CAN THE NATURE OF THE ROAD BE A DEFENSE TO AN ILLINOIS TRAFFIC TICKET OR DUI?

In reviewing a traffic ticket or DUI, the court generally reviews all the facts of your case. In some situations, the type of road you were driving on may become important.

For example, does an officer have probable cause to stop you for improper lane usage if the road is particularly twisty? The answer may be no. See our related post What is Improper Lane Usage Under Illinois Law.

You may not legally pass a school bus that is signaling a stop. However, this law does not apply to certain types of roads. See our related post Passing a School Bus in Illinois.

In People v. Bowden, the defendant was stopped for failing to signal a lane change. The stop led to defendant’s arrest for possession of methamphetamine. However, the court granted defendant’s motion to suppress the evidence based on the nature of the road. The road had widened from a single lane into two separate lanes. The defendant had followed the right fog line with no abrupt movement in either direction. Thus, the officer lacked probable cause for the stop as no lane change had occurred.

If you have been charged with traffic or DUI offense, contact an experienced attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for its best possible defense. Do the police have probable cause to arrest you? The answer to that question may be less than straightforward when all the facts and circumstances of your situation are taken into account. Even if the police acted lawfully and the evidence against you is overwhelming, an attorney who is respected in the courthouse may be able to negotiate a more favorable plea agreement than you could on your own.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

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WHAT KIND OF WARNINGS ARE THE POLICE REQUIRED TO GIVE BEFORE I CAN BE ARRESTED FOR DUI IN ILLINOIS?

When you are arrested for DUI, the police must read you the Warnings to Motorists, but this is not the same as your Miranda rights.

The Illinois Secretary of State will try to automatically suspend your driver’s license on the 46th day after your arrest for DUI. The length of that suspension depends partly on whether you agreed to take a breathalyzer or other field sobriety tests. Before taking those tests, the officer must read you the Warnings to Motorists to inform you that your license will be suspended for a longer period if you refuse the tests.

Illinois law does not require that you understand the warnings or even that they be given to you in any language besides English. Nor does the law require you to understand the consequences of refusing the tests. The warnings are intended to help state gather evidence rather than enable you to make an informed choice.

If you have been charged with DUI or a similar offense, contact an experienced DUI attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for its best possible defense. Did police follow proper procedures during your arrest? Even if you do not understand the warnings, the officer must still provide them. Even if the police acted lawfully and the evidence against you is overwhelming, an attorney who is respected in the courthouse may be able to negotiate a more favorable plea agreement than you could on your own.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

Source: People v. Garcia-Gutierrez.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

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HOW MUCH TIME DOES AN OFFICER HAVE TO INVESTIGATE ME AT A TRAFFIC STOP?

The officer pulled you over for speeding. He ran a check of your license and issued the ticket. But the officer asked you to not to leave quite yet. You were forced to wait while the officer ran some checks or maybe brought in a narcotics dog. You were then arrested for an offense other than the original speeding ticket.

Can they do that? What are the limits of a police stop?

An officer may stop you for one reason and investigate you for another as long as he or she does not unduly prolong the stop. Authority for the stop ends when the tasks tied to it should have reasonably been completed. This can include ordinary inquiries such as checking for outstanding warrants. The officer can check on items unrelated to the stop. But to justify prolonging the stop even for a few minutes beyond the time needed to address the initial violation, an officer must have a reasonable suspicion of wrong doing.

In People v. Cassino, the defendant was driving a rental car when he was stopped for speeding. The officer did not suspect the car was stolen but contacted Hertz and discovered that defendant was not the authorized driver. After a search of the car, defendant was arrested on drug possession charges.

The court held that the evidence from the search should be suppressed in that the officer lacked the reasonable suspicion necessary to prolong the stop. The officer had determined in less than a minute that the vehicle was a rental, that it was not reported stolen, that the defendant’s driver’s license was valid, and that there were no outstanding warrants. Thus, the additional 25 minutes spent checking with Hertz was not justified.

