Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Latest Developments in the Illinois DUI Law/HIPAA Conflict

Last week’s blog posting discusses Rockford Memorial Hospital’s refusal to perform a DUI blood draw without a court order. The hospital’s refusal sparked a debate over a conflict between Illinois’ Motor Vehicle Code and a patient’s rights under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). The conflict prompted a meeting this week with Winnebago County State’s Attorney, Rockford area hospitals and local police departments. An Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) Prosecutor also attended the meeting. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the conflict in the laws and to work out some form of a compromise between the hospitals and local law enforcement.

The Illinois Prosecutor took the position that under Illinois Motor Vehicle law, a person involved in an accident resulting in a serious injury or death is subject to having their blood drawn for analysis, without the necessity of a court order. However, the hospitals took the position that in order to protect the privacy of their patients (and to absolve themselves of the potential for liability under HIPAA), a court order is required for a DUI blood draw.

The meeting lasted for over two hours. Two possible compromises resulted from the meeting: 1) A consent form acceptable to both sides was discussed. The IDOT Prosecutor indicated that other hospitals in Illinois are using signed releases that release the hospital from liability and confirm that the hospital has a legal basis for obtaining the non-consensual blood draw; 2) Police departments could hire specialists trained to draw blood. The IDOT Prosecutor stated police departments in other states employ phlebotomists to draw blood on the scene of the accident.

The parties did not set a date for a follow-up meeting, but indicated they would be working closely together to reach a compromise. I will keep you updated on any further developments.

In other news impacting Illinois drivers, the Illinois State Police has announced it will be implementing a new enforcement method over the upcoming Labor Day weekend. The program is called “Stay Alive on the I’s” and it involves special patrols over the holiday weekend. There will be a trooper stationed every 10 miles on interstates throughout Illinois, with additional troopers patrolling the Chicago metro area and tollways. The troopers will be on the alert for potential drunk drivers, speeding, seatbelt usage, improper lane changes, following too closely and construction zone violations.

Thanks for reading my blog. If you have a question or comment, feel free to post it here, but keep in mind your response will not be confidential. If you’ve been accused of a violation of Illinois’ driving under the influence or traffic laws, contact me for immediate assistance.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Police and Hospital in Conflict Over HIPAA Compliance, Blood Draw

Wesley J. Hanson was charged this month with aggravated driving under the influence, disobeying a traffic signal and driving without a valid driver’s license following a fatal car crash in which a 17 year-old girl was killed. Witnesses stated that Hanson ran a red light. Hanson was transported to Rockford Memorial Hospital for treatment. As part of his medical treatment, Hanson had blood drawn, and according to the police, hospital staff informed the patrol officer of the results of the blood draw.

Sgt. Dave Jacobson of the Loves Park police arrived at the hospital about 45 minutes later and requested hospital staff to make another blood draw, sometimes called a DUI kit, for the purposes of the criminal investigation. According to police, the hospital declined to perform the separate blood draw, stating they already performed a blood draw on Hanson and that a court order must be obtained and faxed to risk management for review.

Police informed the hospital that they have a court order signed by a judge allowing them to take a sample of Hanson’s blood for forensic analysis and evidence. However, out of concern over the amount of time involved in having the hospital’s legal counsel review the order, the police instead decided to reroute the court order to the Winnebago County Jail, and transport Hanson to the jail for booking. During the course of booking, the DUI blood draw is performed; nearly two hours after the police initially requested the second blood draw at the hospital. The results of the DUI blood draw were not made public.

According to Rockford Memorial Hospital, the hospital fully complied with the law in that they took a sample of Hanson’s blood for the purpose of determining any drug or alcohol content. Illinois Motor Vehicle Code (625 ILCS 5/11-501.4-1) requires disclosure of the test results to police upon request. The police say that pursuant to section 11-501.6 of the Motor Vehicle Code, they do not need a court order and do not need to wait for legal review in order to obtain a DUI blood sample from a person who has been in a personal injury or fatal motor vehicle crash. Rockford Memorial Hospital and representatives from other hospitals state they do require a court order for a DUI blood draw.

A medical blood draw and a DUI kit blood draw involve different procedures. While hospitals have different procedures in conducting a medical blood draw, the procedures for a DUI kit blood draw are standardized. The DUI kit provides a sample that is preserved for trial and provides physical evidence for state crime lab testing or a sample to be used for independent testing by the defense.

Hospitals cite concern over the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and whether or not releasing the results to police without a court order is a violation of HIPAA. HIPAA is the privacy rule protecting certain individually identifiable health information. HIPAA regulates how certain entities, including hospitals, use and disclose protected health information. Violations of HIPAA can result in civil and criminal penalties.

The dispute between the Rockford Memorial Hospital and the police on whether or not a court order is required for a DUI kit blood draw is ongoing, with various lawmakers, hospital representatives and others voicing their opinions on the issue in the media.

