Friday, April 22, 2011

DUI Appeal - Illinois DUI Drug Law Based on Slightest Amount

In People v. Martin, --- N.E.2d ----, 2011 WL 1499909 (Ill.), the defendant was convicted of Aggravated DUI causing death. The evidence at trial revealed that the defendant crossed the centerline while traversing a curve in the road, hitting another vehicle head-on and killing the 2 occupants. A blood test revealed no drugs in the system. A gas chromatography mass spectrometry test revealed no drugs in the urine. A more specific mass spec test eventually revealed a barely detectable amount of a metabolite associated with methamphetamine. The defendant confided to a friend that “I have done crystal meth before, but I was not on crystal meth that night.” The State presented testimony from Anderson, a State Police forensic scientist, who analyzed two urine samples taken from the defendant that night at the hospital. Anderson stated unequivocally, and to a reasonable degree of scientific certainty, “I found methamphetamine in both of the urine samples that I tested .” Dr. Staubus stated that the urine samples did not contain detectable or realistic amounts of amphetamines, but he did not dispute that there was any amount, even a trace, of methamphetamine in the defendant's urine.

The Supreme Court found that the law does not require the State to prove that the drugs caused or contributed to the accident in order for a defendant to be guilty of the felony charged. rather, all that is required is that the defendant's driving must be a cause of the accident, and that there is some trace amount of a controlled substance in his system.

The Court reasoned that requiring the State to prove actual impairment, or that the drugs contributed to or caused the death of the person, was not what was intended by the legislature:

“There is no dispute that the statute is intended to keep drug-impaired drivers off of the road. At the lowest levels of drug ingestion, no one is impaired. At the highest levels, all are impaired. In the vast middle range, however, the tolerance for drugs varies from person to person and drug to drug. In this range, depending on the drug and depending on the person, some will be impaired and some will not be impaired at all. * * ** * * The flat prohibition against driving with any amount of a controlled substance in one's system was considered necessary because ‘there is no standard that one can come up with by which, unlike alcohol in the bloodstream, one can determine whether one is * * * driving under the influence.’ “

Citing to other cases in Illinois and Arizona, the Court continued:

"Indeed, while it is possible to determine scientifically the amount of alcohol that renders a driver impaired, it is not possible to do the same for drugs. Rodriguez, 398 Ill.App.3d at 439, 339 Ill.Dec. 158, 926 N.E.2d 390. “Unlike the blood alcohol concentration test used to measure alcohol impairment, there is no useful indicator of impairment from such drugs because they are fundamentally different from alcohol. Essentially, there can be no meaningful quantification because of the dangers inherent in the drugs themselves and in the lack of potency predictability.” State v. Phillips, 178 Ariz. 368, 873 P.2d 706, 710 (Ariz.Ct.App.1994).

Concluding, the Court stated:

"A driver with controlled substances in his body violates section 11–501(a)(6) simply by driving. When an aggravated DUI charge is based on a violation of that section, section 11–501(d)(1)(F) requires a causal link only between the physical act of driving and another person's death. In such a case, the central issue at trial will be proximate cause, not impairment."

Editors Comments: People v. Martin (found here: is a complete embarrassment to our state's jurisprudence, in my opinion. Aggravated DUI Causing Death is in fact our state's version of vehicular homicide, as it is referred to in other states. (We used to call it Reckless Homicide) In Martin, the Supreme Court held that a person could be convicted of Aggravated DUI Causing Death when the amount of drug found ONLY in their urine (the blood was clean) was so infinitesimal that it couldn't have impaired anyone (in fact it was so small that it also couldn't be found using a gas chromatography/ mass spectrometry -the gold standard- and had to be found using a more specialized form of mass spectrometry). In other words, if 2 people performed the same act - crossing the center line and negligently causing the death of another - then the driver found with .001 nanogram of a controlled substance goes to jail for 3-14 years, while the other isn't even charged with a crime.

Frankly, the above example IS what People v. Martin is all about - sentencing past drug users to jail as status offenses. An equal protection violation. Can you imagine what will happen when modern science is so accurate that they can find an amount of drug in your system from years ago (they can already use your hair to go back about one month per inch of length)?

Not to mention, that the Supremes erroneously claimed that the legislature intended the proximate cause issue to apply only to bad driving and not to the use of the drug itself. How did they do that? They took another statute - driving with any amount in the system - a misdemeanor - and used that statute to create out of whole cloth the fallacy that these senators also meant that there need not be a proximate cause to the drug use when they passed AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT SET OF LAWS MAKING AGG DUI DEATH A FELONY.

My understanding of statutory construction in criminal cases suggests that ALL penal statutes are strictly construed in favor of the accused. People v. Martin doesn't even mention this construct, because to acknowledge its existence would force them to apply it.

And here's another insult to both forensic science and intellectual thinking - the Supremes held that, since one cannot tell if a person is impaired from a drug based on the level in their system alone, then we should just presume EVERYONE is impaired. Read that out loud to yourselves slowly - since we don't know who is actually guilty of the crime, we should make everyone guilty of the crime! In fact, there are presumptive levels of drug impairment that are published in medical journals, as well as employed in certain states. Further, there IS a way to determine whether someone is under the influence of drugs - it's called a medical EXAM! That's right - doctors and toxicologists are specifically trained to determine if a person is being 'influenced' by drugs in their system. And Mr. Martin's doctors, as well as ALL of the experts, could not say the defendant was impaired. So what do the Supremes decide is the best course of Illinois Jurisprudence? Find him guilty due to a LACK of REAL EVIDENCE.

People v. Martin takes the concept of strict liability (there is no mens rea for DUI) and combines it with the newest concept (no causation for the actus reus either) and makes Illinois the class clowns of modern forensic/criminal law. Could you imagine if we took all misdemeanors, and turned them into homicides simply because there was a death that was caused by from an unrelated act of negligence? Shame, shame, shame......

Looking for a Top DUI DWI Attorney? Visit Americas Top DUI and DWI Attorneys at or call 1-800-DIAL-DUI to find a DUI OUI DWI Attorney Lawyer Now!

No comments:

Blog Archive