Articles Posted in DUI

DUIIt’s that time of the year again. The Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists has released its annual study that keeps track of DUI arrests throughout Illinois. Once again, Rockford and Elgin top the list of towns in Illinois reporting the most DUI arrests in 2017. In 2017, Rockford reported 490 DUI arrests compared to 459 in 2016. The 2017 figures represent a 6.8% increase over the 2016 DUI arrest figures. Elgin came in second with a total of 418 DUI arrests in 2017. Elgin had 365 DUI arrest in 2016, a 14.5% increase over 2017.

Every year, Schaumburg based Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists sends out surveys to roughly 700 police departments throughout the State of Illinois. Most of the police agencies respond to the surveys and the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists releases the figures for DUI arrests throughout all of the cities and towns in Illinois and gives us a picture of which towns are more aggressive when it comes to DUI arrests.

The lengthy list of DUI arrests compiled by the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists has the DUI arrest figures for virtually every town and village in the State of Illinois. I want to include the figures for local towns and villages that may be of interest to my readers. Chicago is not on this list because Chicago has far and away the most arrests and is included on a seperate list published by the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists. The first number in the list below is what place the town or village is in and the second number is the total number of DUI arrests in 2017:

file221258166932-300x225Everybody knows that if you are arrested and charged with a Retail Theft, or Shoplifting, you will be facing serious criminal penalties that could have serious implications for your future. How many people are surprised to find out that in addition to the criminal implications of a Retail Theft, they will probably soon be facing a potential Civil Penalty. This part of a Retail Theft arrest is not well understood by clients. Many clients mistakenly believe that what happens in one aspect of a Retail Theft case will affect the other aspect of the Retail Theft case. In other words, many people believe that if they just pay the Civil Penalty then the criminal case will be dismissed. This is not how things work and people need to understand what the Civil Penalty is and how it relates to a Retail Theft.

Most people charged with a Retail Theft will be facing a Class A Misdemeanor. The potential penalty for a Retail Theft depends on the value of the item(s) that you stole, or attempted to steal. The cut-off between a Misdemeanor and a Felony officially is $300. If the aggregate value of the items is $300 or less, you will be charged with a Misdemeanor. If the aggregate value of the item(s) is $300 or more, you may be charged with a Felony. A Class A Misdemeanor conviction for a Retail Theft carries a maximum punishment of up to one year in county jail and a maximum fine of $2,500. Most Felony Retail Theft charges are Class 4 Felonies in Illinois. A Class 4 Felony charge for Retail Theft in Illinois carries a maximum punishment of one to three years in prison and a maximum fine of $25,000.

In the past few years I have seen a drastic increase in the number of Retail Theft cases charged as a Municipal Ordinance Violations. Almost every City, Town, and Village has set up a Municipal Violation court system that moves cases from the County Criminal Court to an Administrative Municipal Ordinance Violation Court that is controlled by the Town or the Village in which the offense occurred. The Judge who presides over the case is an Administrative Law Judge who is employed by the municipality. Many times the Administrative Law is a full-time employee of the town. The standard of proof in a Municipal Court is much lower than in a Criminal Court. A Municipal Ordinance Violation is a civil matter between you and the municipality. The Rules of Evidence are relaxed and the penalties that can be imposed by an Administrative Law Judge in a Municipal Court are civil in nature. In other words, the penalties are monetary as opposed to Criminal. However, depending on the County, the Town, and the facts and circumstances of your arrest, the Municipal Ordinance Violation may appear in a background search. If you were fingerprinted, your Retail Theft may appear in a background search. Some Counties will put your case in the Court computer system which could be found in a background search. Many employers will not hire someone if they suspect that the prospective employee may steal from them. Therefore, it is imperative that you consult with an experienced Retail Theft lawyer if you receive a Municipal Ordinance Violation. An experienced Retail Theft attorney will know whether there’s a possibility that a Retail Theft Municipal Ordinance Violation may appear in a background search. You cannot simply assume that a Municipal Ordinance Violation for Shoplifting will not appear on a background search.

Illinois-DUIMost drivers will never have to decide whether to take a breathalyzer test or not. But if you are driving a vehicle in Illinois, you should be aware of what could happen to you and to your license if you are ever pulled over by a police officer and asked to take a breathalyzer test.

