Chicago PD Continues to Cast DUI Dragnet

The winter holidays may be over, but the Chicago Police Department is still using aggressive tactics to arrest suspected drugged drivers.

Although an earlier DUI saturation patrol on Lake Shore Drive netted only one arrest, the Chicago PD planned another such campaign in the Austin District. To assist their efforts, officers planned to have a Breath Alcohol Testing Mobile Unit on hand; typically, a BATMU is a large bus that is a combination DUI lab and processing office.

Officers also said they would be on the lookout for speeding and seatbelt violations.

Saturation Enforcement

Someone once said that if you go looking for trouble, then trouble is what you will find. Similarly, when police officers set out to make DUI arrests, they will arrest people for DUI even if the evidence is only borderline.

Chicago-area saturation enforcement patrols and DUI checkpoints came under scrutiny in 2015, when a major newspaper claimed that more than 80% of such efforts were in nonwhite neighborhoods, even though these areas had relatively low DUI rates. For example, although Grand Crossing had the most DUI checkpoints over a four-year period, it also had one of the lowest DUI rates in the city.

Legal Issues in DUI Drug Cases

The DUI law with regard to “intoxicating compounds” is a little complex. The statute consistently refers to “any” drug or intoxicating compound, whether it is a street drug like methamphetamine or heroin, a prescription drug like steroids or painkillers, or an over-the counter drug like antihistamines or sleep aids. If the drug is listed in the Controlled Substance Act, per subsection 6, there is basically a presumption that any amount is sufficient to impair driving skills. If the drug is not listed in the Controlled Substance Act, the prosecutor must prove that the drug caused impairment, according to subsections 3, 4, and 5.

Because of the medical marijuana law, cannabis is in the middle. Although it is still a controlled substance, the (6) presumption does not apply if the driver had a lawful prescription.

Proving the Offense in Court

In non-CSA cases, the prosecutor must first establish theoretical impairment. Typically, the prosecutor calls a police or other technician to the stand to interpret the blood test results and explain that there was a sufficient quantity of X substance in the defendant’s blood to cause driving impairment. Many technicians barely meet the minimum qualifications for expert witnesses under the Illinois Rules of Evidence, so countering experts can often either entirely or substantially discredit their testimony.

Second, the prosecutor must prove actual impairment. Since there is no BAC test for drug use, the state must rely on the field sobriety tests and other circumstantial evidence. The three approved tests are:

  • One Leg Stand: Administering officers sometimes issue failing grades because of minutiae, such as starting with the wrong foot, holding the foot at a slightly incorrect angle, or momentarily lifting hands or arms for balance.
  • Heel to Toe Walk: Officers are supposed to find a level, well-lit line for defendants to walk, but many times, defendants are forced to walk imaginary lines over uneven, dimly-lit surfaces, and the test is almost impossible to successfully complete.
  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus: Under ideal conditions, subjects who exhibit certain “clues” while trying to follow fixed points with their eyes without moving their heads are probably intoxicated, but test conditions in the field and at the station house are normally far less than idea.

Unapproved tests, such as the finger-to-nose test or reciting the ABCs, may be either entirely inadmissible or admissible only for limited purposes.

Count on Experienced Attorneys

DUI drug impairment cases present unique legal and factual issues. For a confidential consultation with an aggressive criminal defense attorney in Schaumburg, contact Glasgow & Olsson. Convenient payment plans are available.

(image courtesy of Mason Hopfensperger)

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