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Criminal Nuggets


Nov 20, 2018

 People v. Williams, 2018 IL App (2d) 160683 (October). Episode 558b (Duration 11:25)

Challenging this DUI traffic stop gave us a reason to review exactly what it takes for police to find probable cause for a DUI arrest in Illinois.

Probable Cause For DUI Arrest in Illinois

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The Stop

Around 1 in the morning officer sees a car with the left-turn arrow activated. It then proceeded straight through the intersection. The car then lunged into the intersection, paused, and then continued through into the parking lot for the Elgin Mall.

The officer stopped the car.

DUI Indicia

Defendant’s speech was “kind of mumbled, slow and slurred,” and he smelled an alcoholic beverage “coming from [defendant’s] person.” Defendant advised the officer that he had come from a bar—JB’s.

Defendant said he had consumed four beers.

DUI Investigator Arrives

Suspecting that defendant might be impaired, the first officer called a second officer to the scene. The second officer was more experienced in DUI investigations. The second officer arrived a few minutes later.

The DUI investigator testified that he spoke with defendant and asked him to step out of the vehicle. Defendant emerged from the vehicle without stumbling or falling, but he swayed as he stood outside the vehicle.

The second officer also smelled the odor of alcohol on defendant. He also noticed the defendant’s eyes were “red, bloodshot, glassy, watery.”

Defendant refused to perform field sobriety tests. Defendant said a football injury prevented him from performing the tests. He also claimed that he could not walk a straight line sober.

Defendant was then arrested for DUI.

The Car Search

The car was searched and police discovered what appeared to be cannabis pipes. They still had a little cannabis inside them.

No Fields, No Blow But Guilty

At the station defendant refused to take the breath test. 

The jury found defendant guilty of the three charged offenses. Defendant was sentenced defendant to an 18-month term of conditional discharge and 240 hours of community service.

Issue

Defendant contends that there was no probable cause to arrest him for DUI.

DUI Probable Cause

“Probable cause to arrest exists when the totality of the facts known to the officer at the time of the arrest are sufficient to lead a reasonably cautious person to believe that the arrestee has committed a crime.”

A person is under the influence of alcohol when he or she is less able, either mentally or physically, or both, to exercise clear judgment, and with steady hands and nerves operate an automobile with safety to himself and to the public.

In People v. Wingren, 167 Ill. App. 3d 313, 320 (1988), this court observed that “[p]robable cause to arrest a motorist for DUI has been commonly established by the testimony of the arresting officer, in spite of the defendant’s contradictory testimony, that the motorist had about him or her the odor or strong odor of alcohol, had slurred speech or had red and glassy eyes.”

Generally, these observations are supplemented by other observations apparent to the officer or inferred from his observations such as speeding, weaving, erratic driving, driving on the wrong side of the road, being stuck in a ditch or, as in the case at bar, being in a vehicle which is stuck in the mud.

People v. Motzko

Defendant’s reliance on Motzko is misplaced.

See Episode 347 – People v. Motzko, 2017 IL App (3d) 160154 (April). Episode 347 (defendant wins his motioin to supporess no probable casue for DUI). 

Here, the trial court’s determination that there was probable cause to arrest defendant for DUI was not based solely on the odor of alcohol, defendant’s slurred speech, and his bloodshot eyes. In addition, defendant improperly proceeded straight through the intersection when the green left-turn arrow came on.

Not Completely Incapacitated By Alcohol

Defendant notes that he had no apparent difficulty maneuvering his vehicle.

However, even a conviction of DUI does not require proof that the defendant “was completely incapacitated by alcohol.” People v. Tatera, 2018 IL App (2d) 160207, ¶ 29. The prosecution need prove only that the defendant “was impaired by alcohol *** to the extent that it rendered him incapable of driving safely.”

See Episode 498 – People v. Tatera, 2018 IL App (2d) 160207 (May) (bad HGN test inadmissible but jury could still consider defendant’s inability to follow instructions)

See Also

Episode 468 – People v. Meo, 2018 IL App (2d) 170135 (March) (Citizen’s Tip That Driver Almost Hit The Building Justifies Investigatory Stop For DUI & Defendant Couldn’t Follow Directions During The HGN)

He Ran A Red Light

Driving through a red light was evidence that defendant lacked the mental clarity to operate his vehicle safely.