If a police officer pulls you over and suspects that you may be under the influence of alcohol, that police officer has a right to take you down to the police station and ask that you take a breathalyzer test. If you are ever faced with a situation like this, you have to make a quick decision between two choices. Should you take a breathalyzer test or should you refuse to take a breathalyzer test? If you have not had any alcohol to drink, then the choice seems pretty clear. Taking a breathalyzer test would prove that you have no alcohol in your system. But if you have been drinking and are unsure about whether you should take a breathalyzer test, you need to be aware of what the consequences could be of refusing to take a breathalyzer test.

When a police officer asks you to take a breathalyzer test, the officer will hand you a document entitled, “Warning to Motorist” which will inform you that if you submit to a breathalyzer test and the test indicates that your blood alcohol level was .08 or above, your driver’s license will be suspended by the Illinois Secretary of State for 6 months. If you refuse to take a breathalyzer test, your driver’s license will be suspended for 12 months by the Illinois Secretary of State. These driver’s license suspensions will take effect on the 46th day after your arrest.

DUI-1-300x200I recently met with a client who was arrested and charged with a DUI after he had pulled over his car to take a nap because he was afraid that he had too much to drink. You do not have to actually be driving your car to be charged with a DUI. You could be charged with a DUI as long as you had actual physical control of a vehicle on the public roadway. So as long as you were in a vehicle and you had the keys near you, the law will consider you to have been in actual physical control of the vehicle.

In the case I was recently consulted for, the client had been at a bar with some co-workers after work. He had been drinking when he decided to go home. His car was parked down the street from the bar. When the client entered his vehicle he immediately realized that he was in no condition to drive and fell asleep in the front passenger seat of his vehicle. The vehicle was not running but the car keys were in his pocket. An off-duty police officer saw him sleeping in his vehicle and started tapping on his windshield to make sure that he was okay. After the off-duty officer was unable to get a response from the client, he called the local police to report that someone may be unresponsive inside of a parked vehicle. The police officer arrived and was able to wake up the client. When the officer made contact with the client he noticed a strong odor of alcohol coming from his breath and the client appeared to be under the influence of alcohol. The police officer had the client exit the vehicle and perform field sobriety tests. The police officer arrested the client for suspicion of being under the influence of alcohol and took him down to the station. At the station, the officer requested that the client take a breathalyzer test and the client refused. In spite of there being no breathalyzer test, the client was charged with a DUI and given a court date.

In Illinois, if you take a breathalyzer test and your blood alcohol level is .08 or above, you will be facing a mandatory 6 month suspension of your driver’s license if this was your first DUI. If you refuse to take a breathalyzer test, you will be facing a mandatory 12 month suspension of your driver’s license. The suspension of your driver’s license will go into effect 46 days after the date of your DUI arrest. The same law that provides for the suspension of your driver’s license for a DUI also provides a mechanism by which you can challenge the suspension in court. In order to challenge a suspension of your driver’s license for a DUI, you must file a Petition to Rescind the Statutory Summary Suspension before the same court that is hearing your DUI case.

DUI-300x226Police get frustrated when they pull over a motorist for suspicion of Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol and the driver refuses to submit to a breathalyzer test when the officer requests that they take such a test. The reason behind their frustration is because, in many cases, if they do not have a breathalyzer test result, it becomes harder for the state to prove in Court that the driver was operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol.

The Illinois Legislature has clearly given motorists the right to refuse to submit to a breathalyzer test. The Legislature has imposed a severe penalty for refusing to submit to a breathalyzer test when requested to do so by a police officer. If you refuse to submit to a breathalyzer test you will be looking at a mandatory 12 month suspension of your driver’s license. The suspension will kick-in 46 days after you are arrested for a DUI unless you are able to persuade a court otherwise.

For several years, police and prosecutors have been trying to get around a motorist’s refusal to submit to a breathalyzer test. For the past several years, Kane County has established “no-refusal” weekends. “No-refusal” weekends were centered around certain events like New Year’s Eve and Fourth of July weekends. Kane County authorities would set-up roadblocks to close off certain roads and stop every vehicle. If the police suspected that the driver of a certain vehicle was Driving Under the Influence, they would request that the driver submit to a breathalyzer test and if they refused, the police would obtain a warrant from a judge who was on the scene to force a blood draw from the driver. If the driver refused to comply with the judge’s order, the driver could be arrested and charged with Contempt of Court.

DUI-300x200Being pulled over by a police officer is a stressful experience. This is especially true if you know that you have been drinking alcohol. Your mind starts racing and you want to make sure that you don’t give the police officer any reason to suspect that you are under the influence of alcohol. Unfortunately, many motorists don’t really think before they open their mouth. They don’t realize that the police are not there to help them. The police have a job to do and their job begins the moment they notice your vehicle. You need to understand what the police officer is doing and how your conduct and your statements can be used against you in court.

