You were charged with DUI, and you’ve been to court maybe six times. Not once have you seen the officer who arrested you. Meanwhile, you’ve watched other cases get dismissed because a witness or even an officer didn’t show. Why are you still here?

In Illinois, DUI cases are handled a little differently from some other criminal cases. While you may not see your arresting officer until your trial date, the judge still requires you to show month after month. If you fail to appear, the judge can put out a warrant for your arrest.

Why the difference? Partly out of respect for the demands of a police officer’s job and partly due to issues related to the burden of proof.

For most criminal cases including DUI, the state must prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. That generally means the state needs a witness to your alleged crime. For many crimes, the witness is a third party such as the victim of a battery or perhaps a store security officer on a retail theft. If your DUI involved a car accident, the witness may be the other driver. If this third party failed to show in court, then the state would not be able to meet its burden of proof, and the case would likely be dismissed.

But for many DUIs, the arresting officer is the witness. So why don’t they have to appear? The answer is judges have respect for officers and the demands of their jobs. The officer may have worked all night, or the officer may be tied up in an investigation. There is also no good reason to force an officer to show up for routine court dates where the case might simply be set for status or for you to get the results of your alcohol evaluation.

Please note, however, that the officer’s presence may be critical if you have filed a petition to rescind the statutory summary suspension. If the officer does not appear, the state may be compelled to rescind your suspension under some circumstances.

Once the case is set for trial, the officer must come. Even then, a judge out of deference may continue the case if the officer can’t be there one or more times.

One exception is for routine traffic violations, which judges prefer to resolve quickly. Technically, your first court date can be the trial date so a missing officer lead to a dismissal.

One way to shorten the number of continuances is for an attorney to demand trial. Under the speedy trial act, the state has a certain number of days to try your case or your case must be dismissed. But this option may sound like a no-brainer, delays can work in your favor. Whether to demand trial is a strategic decision that must be weighed carefully with your attorney.

If you have questions about this or another related 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.)

About mdkeenan

A criminal and school law attorney with over 17 years of experience, I have successfully represented clients all over the Chicago area. My practice includes DUI, felony, criminal, misdemeanor, homicide, internet crime, retail theft, traffic offenses, cyberstalking, drug crimes, weapons violations, domestic battery and juvenile crime. I also represent families involving school cases. My clients come from all over the Chicago area including Skokie, Wilmette, Niles, Northbrook, Glenview, Evanston, Winnetka, Highland park, Northfield, Park Ridge, Des Plaines and Mount Prospect. I am a member of the ACLU and the Illinois State Bar Association. I serve as a volunteer for First Defense Legal Aid. Se habla espanol.
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