Yet, contends that his “one instance of ‘poor driving’ was fully explained by the condition of his vehicle.” However, other than defendant’s self-serving statements, police had no reason to believe that defendant’s vehicle was not in good working order.

While defendant may offer innocent explanations for his behavior, that does not prevent the police from acting on their well-founded conclusions.

After all, the assessment of probable cause is based on the totality of the facts, and a reasonably prudent person would be aware of a defendant’s incentive to fabricate an innocent explanation in order to avoid arrest and prosecution.

While We Are At It…

Although defendant offered an excuse—a football injury—for his refusal to perform tests, but this excuse did not negate probable cause.

Defendant contends, however, that the evidence of his guilt was insufficient because he was able to drive his car through the intersection without weaving or jerking, he activated his turn signal, he properly pulled into a parking space, he exited his vehicle without hesitation and without stumbling or falling, and he was able to communicate with the officers.

Defendant’s argument is without merit. A motorist’s ability to perform a number of tasks without any indication of impairment does not necessarily create a reasonable doubt in a DUI prosecution. 

Plus He Was Swaying

Michael and Bajak also observed defendant swaying.

That observation is a factor supporting the trial court’s conclusion that there was probable cause to arrest defendant for DUI. See People v. Anderson, 2013 IL App (2d) 121346, ¶ 25.

Refusal Counts For Something

Furthermore, defendant’s refusal to perform field sobriety tests was probative of impairment. See Tatera, 2018 IL App (2d) 160207, ¶ 28 (listing defendant’s refusal to perform any field sobriety tests among factors contributing to conclusion that evidence was sufficient to sustain defendant’s DUI conviction).

Holding

We therefore conclude that there was probable cause to arrest defendant for DUI.

That conclusion disposes of defendant’s argument that the evidence seized during the search of his vehicle should have been suppressed. We note the defendant challenge the search of his vehicle after his arrest. There was no Arizona v. Gant challenge. 

Accordingly, we conclude that the evidence was sufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant was guilty of DUI.

See These Older Cases

In People v. Weathersby, 383 Ill. App. 3d 226 (2008), we affirmed a DUI conviction on the basis of evidence similar to the evidence in this case. In that case, the defendant’s speech was “thick-tongued,” his eyes were glassy, a three-quarters-empty bottle of malt liquor was found in his vehicle, and his breath smelled of alcohol. The defendant also refused to take a breath test.

Here, defendant’s “eyes were glassy and bloodshot” and that his speech was “thick-tongued and slurred.” See Wingren, 167 Ill. App. 3d at 320 where probable cause to arrest a motorist for DUI has been commonly established by the testimony of the arresting officer that the motorist had about him or her the odor or strong odor of alcohol, had slurred speech or had red and glassy eyes. 

The odor of alcohol on a defendant’s breath and his inadequate performance of a field sobriety test do not constitute reasonable grounds to believe that the defendant was driving under the influence. See People v. Boomer, 325 Ill. App. 3d 206, 209 (2001) (officer lacked probable cause to arrest defendant for DUI where defendant was involved in accident, admitted drinking, and had the odor of alcoholic beverage on his breath).

This Is Probably Now The Law

Episode 294 – People v. Day, 2016 IL App (3d) 150852 (January) (no probable cause for this DUI arrest, defendant passed the FST’s and he was driving nearly perfect). Where a defendant admitted to drinking, had the strong odor of alcohol on his breath, had bloodshot eyes, and slurred his speech, the trial court properly ruled that the officer lacked probable cause to arrest the defendant for DUI because any suspicions of impairment were not corroborated by other factors, such as poor driving, stumbling, falling, or an inability to communicate.

Speeding and being involved in an accident are insufficient bases upon which to support a DUI probable cause determination. See People v. O’Brien, 227 Ill. App. 3d 302, 307 (1992) (no probable cause to arrest defendant for DUI where defendant was speeding, admitted to drinking, and unsuccessfully performed sobriety test).

Episode 549 – People v. Lopez, 2018 IL App (1st) 153331 (October) (Anonymous Tip On A DUI Has Got To Be Specific Plus Identity Information Is Suppressible)

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