UPDATED: September 24, 2018
You were driving somewhat erratically, when police stopped you. The officer suspected you were driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. In reality, you suffer from a medical condition, but the officer didn’t believe you. Now, you have been arrested for DUI, and the state has automatically suspended your driver’s license.
Can you fight the statutory suspension of your license based on your medical condition?
The answer depends on the circumstances and is very fact specific. What is the nature of your medical condition? How does it affect your performance? Does the officer have special training in recognizing drug use? Did the officer see any evidence of intoxication that cannot be explained by your condition?
Note, however, that different judges may interpret the same facts differently as illustrated by the case below.
In People v Gocmen, police were called to the scene of an unconscious driver, who might have been having a seizure. The officer saw a can in the car with residue that later tested positive for opiates and a syringe. Defendant was sweating, had pinpoint pupils, and lapsed in and out of consciousness. The officer had not received specific DUI drug training. Nonetheless, the officer arrested defendant for DUI.
In contesting his driver’s license suspension, the defendant said he was a diabetic. Because defendant may have been diabetic and the officer did not have any drug training or experience, the Third District Illinois Appellate Court found that the officer had no basis to conclude that defendant’s state was based on drugs and not on diabetes. While a layperson can testify regarding intoxication from alcohol, the effects of drugs are not commonly known, and training and experience are necessary to understand their effects on people, which the officer lacked.
However, the Illinois Supreme Court disagreed with the appellate court’s interpretation of the facts. In People v. Gocmen, the Supreme Court held that a reasonably cautious person could conclude under the totality of the circumstances that an individual was driving under the influence of drugs. The defendant’s physical condition was consistent with drug use as he was semi-conscious and disoriented. The officer had performed a swipe test on defendant’s Red Bull can detecting the presence of opiates. The officer found a packet of a brown granular substance in defendant’s wallet which the lower court had wrongly disregarded. Defendant had track marks. The Supreme Court further noted that the lower court had put too much weight on defendant’s “uncorroborated” statement that he was diabetic. As a result, the appellate court decision was reversed and the case sent back to the trial court for further proceedings.
If you have been charged with DUI or a similar offense, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for its best possible defense. Perhaps the police lacked probable cause to suspect you of DUI. If so, an attorney may be able to petition the court to strike down the automatic suspension of your driver’s license. Note that striking the suspension of your license does not guarnatee you will win your DUI). Even if the police acted legally and the evidence against you is overwhelming, an attorney who is respected in the court house 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.)