After 28 years of practicing criminal law, it is very rare to hear a client tell me something about a criminal case that I never heard before. Throughout the years, I have handled thousands of DUI cases. While every case is unique, there are certain common elements to certain criminal cases. This is especially true with most DUI cases. While it is common for me to speak with clients who were arrested for a DUI, for the clients I am speaking to, this is a unique and scary experience for them. Part of my job as a criminal defense lawyer is to listen to the client and guide them through the process so they understand what is happening and how the criminal justice system works. In this post, I want to explain to my readers what a typical DUI arrest looks like.
Most DUI cases begin with the driver being pulled over for a traffic violation. The most common traffic violation involved in a DUI is Improper Lane Usage. The police officer is following a vehicle as it’s swerving in and out of its lane or entering another lane without signaling the lane change. Other reasons for being pulled over could be for Speeding, Failure to Stop at a Stop Sign, Disregarding a Traffic-Control Device, or any other reason to cause the police officer to make contact with the driver of the vehicle. The other day, I signed up a DUI in which the client was involved in a minor traffic accident. Whatever the reason for the driver being pulled over, something happened to cause the police officer to make face to face contact with the driver of the vehicle.
After the police officer makes contact with the driver, something happens to cause the police officer to suspect that they may be under the influence of alcohol. In a typical DUI, a police officer will note that when they approached the driver of the vehicle, they smelled alcohol, or noticed that the driver was mumbling and had a glassy look in their eyes. Typically the officer will note that the driver appeared confused and disoriented. Sometimes the police will note that the driver admitted to consuming alcohol before driving their vehicle.
The officer will ask the driver to exit their vehicle so that they can perform some tests for the officer to determine whether they are safe to drive. The officer will ask the driver to perform certain Standardized Field Sobriety Tests on the side of the road to determine whether they are impaired. Usually, there are 3 Standardized Field Sobriety Tests that are performed in every DUI case. The first field sobriety test is the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test. The officer will use a flashlight to look into your eyes to determine whether there’s involuntary movement when looking to the sides. Depending on the officer’s findings, this test could be used to show that you were legally intoxicated.
The second standardized field sobriety test is the walk-and-turn test. With this test, you will be asked to take a certain number of steps, usually 8, with one foot in front of the other while counting. You will then turn and walk back the same way. The officer will note whether the driver was able to keep their balance, stepped off the line, started too soon or stopped walking before completing the test, used their arms for balance, missed touching their heel-to-toe, or took the incorrect number of steps.
The final Standardized Field Sobriety test is the one-leg stand test. You will be required to stand on one leg for 30 seconds to measure your balance, and coordination. There are two phases to the one-leg stand test. The first phase is called the instruction phase. The officer will explain what you will be asked to do. The officer will explain that you must-start this task by standing with your feet together and your arms at your sides. You will be told to maintain that position until you are told otherwise. The Officer will tell you to raise one leg about 6 inches off the ground and keep your hands at your side. You will be asked to keep your foot pointed out and to count from 1001, 1002, 1003, 1004 and so on until you are told to stop. The officer will look to see whether you follow the instructions and whether you are able to keep your balance or whether you are hopping and putting your foot down.
You will then be asked to take a Portable Breath Test (PBT). A PBT is a portable device that you blow into that gives a reading to the police officer if it detects alcohol and how much alcohol is detected. While the PBT is not admissible in Court to establish what your blood alcohol level was, it can be used in Court as one of the reasons why the officer placed you under arrest for suspicion of a DUI.
If the officer believes that you were Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol, the officer will place you under arrest and transport you to the police station and ask you to take a breathalyzer test. If you take a breathalyzer test, and your blood alcohol level was .08 or above, the Illinois Secretary of State will suspend your driving privileges in Illinois for 6-months starting 46 days after the date of your arrest. If you refuse to take a breathalyzer test, the Illinois Secretary of State will suspend your license for 12-months beginning 46 days after the date of your arrest.
In addition to your license being suspended, you will be charged with a DUI, which carries up to one year in jail. When you are released from the police station, you will be given a Court date and paperwork which explains that your license will be suspended by the Illinois Secretary of State. If you are charged with a DUI, you should talk to a DUI lawyer as soon as possible to protect your legal rights. You can challenge the suspension of your driver’s license but there are strict time limits for your right to challenge the suspension and you need the services of an experienced DUI lawyer who knows what they are doing.
James Dimeas is a nationally-recognized, award-winning, DUI lawyer, with over 28-years of experience handling DUI’s throughout Chicago, Cook County, DuPage County, Kane County, and Lake County. Recently, James Dimeas was named a “Top 100 Criminal Defense Lawyer in the State of Illinois” for the Years 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021 by the American Society of Legal Advocates. James Dimeas was named a “Best DUI Attorney,” a “Best DUI Lawyer in Schaumburg,” and a “Best Criminal Defense Lawyer in Chicago” by Expertise. James Dimeas was named a “Top 100 Criminal Defense Trial Lawyer” by the National Trial Lawyers. The National Academy of Criminal Defense Attorneys gave James Dimeas the “Top 10 Attorney Award for the State of Illinois.” James Dimeas is rated “Superb” by AVVO, 10 out of 10, the highest classification possible for any DUI lawyer in the United States. The American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys recognized James Dimeas as a “10 Best Attorney for Client Satisfaction.” Attorney and Practice Magazine gave James Dimeas the “Top 10 Criminal Defense Attorney Award for Illinois.”