DUI Cases: Should I Go To Trial?
When charged with driving under the influence, or any other crime, you have two choices. One is to plead guilty, often in exchange for a more lenient sentence because you are saving the prosecutor the time and cost of a trial. The other choice is to plead “not guilty” and ask for a trial.
If you plead guilty, you can pay the penalties and get on with your life more quickly. But unless you get court supervision, you will have a conviction on your criminal record and that conviction can bar you from many employment opportunities among other consequences.
Alternatively, if you go to trial, you could avoid a conviction entirely. And even if you lose the trial and are convicted, at least you still have the option of appealing that decision to a higher court based on any errors that may have occurred during your trial. Judges and juries do not always make the right decision, and it is possible to win on appeal, as evidenced by a recent Illinois court decision.
A DUI Trial Conviction Overturned on Appeal
In 2011, a Bolingbrook man was stopped by police at 9:00 pm for driving without his headlights on and having a loud muffler. Reports from two officers claimed that the driver exhibited slurred speech, a moderate odor of alcohol, clumsiness, and eyes that were bloodshot and glassy. The driver admitted he had consumed some alcoholic drinks earlier in the day, but said he was not intoxicated now. He refused to perform field sobriety tests or take a preliminary breath test. He later became angry with the officers over the length of the traffic stop and because the officers decided to have his car towed due to the loud muffler.
After repeated profanity and a combative attitude from the driver, the police arrested him on suspicion of DUI. Roughly two hours after being stopped, the driver submitted to an evidentiary breath test, which gave a reading of .078, below the legal limit of .08.
The driver was declared guilty of DUI in a bench trial based on “evidence of [the defendant] driving at night without his lights on and not noticing his lights [were not] on, the attitude, his admission to drinking some alcohol, the odor, and his behavior.” The driver appealed on the grounds that the evidence was insufficient to prove him guilty of DUI beyond a reasonable doubt
The Illinois appellate court reviewed the evidence and, in November 2017, overturned the conviction, agreeing that the evidence was insufficient to prove impaired driving. Specifically, “the video recording of the traffic stop showed that defendant drove within the proper lanes without weaving, properly signaled his turns, and pulled into a parking lot after the police officer initiated a stop.” The appellate court found that a loud muffler and failure to turn on headlights are not obvious indications of intoxication. Further, a combative attitude and poor judgment (regarding the way the defendant acted toward the police) can be the result of many factors other than intoxication. Finally, the police officers’ observations of bloodshot eyes, etc., while relevant, were not alone sufficient evidence of driver impairment.
Seek Counsel from a Joliet Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have been unfairly charged with a crime, you need a Will County criminal defense lawyer who is an experienced litigator. Jack Zaremba is well-known for being both aggressive and effective in the courtroom in both jury trials and bench (judge only) trials. He is dedicated to helping clients avoid convictions and will not hesitate to take a case to trial. Contact the Law Offices of Jack L. Zaremba at 815-740-4025 at any time for a free consultation.