidence, the Court granted the Petition to Rescind the Statutory Summary Suspension by finding that there was no probable cause to believe that the defendant was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident and granted the Motion to Suppress by finding that Swanson’s wife was credible and that his wife did not invite the police into her home and that there were no exigent circumstances present to justify the police entering the home and suppressed everything that happened after the police entered the home.

On Appeal the State argued that the trial court erred in granting the motion because there was consent to enter the home  and the need for emergency medical attention.  The State argued that the trial court erred in granting the Petition to Rescind because there was probable cause to believe that Swanson had been under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident.

With regards to the issue of consent, the Court refused to overturn the trial court’s determination that Swanson’s wife was more credible than the officers.  The Court held that they will not disturb the trial courts findings of fact absent a finding that it was against the manifest weight of the evidence.

DUIThe Illinois Supreme Court has ruled that the police can pull over a vehicle just for trying to avoid a police roadblock. Jacob Timmsen was driving down US Highway 31 when he saw bright orange warning signs that he was about to enter a police checkpoint. Timmsen activated his turn single and made a U-turn at a railroad crossing about 50 feet away from the roadblock. There was nothing improper about the maneuver. He properly used his turn signal and made an otherwise legal and proper driving maneuver. In spite of the fact that he was driving legally, a County Deputy working the police roadblock checkpoint pulled over Timmsen merely because he suspected that he was trying to avoid the police roadblock. After Timmsen was detained and interrogated by the deputy, it was determined that he was driving on a suspended license and placed under arrest. After he was arrested, the deputy searched Timmsen’s vehicle and found less than a gram of marijuana inside his vehicle. Timmsen was subsequently convicted and sentenced to 90 days in county jail. After the conviction, Timmsen appealed the case and the Court of Appeals ruled in his favor finding that the maneuver made by Timmsen did not provide reasonable articulable suspicion that Timmsen had committed any crime and that exercising one’s constitutional rights should not be used as evidence against them in a criminal prosecution. The State appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court and the Supreme Court overturned the ruling of the Appellate Court and ruled that the deputy had reasonable suspicion to make the stop and upheld the conviction of Timmsen. In ruling the way it did, the court looked at the totality of the circumstances, mainly that the maneuver occurred at 1:15 a.m. on a Saturday morning approximately 50 feet from a checkpoint roadblock. The court found that this indicated a high degree of probability that the driver was operating his vehicle under the influence of alcohol and by attempting to avoid detection by the police, Timpson had created reasonable suspicion and probable cause to pull him over.  Timmsen had argued that the police had no right to pull him over because he was merely minding his own business. But the Supreme Court did not agree with him. The court found that even though he made a legal maneuver, it raised the suspicion that he was attempting to avoid contact with the police. The court found that there was nothing about the facts of the case to suggest that he was merely going about his own business. The court found that his U-turn was just as suspicious and evasive as running away from a police officer in a high-crime area. As a matter of fact, the majority found that Timmsen was doing the opposite of going about his own business.

The lone dissent was by Judge Anne M. Burke. Judge Burke argue that the 4th Amendment gives individuals the right to ignore a police officer if that police officer has no reason to believe that they had done anything wrong. She believes that the roadblock in the early morning hours was irrelevant to the case. Judge Burke held that you cannot be convicted of doing something that you have a right to do. Since you have a right to avoid the police and not cooperate with them, how can that be a sufficient basis for pulling over a motorist?

This case is troubling precisely for the reasons stated by Judge Burke in her dissent. Timmsen was arrested because he was exercising his constitutional rights. It’s important to keep in mind that when it comes to the constitution, the ends should not justify the means. Sure, Timmsen was driving a vehicle without a license and had marijuana in his vehicle. But the police did not discover this until after he was pulled over. But the reason he was pulled over was because he tried to avoid contact with the police. The 4th Amendment grants citizens the right to not talk to the police when they don’t want to. So what this case does is impose criminal penalties upon a citizen who is exercising a constitutional right. This is troubling and should not be allowed. Why have a constitutional right if citizens know that exercising their constitutional right could put them in legal jeopardy? I suppose that this defeats the purpose of giving people that constitutional right. We should cherish the rights afforded to us by our constitution. By imposing criminal penalties upon people who exercise those constitutional rights, we are watering down and dismissing the importance of those constitutional rights. People should not be afraid to exercise their constitutional rights.

Robbery ChargesThis week the United States Supreme Court agreed to hear a Minnesota DUI case that will further help define the parameters of the 4th Amendment.  The case involves a statute in Minnesota which makes it a crime to refuse to take a breathalyzer test when requested by the police.  In 2012 police were called to a boat launch where a car was stuck while trying to to take a boat out of a lake. They confronted 3 men. all of which smelled of alcohol but all 3 denied being the driver.  One man was in his underwear and was holding the car keys.  The man was arrested and taken to the police station.  He was asked to take a breathalyzer test and refused.  He was charged with refusing to take a breathalyzer test based on a Minnesota statute which makes it a crime to refuse to take a breathalyzer test when requested to take one by a police officer.  12 other states have similar laws.  Illinois is not one of those states.  It’s not as if Illinois does not punish drivers who refuse to submit to a breathalyzer test.  Illinois imposes an administrative penalty which involves suspension of a driver’s license for a refusal to submit to a breathalyzer test.  The Minnesota law does not require a warrant only a lawful arrest with probable cause to believe that the person was driving the vehicle while intoxicated.  The difference between Illinois and Minnesota is that Minnesota imposes a criminal penalty on the refusal to submit to a breathalyzer test while Illinois does not.

At the very center of the case is the question about how far can the right to search extend when someone is arrested.  In other words, when someone is arrested, does the state’s right to search extend to their blood, breath and urine or does this type of search require a higher level of protection?  Was it right to criminalize this defendant’s assertion of his 4th Amendment protections when he refused to blow into a machine at the police station?  These are all interesting questions which the United States Supreme will answer soon.

Oral arguments are scheduled for April 30 and a decision should be released this summer.

Statutory Summary SuspensionWinning  a  Petition  to  Rescind  Statutory  Summary  Suspension  hearing pursuant  625  ILCS  5/11-501.1  means  the  world to  our clients. A win prevents our  client’s privileges from  being suspended so they can  drive while they are fighting their DUI and thereafter; whether the  DUI is  for  alcohol, cannabis or other drugs.

My client was involved in a car accident when he side-swiped a limousine. When the police officer arrived at the scene of the accident, he apparently smelled the odor of burnt cannabis on my client and arrested him for DUI. However, there was no evidence that my client was under the influence of alcohol or any drug while he was driving. The police officer, although, did recover a  pipe from my client and cannabis from his car.

Under 625 ILCS 5/11-501.1, the given officer is required to warn the motorist that his/her license will be suspended if he/she does not take the requested chemical tests. The police officer is required to sign and read to the motorist a document called a “Warning to Motorist” which warns  the motorist of the suspension. In our case, the  police officer did not warn our client that his license would be suspended for one year nor was he given a copy of the “Warning to Motorist.”

Legal%2BDefendersThe new year will bring some pretty significant changes to the Illinois DUI laws. The changes have the support of anti-DUI activists and criminal defense attorneys.  But to get everybody on board, the law contains things that make everyone happy.  First, let’s talk about the changes which will affect the fewest number of drivers.  Here’s the changes:

– If you have been convicted of 2 or more DUI’s, you will be required to have a Restrictive Driving Permit for five years before you can have a full license reinstatement.

– In order to have your license reinstated, you must have a Restrictive Driving Permit (RDP) and a Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device (BAID) for five continuous years.

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