A question that I am often asked is, “how long will it take to resolve my case”? And even though I have been handling DUI cases on a daily basis for 17 plus years, I really can’t say. Every case is unique. Also, in some courthouses there are unwritten rules and practices that causes to remain on the court call for a longer period than anywhere else.
Today I finally wrapped up a case which began with an arrest 20 months ago.
The basic facts of the case were that two tactical officers were riding in an unmarked squad car when they heard my client driving on Western Avenue playing loud music. They effectuated a traffic stop, and upon determining that there was open alcohol in the car, and that my client had slurred speech and red, bloodshot eyes, arrested him for DUI. No field tests or breath test were conducted.
On the second court date, 18 months ago, the client’s summary suspension was rescinded because the Judge hearing the case determined that the police lacked reasonable grounds to believe that my client had been under the influence of alcohol.
In most courthouses, the companion DUI criminal case would be dropped immediately after a judge finds no reasonable grounds to arrest. That is because in most courthouses, the same judge would hear any future motions or the trial, so why waste the judge’s time?
However, the Chicago Traffic Court is different. Traffic Court is where new judges are first assigned. The judges there are rotated daily to different courtrooms or sent to other courtrooms throughout Chicago. As openings arise in other divisions, the judges are transferred out, permanently.
This constant change means that if the State’s Attorney loses a suspension hearing, they might as well continue the case and hope for a different result on another court date when they have a different judge.
Thus, the case continued after the finding of no reasonable grounds.
A few months later, we had a hearing on my “Motion to Suppress” which basically argued the same thing as my “Petition to Rescind the Summary Suspension” except now the issue was the underlying DUI case.
A different judge heard the case, but the results were the same: no probable cause to arrest for DUI. As a result, all evidence obtained after the client was arrested was suppressed from evidence as a result of the illegal search.
This was not the end of the case, however.
Next, the State’s attorney filed a “Motion to Reconsider” arguing that the Judge was incorrect, and that the arresting officer did have sufficient legal justification to arrest my client. After both sides filed written briefs arguing their cause, the Judge denied the motion, in a written opinion.
You would think THAT would be the end of the case, since now all the State had left of their case was the evidence which two judges had found insufficient to even justify a DUI arrest, let alone proof beyond a reasonable doubt If you thought that, you were wrong.
The State’s Attorney insisted that they would not drop the case, even though there was no logical way that they could prove the DUI case after the court’s ruling.
So the case was set for trial, in August. But the officers did not appear, for medical reasons, so it was continued. I demanded a speedy trial under the Illinois Code 725 ILCS 5/103-5(a) and (b). The case was continued to November, and the officers again did not appear. It was continued again in December and then to today, the final date under the speedy trial act, when the case was dismissed because the officers were still not able to come to court.
In the end, this case resulted in fifteen court dates. The same exact case might have been resolved in two at another courthouse. Or maybe five or six tops if the State had not insisted on a trial even after the motion to suppress had been granted and they had no chance of winning.
I objected to all the State’s continuances, but they were given, because that is the standard and practice at Chicago Traffic Court — to give the state at least the entire 160 days of continuances under the Speedy Trial Act (and sometimes a judge will extend the term, as they can under the statute). In contrast, at other courthouses in Cook (the SAME county!), once a case is set for trial, it doesn’t get continued unless for good cause, and then, only once or twice and that’s it.
And in case you are wondering — I charge flat fees for DUI cases, not an hourly, so I don’t benefit from alll these extra court dates.
Just a little glimpse into the often absurd practices of Chicago courtrooms.