If you have been charged with a crime, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for its best possible defense. Was the stop of your car and resulting search proper? If not, an attorney may be able to petition the court to suppress the evidence from the stop. In certain cases, this could result in the dismissal of your case.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

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SCOTT’S LAW RAISES PENALTIES FOR FAILING TO YIELD TO EMERGENCY VEHICLES

If you hear a siren or see the flashing lights of an emergency vehicle, it should go without saying that you have to clear the way. Illinois requires that you move to the right side curb until the vehicle passes.

If the emergency vehicle is stopped and flashing its lights, you must change to a lane that is not next to the emergency vehicle. If changing lanes is not possible, you must reduce your speed. Known as Scott’s Law, these rules seek to protect police officers who are too often killed by oncoming motorists while providing emergency aid.

Scott’s Law was named after Lt. Scott Gillen who was struck while assisting at a crash scene in 2000. In the first five months of 2019, Illinois State Troopers have lost two officers due to violations of Scott’s Law. (See State Trooper Says We Have to Educate the Public on Scott’s Law).

If you violate Scott’s Law, causing death or damages, you can face a variety of civil and criminal penalties including losing your driver’s license for at least 90 days. As of July 30, 2019, the penalties for violating the law have gone up. Besides increased fines, you can be charged with a Class A Misdemeanor if your violation caused property damage and a Class 4 felony if you caused injury or death.

If you have been charged with a criminal or traffic offense, contact an experienced attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for its best possible defense. Was the emergency vehicle flashing its lights? Could you safely change lanes? Even if the evidence against you is overwhelming, an attorney who is respected in the courthouse may be able to negotiate a more favorable plea agreement than you could on your own.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

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CAN POLICE SEARCH YOUR CAR? IT DEPENDS ON THE FACTS

A police officer can stop you if he or she has probable cause. An unlit headlight may be cause enough. But once stopped, an officer needs either your consent or a reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing to search your car.

What is a reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing? The answer depends on how a judge sees the specific facts of your situation.

A recent Illinois case provides a good example. In People v. Thomas, the defendant was stopped because of an obstructed windshield. An officer warned the defendant and returned his license. At that point, defendant’s first detention was over. However, the officer continued to question him, then brought a dog to sniff defendant’s car. This created a second detention which required the officer to have a reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing beyond the obstructed windshield.

The officer testified that the defendant was excessively nervous and drove under the speed limit. Defendant’s route appeared to be out of the way to his intended destination. There was evidence of hard travel (energy drinks and junk food). Defendant drove instead of flew across country but only intended to stay a few days and had no luggage. Finally, defendant had a criminal history of drug trafficking.

The court held that the officer lacked a reasonable suspicion to search defendant’s car. Neither nervousness, a criminal history, nor driving a couple miles under the speed limit by themselves was enough to create reasonable suspicion. Defendant’s route was suggested by Google Maps. While drug couriers also avoid overnight stops and rely on energy drinks and junk food, so do many innocent drivers. It was not unusual for people to drive long distances, even where flying was cheaper, and not everyone owned luggage.

If you have been charged with DUI or a similar offense, contact an experienced attorney immediately. Was the police search of your car illegal? If so, an attorney may be able to petition the court to suppress the results of your arrest. In limited situations, this could result in dismissal of your case or at least make it harder for the prosecution to convict you. Be aware, however, that different judges may view the facts differently. An attorney who is respected and familiar with the courthouse may have a better chance of persuading your particular judge.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

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ILLINOIS TIGHTENS LAW ON HAND HELD DEVICES WHILE DRIVING

Updated July 24, 2019

As of July 1, 2019, a first offense for texting or using a cell phone while driving is now a moving violation. Before the change in law, you would not receive a moving violation until the second offense.