First of all, a police officer cannot pull over your vehicle for no reason. In a typical DUI, a police officer will notice a driver committing a traffic violation. This could be speeding, failure to stop at a red light or a stop sign, or improper lane usage. Once the police officer pulls over your car, the police officer begins making observations that will provide them with the legal justification to pull you out of the car and ask that you submit to a field sobriety test. In order for a police officer to ask that you exit your car to perform a field sobriety test, the police officer must have probable cause to think that you may be under the influence of alcohol. A mere hunch is not enough. The police officer must have specific articulable facts to justify their suspicions.

The police officer will begin making observations as soon as they suspect that alcohol may be involved. If a police officer asks you to exit your vehicle, you should follow the officer’s request. It is not up to you to decide whether the police officer has probable cause to suspect that you may be under the influence of alcohol. The issue of whether the police officer had the legal right to ask that you exit your vehicle is a decision that will be reviewed later on in Court in front of a judge.

DUILast June, the United States Supreme Court issued a decision in a DUI case that many DUI lawyers had 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 test 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 test or blood test can result in the suspension of your driving privileges in Illinois but is not an actual crime in Illinois.  However, 13 other states make a refusal to submit to a breathalyzer test or blood test a crime.  Both North Dakota and Illinois have “implied consent” laws which means that when you operate a motor vehicle upon the public roads, you consent to submitting to a breathalyzer and a blood test when requested to by the police.  Illinois warns you that failure to consent to a breathalyzer test could result in the suspension of your driving privileges while North Dakota warns you that failure to consent to a breathalyzer test 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 test 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 court in light of the holding that a warrant is required for a blood test.

Marijuana-300x203On January 1, 2014, Medical Marijuana became legal in Illinois. The Illinois Medical Marijuana policy is stricter than most other states that have enacted Medical Marijuana. Illinois does not allow Medical Marijuana to be grown at home. The Marijuana must be cultivated at a state-regulated facility that is under strict rules and regulations. To be allowed to use Medical Marijuana, you must apply for permission from the Illinois Department of Health. The application process is strict and it may take several months for you to be approved. If you are approved to use Medical Marijuana, you will be given an identification card. You will only be allowed to purchase 2.5 ounces of medical marijuana every 14 days. The program is tightly restricted and supervised.

While I was investigating how the Medical Marijuana laws have affected the DUI laws in Illinois, I discovered that if you get a Medical Marijuana card, this will be reported to the Illinois Secretary of State and your status as a Medical Marijuana patient will appear whenever a police officer runs your license. But as I looked into this further, I discovered some troubling news that all Medical Marijuana patients should be aware of. If a police officer is following your vehicle and they run your license plate, it is entirely possible that their computer will show that you are a Medical Marijuana patient. Most Illinois drivers will have their driver’s license number linked with the license plate number of the car that they own and is registered to them. If your driver’s license number is linked to the license plate number of your vehicle and when a police officer runs your license plate number, their computer will show that you are a Medical Marijuana patient. To verify this, I contacted a friend who works at the Illinois Secretary of State and asked him to confirm my findings. Initially, he told me that I was wrong and that this information is not reported to the Secretary of State, so this information would not appear if your license is searched or your plates are checked. I asked him to look into this further to make sure his information was correct because I had received conflicting information. After a short time he contacted me to inform me that my findings were correct and that the Medical Marijuana is reported to the Secretary of State. While not all driver’s licenses are linked to their license plate numbers, most licenses are.

You can imagine how this could be troubling for Medical Marijuana patients. While a valid argument could be made to allow the Secretary of State to place Medical Marijuana patient status on your driving record so that this information would appear if your license was ever run by a police officer, it makes no sense to make it possible for a police officer to discover this information when they are randomly running license plates of vehicles. While most police officers are honorable and honest, allowing this information to be available whenever a license plate number is run through a computer in a squad car opens the door to potential abuse and misuse. One can imagine a situation in which a police officer, who is randomly running license plate numbers of vehicles on the roadway, sees that a particular vehicle is registered to a Medical Marijuana patient and pulls over the driver of the vehicle just because he knows that there’s a pretty good chance that the driver of the vehicle has used marijuana in the recent past. This has the effect of placing a bulls eye on a Medical Marijuana patient who may doing nothing wrong other than being a Medical Marijuana patient.

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.

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 who 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: