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DuPage County DUI Law Blog

House panel explores issue of drugged driving in light of marijuana use

Lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives recently held a panel discussion on the issue of drugged driving, a growing problem which is raising concern about the safety of travelers nationwide, particularly as marijuana becomes more accepted for medical and recreational purposes. Two central issues lawmakers were interested in at the panel were the degree of danger posed by drugged driving, as well as ways law enforcement officials can better deal with drivers who display the signs of drug influence.

Sources point out that there wasn’t a lot of agreement that came from the discussion, other than that more research needs to be done, presumably on both issues. At present, we don’t know enough about how marijuana influences cognitive operations from individual to individual in order to determine how much risk marijuana use poses or how officers should deal with drivers who appear to be high.

Public officials need strong defense in DUI cases

Drunk-driving charges are always important to take seriously, regardless of who faces them, especially when the defendant has previous drunk driving convictions. Even more important is it to take such charges seriously when one is a public official or holds a position which could put one’s public image at risk.

This is the case with a Northwest Side alderman who was arrested last week for suspected drunk driving, and who has since been charged with misdemeanor driving under the influence. Police reportedly pulled the alderman over after seeing his vehicle pass between lanes without him using a turn signal. He was apparently arrested after failing some field sobriety tests.

Former Bears quarterback fighting DUI charges

Former Chicago Bears quarterback Bob Avellini, as some Chicago readers may have already heard, was arrested for drunk driving last September. According to police records from the incident, Avellini’s blood alcohol level was over twice the legal limit of 0.08 percent.

 The arrest was not the first time the former quarterback has been in trouble for drunk driving—at the time of the arrest he had barely begun a two-year probation period for a drunk driving conviction form 2012. In addition, he has a previous conviction from 2002. Authorities are charging Avellini with felony DUI in connection with the most recent incident. 

BAC tracking technologies: use them, but know their limits

Chicago readers may have heard about a brand new personal breathalyzer by the name of BACtrack. As Mark McDermott notes in a recent blog post, BACtrack is the most compact version yet of a personal breathalyzer, and is bound to catch the interest of those who frequently go out to drink but who want to avoid driving illegally.

The technology works by combining a so-called MicroCheck Sensor technology in a small device the size of a keychain and Bluetooth technology. Keith Nothacker, CEO of BACtrack, has said that the goal of the technology is to “help consumers better understand how alcohol effects their bodies and [to] make smarter, more informed decision.” 

Young woman's bid for DUI conviction reversal denied

A Highland Park woman who was convicted of aggravated DUI in connection with an incident in 2012 was unable to have her conviction reversed at the request of her attorney. The 19-year-old was convicted in May of intentionally inhaling a keyboard cleaning chemical, getting behind the wheel and crashing into a family. As a result of the crash, a little girl died.

The young woman’s attorney had made a motion to have the conviction reversed on the grounds that the cleaning agent she inhaled, difluoroethane, is not listed in the law detailing specific intoxicating chemicals. The motion was ultimately denied on the grounds that the law’s intent is to target induced intoxication, which he said occurred in this case. Under Illinois’ DUI law, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle with “any amount of a drug, substance, or compound in the person’s breath, blood, or urine.” 

Young man charged with aggravated DUI after fatal accident

A Chicago teenager was charged earlier this month in connection with an accident that left a construction worker dead. The 19-year-old, according to prosecutors, drove into a construction site, killed a worker and injured two of his own passengers. He has been charged in connection with felony reckless homicide, aggravated DUI, and other offenses.

Prosecutors say the young man's blood alcohol content was over twice the legal limit at the time of the crash--0.191 to be precise. According to the Illinois State Police website, aggravated DUI alone involves a minimum of one year loss of driving privileges, ten days imprisonment or 480 hours of community service, up to a $25,000 fine, and up to twelve years in prison. Obviously the case is quite serious for a young man to be facing.

Police generally need warrant to search cell phones

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision that will strengthen privacy protections for those arrested while carrying a cellphone. As readers know, cellphones—particularly of the smart variety—provide users access to an abundance of information. The ability of these phones to store so much information often makes them valuable resources for law enforcement to tap in conducting criminal investigations. A growing problem with this, though, has been to set limits to searches of cell phones.

The recent decision involved two cases where police searched the cell phones of criminal suspects without first obtaining a search warrant. One case involved a charge of attempted murder and other charges, while the other involved drug charges. The issue could come up in other cases as well, such as DUI cases. Normally, police must obtain a warrant before conducting a search, unless some exception to the general rule applies. According to the court, it is indeed a search for officers to look at the contents of a cell phone. One potential exception to the rule would be situations where police are reasonably concerned about their own safety or the safety of others. 

Victim of crash wrongfully accused of being intoxicated

Though most law enforcement officers will perform their duty when it comes to upholding the law, not all of them prove to be so diligent. One Sheriff in a neighboring state drove through a stop sign and crashed into a woman's vehicle. The 25-year-old woman broke her neck in four places and is looking at medical expenses that could exceed $1 million.

Yet the woman who was the victim of this crash was the one arrested for alleged drunken driving. Some other law enforcement officers upon the scene claimed that they could detect a slight odor of alcohol upon her breath. She apparently did admit to having a few sips of alcohol. However, her injuries prevented her from having a breath test conducted at the scene where the crash took place.

Repeat DUI conviction could mean long prison sentence for youth

The penalties for DUI in Illinois are severe. A 19-year-old man convicted of a second DUI in one year has now been sentenced to 5 and 1/2 years in prison.

The young man reportedly pled guilty to one count of felony aggravated DUI. He also pled guilty to a misdemeanor count of driving with a revoked license. As a part of a plea agreement made with the teenager an obstruction of justice charge was dismissed. A pre-sentence investigation was waived so that this individual could begin his sentence immediately. However, the young man did make a request for what is called impact incarceration (sometimes referred to as boot camp). If he is accepted into this program he may be able to finish up his sentence in six months.

More focus on prescription drug use and driving

As fatalities in car crashes purportedly involving illegal drug use has decreased in recent years, more attention is being focused upon the use of prescription medications instead. It was claimed in one study that fatal accidents increased by 49 percent when comparing accidents from 1999-2000 to 2009-2010.

"The principal finding of this study suggest that substance use is not only intensifying, but changing among those that drive under the influence in the U.S.," stated one of the leaders of this study. This individual felt that there was a shift from illegal drugs such as cocaine use to prescription drugs that was leading to more car crashes. With changes of laws such as those involving medicinal marijuana, there was also a decline in the presence of illegal drugs in the U.S.