Friday, March 21, 2008

New DUI Technology used by Police in Kane County, Illinois

Drivers in Kane County Illinois should be aware of new technology being used by police officers during routine traffic stops. The device is called a PAS IV “Sniffer.” It senses the presence or absence of alcohol without requiring the driver to blow into a mouthpiece. In fact, it senses the presence of alcohol without any participation by the driver at all. Because the PAS IV is incorporated into a standard-looking police flashlight, a driver may not even know the police officer has used the device to “sniff” for the presence of alcohol.

One may think that this device violates the driver’s Fourth Amendment rights against an unreasonable search and seizure, or at least the driver’s privacy rights under the Due Process Clause of the Constitution. However, last week Associate Judge Allen Anderson of Kane County ruled results from the PAS IV may be used as reasonable suspicion to request that a suspected drunken driver undergo field sobriety tests.

It should be remembered, however, that a driver is not required to participate in field sobriety tests (FST) such as the portable field Breathalyzer, the one-legged stand, or the walk and turn test. Police use these tests to determine whether they have probable cause that the driver was under the influence while driving. Once the officer compiles enough observations to form probable cause, he will arrest the driver. However, there is no refusing the PAS IV. It looks like a flashlight and can detect the presence of alcohol up to 10 inches away; thus the test can be completed before the driver has any opportunity to refuse.

There is good news, however. This device only measures the presence of alcohol. A good DUI attorney can make several arguments to lessen the impact of the results. For example, the presence of alcohol can be attributed to a passenger who has been drinking since the device does not determine the origin of the alcohol.

Also, although this judge ruled that it is legal for the police to use the PAS IV, his ruling seems to contradict the 2001 Supreme Court decision in Kyllo v. US. In Kyllo, the Supreme Court held that police could not use thermal imaging (infrared) scanners to look at homes for evidence of crimes without a warrant. Justice Scalia, writing for the majority, explains the Supreme Court’s reasoning:

We think that obtaining by sense-enhancing technology any information regarding the interior of the home that could not otherwise have been obtained without physical "intrusion into a constitutionally protected area",(Silverman, 365 U.S., at 512), constitutes a search-at least where (as here) the technology in question is not in general public use.

The PAS IV works much the same way as the infrared devices in Kyllo. Except for a few narrowly defined exceptions, the police need a warrant to search one’s automobile. It is one thing if the smell of alcohol leaves the vehicle; it is another thing if the police must enter the vehicle to find it. One is constitutional, the other is not.

Thanks for reading. If you have a comment or question, feel free to post a reply, but keep in mind your response will not be confidential. If you need assistance with a traffic violation or offense in the State of Illinois, call our office or send us an e-mail for a confidential consultation.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

DuPage County Driver Database

Regarding our previous blog posting about the dismissal of DUI charges against off-duty Chicago police officer John Ardelean, a recent article in the Chicago Tribune states that the case may be reopened. We’ll keep you apprised of any further developments.

Motorists with traffic cases pending in DuPage County take note-an enhanced database has been implemented in DuPage, giving judges and prosecutors information on a driver’s entire driving-violation history, including all prior convictions, supervisions and information on an increasing number of pending cases. The system has been touted as a method of keeping high-risk drivers off the road, as judges will have greater access to the driver’s prior driving history and can take this information into consideration when assessing the appropriate penalty.

Drivers in Illinois are often given court supervision as punishment for traffic offenses. Unfortunately, some drivers who have repeatedly been given court supervision have later gone on to seriously injure or kill others in traffic accidents. To quote DuPage’s State Attorney, Joe Birkett, “The days of automatic court supervision, regardless of your offense, are gone.”

The database currently only contains information for DuPage and DeKalb Counties, but Kane and Will Counties are also considering entering their pending cases, and the database is receiving strong support from Secretary of State Jesse White, judges and prosecutors.

If you have been accused of a traffic violation in the State of Illinois, you need the assistance of an attorney experienced in successfully defending against such charges, whether it be charges of speeding, reckless driving, eluding the police, or failure to yield. Failure to consult an attorney could result in a loss of driving privileges and/or increased insurance rates.

Thanks for reading. If you have a comment or question, feel free to post a reply, but keep in mind your response will not be confidential. If you need assistance with a traffic violation or offense in the State of Illinois, call our office or send us an e-mail for a confidential consultation.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Chicago Officer will not Stand Trial for DUI

Chicago police officer John Ardelean will not stand trial for felony drunk driving in a crash that resulted in two fatalities, after a judge determined that there was “no indication of impairment” and no probable cause for the case to proceed. Prosecutors had argued that the case against the officer should proceed, even though the car the officer hit had run a stop sign. Investigators determined that the officer had fully applied the brakes when the crash occurred in an attempt to avoid the other vehicle.

Surveillance video from a bar showed the officer drinking one shot and “three regular-sized glasses” within a two and a half hour time frame. The bartender testified that the officer did not appear to be drunk. Two witnesses at the crash scene said the officer did appear to be drunk. The accident occurred about 20 minutes after the officer left the bar.

The officer refused to take field sobriety and Breathalyzer tests. A Police Department-ordered test taken almost eight hours later showed a blood alcohol level of .032. Testimony by a doctor with the Illinois State Police estimated the officer’s blood alcohol to be .104 to .177 at the time of the crash-over the legal limit of .08.

The judge rejected the doctor’s assumptions regarding the estimate of the officer’s blood alcohol level and gave greater weight to the testimony of the bartender and the officers investigating the initial accident, who indicated they saw no signs of the officer being drunk.

Thanks for reading my blog. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave a response to this posting, but keep in mind that your response will not be kept confidential. If you have been arrested for DUI in the Chicago area, contact an experienced DUI attorney immediately to protect and preserve your rights. If you need assistance with a violation of Illinois’ DUI or traffic laws, contact me to schedule a free, confidential consultation.