Furthermore, as of July 19, 2019, the Illinois Secretary of State may suspend your driver’s license if your distracted driving resulted in bodily harm, permanent disability or disfigurement. In that case, you may also be charged a $1,000 fine.

The rest of the law essentially remains the same: You may not use an electronic communication device while driving. Such a device includes, but is not limited to, a hand-held wireless telephone, hand-held personal digital assistant, or a portable or mobile computer, but does not include GPS or a device that is physically or electronically integrated into the vehicle.

Fines range from $75 for a first offense to $150 for a fourth or later offense. However, you can be charged with aggravated use of an electronic communication device, a Class A misdemeanor, if you cause an accident that results in great bodily harm, permanent disability or disfigurement. The charge becomes a Class 4 felony if your texting proximately causes a death.

The law does not apply if you are 1) reporting an emergency, 2) using your device in handsfree mode, 3) parked on the shoulder or 4) stopped in traffic with your car in park or neutral. Simply pushing a single button to begin or end a communication does not violate the law. Furthermore, the law does not apply to CB radio hams or first responders.

If you have been charged with a traffic offense, contact an experienced traffic law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for its best possible defense. Were you simply hitting that single button to terminate a text? Was your car in park? Even if the evidence against you is overwhelming, an attorney can help guide you through court procedure and may be able to negotiate a more favorable plea agreement than you could on your own.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

Source: 625 ILCS 5/12-610.2 and 625 ILCS 5/6-206.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

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DO POLICE HAVE PROBABLE CAUSE TO SEARCH YOUR CAR?

You know you blew a stop sign, so you were not surprised when the officer pulled you over. But then the officer searched your car and found an open bottle of whiskey under the passenger seat. You are now under arrest for DUI.

Did the officer have the right to search your car? What can you do?

To search your car without a warrant, the officer must have probable cause to believe that your car contains evidence of criminal activity. The officer may also search if an item of contraband, such as open alcohol or drugs, is in plain view, but then the nature of the object as contraband must be immediately apparent.

The answer to whether an officer has the necessary probable cause can depend on how the particular facts of your case look to your particular judge. And that can be a game of inches.

For example in People v. Bailey, an officer pulled a defendant over for speeding. The officer noticed defendant had barbeque sauce in his beard and thought it odd someone could have food on their face without knowing it. Defendant moved very slowly and deliberately in retrieving his license but did not fumble. The officer attempted to distract defendant while he took out his license and testified that defendant seemed “to be staring almost through me…as if he was having a hard time focusing.” However, the officer had not noticed anything unusual about defendant’s eyes or speech. The officer noticed a sweet odor and saw a purple can, but could not tell what was in the can. The officer then searched defendant’s car, finding open alcohol in the back seat.

Under these circumstances, the court said the officer lacked probable cause for the search. The officer could not tell whether the open can in the back contained alcohol. Further, none of the officer’s observations before the search gave him probable cause. The officer did not notice glassy, bloodshot eyes or a strong odor of alcohol. The observation that defendant moved slowly and stared right through him was vague, subjective and only minimally suggestive of impairment.

Since the officer lacked probable cause, the court suppressed the evidence of the open alcohol container. But be aware that a different judge could have decided the officer had probable cause on the same facts, which is why it is important to know the tendencies of your particular judge.

If you are charged with DUI or a similar offense, contact an experienced DUI attorney immediately. An attorney may be able to present the facts of a questionable search in the light most appealing to your particular judge. Even if the police acted lawfully and the evidence against you is overwhelming, an attorney who is respected in the courthouse may be able to negotiate a more favorable plea agreement than you could on your own.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

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IS THERE A PROCEDURE TO OVERTURN THE AUTOMATIC DUI SUSPENSION OF MY DRIVER’S LICENSE?

The answer is yes. You may be able to overturn your driver’s license suspension upon certain grounds.

