Monday, September 29, 2008

Recent Chicago DUI Headlines

Update on Chicago Police Officer John Ardelean
Officer Charged (Again) in Connection with Fatal Crash
In prior blog entries we followed the investigation involving Chicago police officer John Ardelean, who was initially charged with a misdemeanor count of drunk driving in connection with the Thanksgiving Day crash that killed two men from Cicero. At the time of his arrest Ardelean declined to take a field-sobriety test and did not submit to a blood alcohol test until nearly eight hours following the crash. Results of the blood alcohol test showed a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .032, well below the legal limit of .08. However, the prosecution’s investigator asserted that at the time of the crash, Ardelean’s BAC was .104 to .177. At the preliminary hearing, charges against Ardelean were dismissed due to lack of evidence.

Last week, following further investigation, the Cook County state’s attorney’s office did an abrupt about-face, indicting Ardelean on charges of reckless homicide and aggravated DUI in connection with the case. Investigators had closed the case in May, telling the family of the deceased men there was insufficient evidence to charge Ardelean. The investigation was reopened last month after video from the bar where Ardelean was drinking shortly before the accident surfaced on a local television station. Members of the Cook County state’s attorney’s office claimed they did not view the entire tape before it aired on television, and based on the full video, the prosecutors reopened the investigation. Both Ardelean and the families of the deceased dispute this account and contend the prosecutors had the full version of the video all along.

Ardelean is scheduled for arraignment on October 1st. We’ll continue to keep you updated on the developments with this very interesting case.

Teen Sentenced to Probation in Fatal DUI Crash
Also in the news this week: A Cook County Circuit Judge sentenced an 18 year-old teen from Melrose Park to 30 months of probation in connection with the fatal DUI crash in Oak Park that killed the teen’s father. The teen pled guilty to aggravated driving under the influence. The judge noted that ordinarily a prison sentence of 3 to 14 years is required in cases of aggravated DUI where a fatality has occurred, unless there are “extraordinary circumstances.” The judge stated that there were extraordinary circumstances in this case because the father has also legally intoxicated and asked his son to drive.

According to the state’s attorney’s office, the father offered his son, who was then 17, a beer. The two proceeded to drink several beers together at the father’s home in Melrose Park and at another residence in Cicero. The teen drove the family’s Ford Explorer home while his father slept in the passenger seat. The teen was driving 40-45 m.p.h. in a 25 mile zone when he hit a dip in the road and lost control, flipping the vehicle. The teen’s blood alcohol level was .164, slightly less than his father’s blood alcohol level of .168.

In addition to 30 months of probation, the teen has been ordered to perform community service.

If you have been accused of a violation of Illinois’ DUI laws, contact me for immediate assistance.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Operation Teen Safe Driving

Operation Teen Safe Driving is a statewide initiative spearheaded by the Illinois Department of Transportation’s (IDOT) Division of Traffic Safety designed to enlist teen drivers to teach safe driving skills to their peers. The program has been credited with a 52 percent reduction in teen driving fatalities in the State of Illinois in the first six months of 2008. Fatalities dropped from 82 in the first six months of 2007 to 39 in the first six months of 2008. The program, which is in its second year, is a joint effort between the Blagojevich administration, the Illinois’ Secretary of State’s office, the Ford Motor Company Fund and the Allstate Foundation.

Operation Teen Safe Driving utilizes a competition among high school students to design a community-based safe driving program targeting other teens. Over the past year, 104 high schools in Illinois have participated in the Operation Teen Safe Driving Program. Participating schools received $2,000 to implement their program. The school selected as having the best program received a $5,000 prize as well as $3,000 to continue their program. Second place schools in each region received $2,000 to continue their program, and third place schools in each region received $1,500 to continue their program.

The program, in conjunction with stringent laws aimed at teen drivers which went into effect in January, is designed to reduce the number of accidents involving teen drivers in Illinois. Effective January 1, 2008, a person under the age of 21 who is found guilty or granted court supervision for a violation of state law or local ordinance relating to illegal consumption, possession, purchase or receipt of alcohol, regardless of whether a vehicle was involved will face a loss of driving privileges, in addition to any fine imposed. Court supervision for any of these offenses will result in a 3 month suspension of driving privileges; a first conviction results in a 6 month suspension of driving privileges; a second conviction results in a 12 month suspension of driving privileges and a third or subsequent conviction will result in a revocation of driving privileges.

Operation Teen Safe Driving also involves the Illinois Liquor Control Commission (ILCC), which provides resources and information to schools about the dangers of underage drinking and driving. For further information on Operation Teen Safe Driving, visit:

If you or your teen have been accused of driving under the influence or a violation of Illinois’ traffic laws, contact me for immediate assistance.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Illinois DUI Headlines in the News

Chicago Police Officer John Ardelean Back in the News
Last week the Cook County State Attorney’s office announced that they were reopening the investigation into the fatal car crash involving Chicago police officer John Ardelean last Thanksgiving. In a prior blog entry I mentioned that Cook County Judge Donald Panarese ruled there was not enough evidence to support felony charges against Ardelean. Ardelean refused to take a field sobriety test at the scene of the crash and did not submit to a blood or breath test until nearly eight hours after the accident. At the time of testing, Ardelean’s blood alcohol level was .032; well below the legal limit of .08. A state police investigator offered the opinion that at the time of the crash, Ardelean’s blood alcohol level as .104 to .177.

The state attorney’s office continued to investigate the case even after Judge Panarese’s ruling, but in May decided there was insufficient evidence to file new charges. The office informed the families of the victims that they were dropping the case. However, the case was reopened last week after First Assistant State Attorney Bob Milan viewed videotape footage from the Martini Ranch bar where Ardelean had been drinking prior to the crash. Previously, Milan had viewed only a portion of the videotape footage. Footage from the bar had recently aired on local television stations showing Ardelean having a drink poured down his throat by a female patron and appearing to grab a beer on his way out of the bar.

According to Milan’s office, Milan had previously viewed a different, incomplete version of the security videotape from the bar. Ardelean’s defense team disputes this statement, saying there is only videotape from the bar and the state attorney’s office has had access to it since the week of the accident. Ardelean is currently on leave from the Chicago Police Department and is the subject of an internal police investigation. I’ll continue to update you on any new developments with this case.

Bus Driver Held on DUI Charge
A bus driver driving a Coach USA Megabus express bus from Chicago bound for Detroit was pulled over on Interstate 94 near the Michigan/Indiana border after a state trooper noticed the bus appeared to be weaving. The driver, a Chicago resident, failed a field sobriety test and was arrested and booked into Berrien County jail awaiting arraignment on drunk driving charges. Another driver from the bus line was brought in to drive the 30 passengers on the bus to Detroit.

If you hold a commercial driver’s license and are accused of a DUI law violation, be forewarned that a DUI conviction will impact your livelihood. If you are arrested for violating Illinois’ DUI laws, contact an experienced DUI attorney immediately. In order to preserve your rights, you should seek legal counsel without delay.