In 2016, Illinois law enforcement made over 29,000 arrests for DUI, roughly 86% of these individuals were first-time offenders. There were 272 fatalities from accidents that involved alcohol impairment, which equates to about 25% of all traffic fatalities. Police in McHenry County are hoping to reduce the number of fatalities and recently announced that those suspected of drunk driving that refuse to submit to a breath test will be forced to submit a blood sample. Michael Nerheim, a state attorney from Lake County, says the “repeat offenders are some of the most dangerous,” implying they have little regard for public safety. Lake County is expected to follow suit in adopting the program soon.
Obtaining a Warrant
A new system of “e-warrants” that is being launched in McHenry County allows officers to contact a judge who may quickly issue a warrant. This warrant allows for the suspect to be transported to a hospital where blood may be drawn and used to detect drugs and/or alcohol. Prior to the development of this newer system, some of the state's counties had judges who were “on-call” at their home that could consider issuing warrants. Executing the warrant in a timely manner is critical because the ability to detect the presence of alcohol and/or drugs can pass over longer time periods.
Key Evidence: Blood Alcohol Content (BAC)
In prosecuting DUI cases, the suspect's BAC is considered the strongest type of evidence available. In the absence of a warrant, a suspect is unable to be compelled to comply with such tests. Some drivers will refuse to submit a breath sample because it reduces the likelihood that they may be convicted of a DUI, despite that the refusal automatically triggers a driver's license suspension. A local attorney told the Chicago Tribune that he would “challenge the legality of a forced blood draw.” A few states have laws that make the act of refusing to submit to a test a crime in itself. State statute explains that a blood alcohol level of .08% is considered to be the threshold for determining impairment.
Critics Question Constitutionality
Many opponents of the plan say it potentially is a violation of a person's civil rights, particularly when force is necessary to obtain the blood sample. One skeptical attorney commented that the new law may pass constitutional standards, but may not be practical in some cases. One opponent considers the plan as a form of “force or intimidation.” Roughly ten years ago, Kane County experimented with a similar program at times when there were likely to be more intoxicated drivers, such as the Super Bowl and St. Patrick's Day. These special projects were referred to as “no-refusal” periods.
Penalties for Breath Test Refusal
Some repeat DUI offenders refuse to submit to alcohol tests because of the harsh DUI penalties. The state attorney for McHenry County, Patrick Kenneally, says the new law should result in having stronger court cases. State law says that those with a driver's license are legally obligated by “implied consent” to take breath or blood tests. What will be considered as appropriate suspicion of impairment for a warrant to be issued? Officers typically look for factors such as those driving erratically or those who perform poorly on roadside sobriety tests.
Impact on Healthcare Professionals
Some fear the program will place the hospital's staff into potentially dangerous law enforcement roles. In Utah, a nurse was arrested last year after refusing to extract blood from an unconscious man who was unable to give consent. The nurse was awarded $500,000 after her wrongful arrest and the officer in charge was fired. Michael Nerheim suggested possibly working with the local sheriff officials to potentially employ medical staff from the jail to conduct the blood draws.
Peoria Attorneys for Those Injured By Drunk Drivers
Those who “take the wheel” while intoxicated are not only breaking the law, but creating the potential for severe property damage, injuries, and death. If you have been injured as a result of such recklessness, you should hold the party responsible for their actions. At Benassi & Benassi P.C., we will aggressively pursue your rightful compensation and encourage you to contact the office today at (309) 674-3556.