A DUI conviction for a DUI involving drugs can result in the permanent loss of driving privileges, substantial fines and costs, and even jail or prison. Call us today at (312) 466-9466 to schedule an in-office consultation with our Illinois DUI lawyers.
In addition to driving drunk, the law prohibits driving under the influence of drugs, or a combination of drugs and alcohol. It has been the anecdotal experience of our office that these types of cases are being charged more frequently in Cook County.
There are two types of charges involving drugs. A driver can be charged with driving under the influence to the degree that he or she is unable to operate the vehicle safely. 625 ILCS 5/11-501(a)(3) through (5). An individual may also be charged with driving with illegal drugs in their system. 625 ILCS 5/11-501(a)(6). The key difference is that under (a)(6) the prosecution only needs to prove the presence of illegal drugs in a driver's system. This can usually be accomplished through blood or urine tests, though confessions, the recovery of drugs, track marks, and other means may prove the presence of drugs.
Proving a person is under the influence of drugs is more complicated. While non-expert police officers may testify about alcohol intoxication, only an officer who has had sufficient experience with narcotics users will be legally sufficient. People v. Jacquith, 129 Ill.App.3d 107, 472 N.E.2d 107, 84 Ill.Dec. 357 (1st Dist. 1984). If the prosecution can prove that a driver is under the influence of drugs to the degree that he or she is unable to operate the vehicle safely. The fact that a defendant is entitled to use the drugs or intoxicating compounds is not a defense. 625 ILCS 5/11-501(b). For example, it is not a defense that a person operating a vehicle unsafely due to the influence of a drug possessed a prescription for the drug.
There are a variety defenses to driving under the influence of drugs or drugs and alcohol. One frequently used defense is that the prosecution cannot prove that the person was under the influence of drugs. A witness testifying about intoxication due to drugs must possess the experience and expertise to allow them to spot a person under the influence of drugs. In the Jacquith case cited above, the officer's involved did not have previous experience with narcotics users and neither had made an arrest for driving under the influence of drugs. The Jacquith court ruled that this level of experience was insufficient.
Even if an officers prior experience is sufficient, evidence of drug usage must be proven to a specific standard. If the prosecution cannot show conclusively that a defendant was under the influence of drugs, then a conviction is impossible. Several prior cases establish a standard that must be met. In one such case, it was established that the smell of drugs on an offenders breath and an admission to using drugs on a prior occasion do not rise to the level of sufficient evidence to prove DUI. People v. Allen 375 Ill. App. 3d 810, 816, 873 N.E. 2d 30, 313 Ill. Dec. 735 (2007). In other words, if these two facts were the only evidence of intoxication, the defendant cannot be convicted.
Another case establishes that the smell of drugs solely on an offenders person is also not sufficient to prove intoxication, even if the offender admits to recent drug usage. People v. Briseno, 343 Ill. App. 3d 953, 956, 799 N.E.2d 359, 278 Ill. Dec. 641 (2003). The court contended that based on this evidence, the police officer could not tell if there was a smell of drugs on the defendant's breath or in his blood or urine.
Defending a DUI arrest based on drugs becomes more difficult when there is more evidence against a defendant. For example, failure of properly administered field sobriety tests or recovery of drug paraphernalia in the car can make it harder to win a DUI case. A conviction is also more likely if a blood or urine test is conducted and shows the presence of drugs. However, in order for tests performed at the request of the police to be admissible, the testing must comply with the Illinois State Police regulations. 625 ILCS 5/11-501.2(a)(1). This gives rise to another possible defense. Our office will subpoena laboratory and medical records for any case involving drugs and compare the methods used to the rules set forth in the Administrative Code. If the person administering the test failed to comply with the regulations, a motion to preclude there use by the prosecution will be filed. For example, if a urine sample if significantly less than 60 ml is taken, the regulations have not been complied with and the test results should be precluded from evidence. Compliance with these regulations is not required if the blood or urine sample is taken during the course of treatment for injuries.
There are other defenses in this complicated area of law. Defendants accused of this type of DUI should consult with our office to explore all of the possible ways to defend the charge. If you have been accused of a DUI of Drugs or DUI of Drugs and Alcohol, call us today at (312) 466-9466 to arrange a consultation.