After you are charged with DUI, the Secretary of State usually suspends your driver’s license on the 46th day after your arrest. Once you receive the notice of a statutory summary suspension of driving privileges, you may request a hearing before the court. You must state the grounds upon which you are seeking to rescind or overturn the suspension. See 625 ILCS 5/2-118.1. One basis for rescinding is that the officer lacked reasonable grounds to believe you were driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Another basis is that the state is not ready to go forward with the officer’s testimony on the day of hearing. But to have a chance of winning on this basis, you must retain an attorney to file your petition as quickly as possible.

The petition to rescind your suspension is civil, not criminal. As such, you must make the initial showing that your license should be returned. If you succeed, the state must then present evidence justifying your suspension. If you fail, the court may rule for the state without the state having to present evidence. After hearing the evidence, the judge will determine whether to rescind the suspension of your license. Be advised, however, that even if you win your petition to rescind, your criminal case for DUI will still move forward.

If you have been charged DUI or similar offense, contact an experienced DUI attorney immediately. An attorney can file the petition and present the evidence in the hopes of saving your driver’s license.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

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CAN I BEAT THE AUTOMATIC SUSPENSION OF MY ILLINOIS DRIVER’S LICENSE?

If you are charged with DUI, you should immediately contact an attorney because certain options to fight the automatic suspension of your driver’s license may only be available for a short time after your arrest.

The Illinois Secretary of State automatically suspends your driver’s license on the 45th day after your DUI arrest for a minimum of six months. An attorney can file a petition to challenge this suspension at any time. However, the sooner you file the petition the better, because the state has to meet certain timeframes.

Under 625 ILCS 5/2-118.1, you must be given a hearing on your petition within 30 days after the petition is received or on the first court appearance date. If an attorney files the petition promptly and the state is not ready for hearing, the judge could grant your petition.

The state must also provide copies of any evidence against you in time for the hearing or again, the judge could grant your petition. Any delay in obtaining the evidence must be attributable to the state and not to you, so you cannot delay in filing the paperwork and then object if the state isn’t ready.

Even if you don’t file your petition promptly, you may still be able to challenge your suspension, but under a much heavier burden.

If you have been charged with DUI or a similar offense, contact an experienced DUI attorney immediately. An attorney can file the necessary paperwork in hopes of overturning your driver’s license suspension. While you may be able to drive with a breath activated ignition interlock device, this can be both embarrassing and costly.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.
Reference: People v. Patel.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

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PASSING A SCHOOL BUS IN ILLINOIS

UPDATED August 7, 2019: As of January 1, 2020, the fines for illegally passing a school bus are going up. The fine will be $300 (instead of $150) for a first offense and $1000 (instead of $500) for later offenses.

You saw the school bus, but you honestly didn’t see the stop sign extending from it. So you drove past the bus, and next thing you know, a police car signaled you to pull over. You would never intentionally disobey a school bus sign, and the whole thing is extremely upsetting.

What is the law? What can you do?

In Illinois, you must stop before passing a school bus from either direction when the bus is signaling a stop by either a stop sign or flashing lights. You may not drive forward until the school bus proceeds, the bus driver signals to you, or the visual signals are no longer activated. See 625 ILCS 5/11-1414.

There are exceptions to this rule: You need not stop for a school bus on the opposite side of a highway that has four or more lanes with at least two lanes of traffic in opposite directions. You also do not need to stop for a bus on either side of the road if the bus is in a paved loading zone adjacent to a controlled access highway where pedestrians are not permitted to cross.

Apart from fines, you may lose your license for three months if convicted on a first offense, and for one year on a second or later offense that occurred within five years of a prior conviction. You may, however, be able to get a restricted driving permit to travel to work.

If you have been charged with overtaking a school bus or similar offense, contact an experienced traffic law attorney immediately. Was the bus signaling a stop? What was the nature of the roadway? Even if the evidence is clear, an attorney who is respected in the courthouse may be able to persuade the prosecutor to reduce the charge to a less damaging offense.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

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