Illinois Supreme Court Reverses Appellate Court on a Quashed DUI Arrest based on Minor Improper Lane Usage Infraction
On July 6th, the Illinois Supreme Court reversed an Appellate Court decision and remanded an aggravated DUI case to the trial court for further proceedings. The Supreme Court held that the trial court erred in granting defendant's motion to quash arrest and suppress evidence where police officer's observations of defendant driving his vehicle by crossing over lane lines "less than halfway" two times, as such was sufficient "reasonable suspicion" to justify officer's belief that Section 11-709 of the Vehicle Code had been violated and stop vehicle.
Defendant, Dennis Hackett, was charged in the circuit court of Will County with aggravated driving under the influence of alcohol and aggravated driving while license revoked. Defendant filed a motion to quash arrest and suppress evidence, arguing that the arresting officer lacked “probable cause” to stop defendant’s vehicle and, as a result, evidence gathered after the “improper stop” constituted fruit of an unlawful search. The avowed basis for the traffic stop was a violation of section 11-709(a) of the Illinois Vehicle Code (improper lane usage). After a hearing, the circuit court granted defendant’s motion, finding that defendant’s “momentary crossings” of a highway lane line did not give the officer “reasonable grounds” to make the stop. The State appealed, and a divided appellate court affirmed, the majority acknowledging this court’s decision in People v. Smith, 172 Ill. 2d 289 (1996), while seeking to distinguish that case on the ground that this defendant had not driven in more than one lane for a “reasonably appreciable distance.”
This ruling by the Illinois Supreme Court continues to chip away at the already limited array of pre-trial DUI Defense strategies available to DUI defendants. The bottom line is that if the police want a reason to pull you over in the hope of making a DUI arrest, be advised that the deck is stacked against you. Even the most minor lane infraction is good enough to justify a stop. Of course a police officer's ability to observe the most innocuous lane violation is proportional to traffic volume. Since traffic volume is generally much less late at night - prime time for DUI enforcement - the chances of being pulled over are huge even if you haven't been drinking.
For more information on DUI defense Brent Christensen's website.