Thanks for reading my blog. If you have a question or comment, feel free to post it here, but keep in mind your response will not be confidential. If you have been accused of a DUI or traffic violation in the Chicago area or the State of Illinois, contact me for immediate assistance.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

New Law Impacts Drivers with Out-of-State DUI Conviction

If you have a prior DUI conviction in a state other than Illinois, take notice of a new law that was just signed on August 4th by Governor Blagojevich. Public Act 95-0778 amends the Illinois Vehicle Code to provide that a person who commits a DUI during a period in which his or her driving privileges are revoked or suspended for DUI under the law of another jurisdiction is guilty of a Class 4 felony. A Class 4 felony is punishable by imprisonment of 1-3 years and fines of up to $25,000. This new law is effective immediately.

This new law is one of many new laws imposing strongest penalties for DUI convictions. Effective June 1, 2008, drivers face tougher penalties for DUI offenses resulting in felony charges, which are now classified as Aggravated DUI. Any mandatory term of imprisonment or community service may not be reduced or suspended. Any person sentenced to probation or conditional discharge must also serve a minimum of 480 hours of community service or 10 days of imprisonment.

The following offenses will result in an Aggravated DUI:
  • DUI committed while license was revoked or suspended for DUI, reckless homicide, or leaving the scene of a personal injury or death
  • DUI committed without vehicle liability insurance
  • DUI committed without a valid license or permit
  • DUI committed in a school zone while the restricted speed limit is in effect and involved in a crash resulting in bodily harm
  • DUI while driving a school bus transporting a passenger 18 or younger
  • DUI committed while transporting a child under the age of 16 and involved in a crash that results in bodily harm to the child
  • DUI resulting in great bodily harm, permanent disability or disfigurement
  • DUI resulting in death
  • Second DUI committed after a previous conviction for reckless homicide while DUI or Aggravated DUI involving a death
  • Second or subsequent DUI committed while transporting a child under the age of 16
    Third or subsequent DUI

    The penalties for the above Aggravated DUI offenses range from Class 4 felonies (imprisonment of 1-3 years and fines of up to $25,000) to Class 2 felonies, which carries penalties of 3-14 years imprisonment (6-28 years if more than one death is involved), fines of up to $25,000, and revocation of driving privileges for two years.

    The laws regarding penalties for DUI convictions are constantly changing and evolving. If you have been accused of a DUI offense, it is important to seek experienced legal counsel with special expertise in the area of DUI defense. If you have been accused of a DUI offense, contact me for immediate assistance.

Friday, August 1, 2008

2008 Illinois DUI Fact Book Now Online

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White announced this month that the 2008 Illinois DUI Fact Book is now available. The book is frequently used as a resource for media and the general public, and contains statistics, changes in the law and other information. The book describes the penalties for a DUI conviction in Illinois, the average cost of a DUI and new laws, including a discussion of the Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device (BAIID) law which will take effect on January 1, 2009, and which was a previous topic of my blog. To view the book in its entirety, visit www.cyberdriveillinois.com

Cost of a DUI Conviction
According to the fact book, convicted DUI offenders in the State of Illinois face tough penalties and licensing sanctions, with an average cost of a DUI offense a staggering $15,000. This figure reflects the cost of court and legal fees, potential income loss, costs associated with having a driver’s license reinstated, and the added cost of having to maintain high-risk auto insurance.

Here’s a breakdown of the average cost of a DUI conviction in the State of Illinois:
Insurance (3 years of required high-risk insurance at a cost of $1500 per year)=$4500
Legal Fees (uncontested plea and hardship driving permit)=$2000
Court Costs =$500
Fine (average fine)=$2500
Towing and Storage Fees=$250
Trauma Center Fund=$100
Loss of Income (Loss of four weeks income due to court appearances, jail time, community service, evaluations or remedial education classes, based on a $40,000/year salary)=$4,000
Rehabilitation (remedial substance abuse class and counseling)=$250
Driver’s License Reinstatement=$560

Total Cost=$14,660

The cost noted above does not take into consideration any potential damages to persons or property if a collision was involved. The above cost also does not factor in loss of potential future income depending on your occupation or profession. For example, if you are a professional driver such as a bus driver or truck driver, or if you are an airline pilot, a DUI conviction will impact your ability to earn a living.

What Should You Do If You Are Arrested for a DUI?
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. In Chicago, videotapes and audiotapes of arrests are only maintained for 30 days, after which valuable evidence documenting your arrest may be lost. In addition, if you fail to file required documentation within 46 days of your arrest, your license will automatically be suspended.

A lawyer experienced in defending people accused of DUI can challenge the prosecutor’s evidence and could have the charges reduced or dropped without having to accept a conviction. If you have been arrested for DUI, call Chicago DUI defense attorney Ava George Stewart at (312) 944-3973 to schedule a free consultation. Thanks for reading.