One night, you went out with colleagues after work. The drinking ran a bit late, and it had been an especially stressful day. As you drove home, you could barely keep your eyes open, so you pulled over and fell asleep in your car. Suddenly, an officer knocked on your window, startling you awake. The officer asked you to get out of the car, and before long you were charged with DUI.
Is the arrest legal? What can you do?
Before an officer stops you, he or she must have a reasonable suspicion of wrong doing. In People v. Shelton, officers responded to an anonymous 911 report that a driver was asleep in the intersection. The court found the stop was justified. An officer is not required to watch your car to personally observe suspicious driving. Furthermore, sleeping in an intersection causes a hazard and suggests the decreased vigilance and impaired judgment associated with drunk driving.
But if you took the trouble to legally park rather than blocking the road? The officer may still have valid grounds to approach you. Under the police community caretaking function, an officer can check to see if you need help. Once the officer smells the alcohol and notices the “bloodshot eyes” and “slurred speech,” you are on your way to the police station.
While you may have trouble fighting the stop itself, your case is not necessarily a lost cause. The state must still prove all the elements of the offense—that you were in actual physical control of a motor vehicle while impaired—beyond a reasonable doubt. In Illinois, sitting in a car with the keys anywhere within reach is enough to establish actual physical control. However, the state may still have difficulty proving you were impaired if, for example, the police video shows you did well on field sobriety tests, you had no trouble exiting the car and you spoke clearly to police.
If you have been charged with DUI or similar offense, contact an experienced attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for its best possible defense. Can the state prove your keys were in the car or that you were impaired? Even if 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
(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.)