The Illinois Appellate Court, Third District issued an important ruling this week involving DUI summary suspensions. The case is People v. Farris, 2012 Il App (3d) 100199.
In the Farris case, the arresting officer came upon Ms. Farris immediately after an accident. She had a cut lip and was complaining of a headache. The officer noted an odor of an alcoholic beverage on her breath. She was taken by paramedics to a nearby hospital. On the way, she became belligerent.
At the hospital, the officer requested that she provide a blood sample. After she refused, two officers, a doctor, a nurse, and another hospital employee held her down to get the blood sample against her will. After the blood test result was obtained, a “notice of summary suspension” was completed, stating that her license would be suspended for six months for her taking a blood test which disclosed a result greater than 0.08.
As you may be already aware from reading this blog, a DUI defendant faces a summary suspension of his or her license for either failing, refusing or being unable to complete a blood, breath or urine test. If you are a first offender, the penalty for failing the test (i.e., blowing over 0.08 or testing positive for drugs) is a six months suspension. It is a one year suspension for refusing or being unable to complete the test. For second offenders, the penalties jump to one and three years respectively.
Back to the Farris case. The trial Court conducted a hearing and found that the blood draw was not voluntary, and the result of the test was suppressed from evidence. In response, the State sought leave to have the “notice of summary suspension” (also known as a “sworn report’) amended to reflect a refusal instead of a voluntary test. Ultimately, that request was denied. The summary suspension was later rescinded as it could not be shown that the defendant took a blood test with a result in excess of 0.08 (since the result of the test had been suppressed due to its being coerced).
The first issue that the Farris case raises is whether the police can forcibly obtain a blood draw from you against your will. Seven years ago, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that police could use some force to get a blood draw, but at the same time cautioned them against using excessive force to do so, noting that even with a refusal, there were still consequences for the defendant, such as a longer suspension and that proof of the refusal is admissible at trial to prove “consciousness of guilt.” Basically, they seemed to say that some use of force is okay, but don’t overdo it. Not a very clear line, was it?
Well, the line isn’t all that much clearer now, but the Appellate Court in Farris held that having five people pin you down to get a blood draw against your will qualifies as a violation of the unreasonable search clause of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. As a result, the blood test was suppressed from evidence.
The second issue concerned the extent to which an officer may amend a “sworn report.” While the case law allows an amendment to fix a minor error, the Farris court held that the trial court did not err by refusing to allow an amendment which had the effect of changing the basis for the suspension, as well as doubling its length.