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Evidence Gathered in Warrantless Cell Phone Searches is Inadmissible

Joliet Warrant Cell Phone SearchWhen an individual is arrested, whether it is on charges of DUI , weapons offenses , or possession of drugs , the arresting officer will normally conduct a pat-down search of the arrestee. This is done in an effort to prevent the officer from being injured by any object on the individual’s person that may pose an immediate threat. The search is also conducted to prevent the destruction of immediately available additional evidence, such as drugs or drug paraphernalia. However, up to 90 percent of American adults routinely carry a cell phone or other mobile device that may be seized by police subsequent to an arrest. Thanks to a ruling by the United States Supreme Court, though, the police must obtain a warrant before looking through an arrestee’s cell phone for additional information.

The decision came as the result of two separate cases from opposite sides of the country. In the first, a California man was convicted for additional crimes when a warrantless search of his cell phone led to incriminating evidence that was used against him at trial. In the other, a man in Massachusetts was arrested for selling drugs and law enforcement officials searched his phone. Using information on the phone, they were able to identify the man’s apartment, a warranted search of which found additional drugs and illegal weapons. Together, the two cases reached the nation’s high court, which, in a unanimous decision, solidified the concept of digital privacy by prohibiting warrantless searches of cell phones.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the opinion for the court. He expressly recognized the inherent differences between a cell phone or mobile device and other items that are routinely carried on someone’s person. The search of a cell phone, he continued, is therefore much different than the normal, brief search conducted incident to arrest. “Digital data stored on a cell phone,” Roberts wrote, “cannot itself be used as a weapon to harm an arresting officer or to effectuate the arrestee’s escape.”

The court maintained the right of law enforcement to secure the device and to search it after obtaining a warrant based on probable cause, but recognized that such searches are rarely so time-sensitive that the warrant process would have a measurable negative impact. Proceeding to search without a warrant, however, would render the information developed from such a search to be inadmissible in most cases, and a violation of the defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights.

At the Law Offices of Jack L. Zaremba, we take the rights of defendants very seriously. We understand the law, and when law enforcement officers violate your rights, we are prepared to take action. If you have been charged with a crime based on information found on your cell phone, contact an experienced Will County criminal defense lawyer today. We will review your case and are equipped to help you protect your future. Call 815-740-4025 to schedule your free, confidential consultation.

Governor Amends Lawmakers’ Proposal on Marijuana DUI Limits

Joliet Marijuana DUI BillA few weeks ago, a post on this blog discussed a bill that would have created the created the state’s first quantitative standard for driving under the influence of marijuana . The measure had been approved passed with bipartisan support by the Illinois House and Senate and was sent to the desk of Governor Bruce Rauner for his signature. The governor, however, found the proposed limits to be too permissive and returned the bill to the legislature with a proposal of his own, exercising his amendatory veto power.

Zero-Tolerance and Initial Proposal

Under the existing laws in Illinois, a driver could face charges for DUI if any trace of marijuana is found in his or her system. This presents several problems, proponents for change contend. First, efforts are underway around the country and in Illinois to decriminalize marijuana possession, with some starts having already legalized recreational use. Thus, a zero-tolerance policy for presence of a substance, the use of which may or may not have been illegal, does not seem to make sense when impairment is not a factor. The other main concern is that it takes a significant amount of time for all traces of marijuana to be fully metabolized or expelled from the body. In fact, some remnants can remain in a person’s system for several weeks, long after its impairment effects have worn off. Critics of the current law maintain that a DUI arrest today based marijuana use last week—which may have been legal if the driver visited another state—is simply unjust.

The law sent to the governor contained a quantifiable standard for impairment, similar to the state’s limits on blood alcohol content, or BAC. Lawmakers proposed a limit of 15 nanograms of THC—the psychoactive component of marijuana—per milliliter of blood. If it had been passed, the law would have established the highest such limit in the country.

Amendatory Veto

Governor Rauner agreed with many around the state who believed that such a standard was simply too lenient. As a result, the Republican governor sent the bill back with a new proposed limit of 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter. Supporters see the amendment as in line with trends across the country , as a 5 nanogram limit is currently the enforcement standard in Washington and Colorado, the two states which legally permit recreational marijuana use.

While the state legislature considers the governor’s amendment, it is important to remember that driving under the influence of marijuana or any other controlled substance can result in serious criminal penalties. If you have been charged with DUI, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney in Joliet today. Call 815-740-4025 to schedule your free consultation at the Law Offices of Jack L. Zaremba.

Challenging the Results of Field Sobriety Tests

Joliet field sobriety testsIf you were asked to stand on one leg for thirty seconds, right now with no warning, could you do it? What about walking in a straight line, heel to toe, reversing direction and walking back on the exact same line, whether you could see the line or not? If either of these presented a significant challenge for you, federal authorities suggest that there is about an 80 percent chance that you might be intoxicated. Of course, this exercise is meant to be an exaggerated example, but the reality is that tests such as the ones mentioned are used by law enforcement every day as subjective evidence against drivers charged with DUI , knowing full well the tests are not always accurate.

Battery of Standardized Field Sobriety Tests

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration recognizes three roadside behavior assessments as “Standardized Field Sobriety Tests” or SFSTs. The tests include the two previously discussed and a third, the horizontal gaze nystagmus, in which the administering officer asks a driver to follow a small object, such as a pen, with his or her eyes, looking for involuntary jerking of the eyes (called nystagmus) and other indicators. Generally administered together, these tests are accepted around the country as admissible—although rebuttable—proof of a driver’s intoxication.

Concerns Regarding Accuracy

While such tests can provide assistance to a law enforcement officer in determining a driver’s level of intoxication, they are far from perfect. In fact, the NHTSA fully acknowledges in its own manuals that the most recent validation study was conducted more than 15 years ago, and even then, showed the tests to be about 91 percent accurate. The accuracy rate drops even lower for each test individually, with the walk-and-turn test showing to be the most unreliable , at only a 79 percent accuracy rate. If effect, this means that, despite their use in the courtroom, field sobriety tests are not irrefutable evidence against you, no matter what law enforcement officers try to convince you.

Mitigating Factors

There are a number of considerations that can greatly impact the results of field sobriety tests. Some of them relate to you, while others involving the administering officer. On your part, physical conditions, health concerns, and other factors may play a role in “poor performance” on SFSTs. For example, if you suffer from inner-ear problems or vertigo, the one-leg stand and the walk-and-turn tests are extremely unreliable indicators of being drunk. Likewise, nystagmus can be caused by far more than alcohol consumption or drug use.

Similarly, in order for the tests to even be considered by the court, they must be conducted in full compliance with standardized procedures. In fact, in 2000, an Ohio Supreme Court decision explicitly held that Standardized Field Sobriety Tests conducted outside of established NHTSA protocols “are inherently unreliable” and not admissible. In Illinois, appellate courts have agreed, requiring testimony—that can be refuted if necessary—that the tests were administered properly and in accordance with standards.

Legal Help for Your DUI Case

If you have been charged with DUI and you believe that SFSTs were inappropriately used against you, contact an experienced drunk driving defense lawyer in Joliet today. Our team of skilled legal professionals understands the law and is committed to ensuring your rights are fully protected. Call 815-740-4025 to schedule your free consultation at the Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba.

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