Marijuana decriminalization bill signed by Gov, ends “Zero Tolerance” Pot DUI law

Governor Rauner signed into law SB 92228, which makes possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana a fine only offense, and sets a new legal limit for operating under the influence of cannabis, replacing a zero tolerance standard and replacing it with a new “legal limit” of 5 nanograms of THC per mililiter of whole blood (or 10 nanograms in saliva or other bodily substance).

Not affected by this change is the previous law that also made it a DUI offense to drive or be in actual physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of cannabis.

The fine for marijuana possession under 10 grams will be a minimum of $100 and a maximum of $200.  Anyone cited for possession of marijuana paraphernalia at the same time will only be subject to a fine in a similar amount.

Since possession of marijuana under 10 grams is now a civil violation instead of a criminal offense, the legislature was able to ease the prosecution’s burden of proof.  A crime lab testing showing that the substance was tested and proven to be marijuana is no longer required; the prosecution can establish its case either through opinion testimony by the arresting officer (with the proper foundation) or use of a properly conducted field test.

Under the new law, anyone fined for possession of marijuana in an amount less than 10 grams will have their citation automatically expunged, if they have paid their fine and completed their sentence.  The Clerk is to expunge these cases twice a year, on or before January 1 and July 1.

 

Dallas Cowboys rookie QB Prescott found Not Guilty of DUI

From WTVA.com Mississippi:

STARKVILLE, Miss. (WTVA) – Former Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott was found not guilty on Wednesday of charges of driving under the influence and speeding.

Prescott appeared in Starkville Municipal Court on Wednesday after being arrested in the spring.

It was back in March when Prescott was pulled over by Starkville Police and taken into custody on DUI and speeding charges.

During his trial his lawyer Jay Perry showed an hour-long video of footage from that night.

Perry said the footage clearly showed Prescott was not under the influence, and the judge ruled in his favor.

“Dak is most excited to have it behind him and over with,” Perry said. “He will leave tomorrow, headed to California. Camp starts tomorrow. That is what he is most excited about. He loves this city. He looks forward to come back, but more than anything we’re just really excited, happy and pleased with the outcome. That it’s over and now he can concentrate on Playing for the Dallas Cowboys.”

Prescott, who broke 38 school records at MSU, was selected by the Dallas Cowboys in this year’s NFL Draft. The Cowboys begin training camp this week.

Chicago PD’s DUI Strike Patrol to target Near West Friday night

From the Chicago Police Department:

The Chicago Police Department will be conducting DUI Strike Force Patrols in the Near West (12th) District this upcoming weekend. The DUI Strike Force Patrol in the Near West (12th) District will commence at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, July 22, 2016 and end at 3:00 a.m. on Saturday, July 23, 2016. For More Information Click Here

The press release states that the previous week, the Strike Patrol issued 129 citations, a whopping three of them for DUI.

Joliet Councilman arrested for DUI

From the Chicago Tribune:

A Joliet city councilman who was charged this month with driving under the influence pleaded not guilty Tuesday in Will County court, his attorney said.

Jim McFarland, 37, was pulled over by Illinois State Police about 2:30 a.m. July 10 on Interstate 80 near Interstate 355 in the New Lenox area, authorities said. He was charged with misdemeanor DUI and ticketed for improper lane usage, driving without insurance and speeding, authorities said. Tuesday was his first court appearance since the incident.

McFarland’s attorney, George Lenard, said he requested in court that recordings of the radio communications from the traffic stop be preserved. He also provided a copy of McFarland’s insurance card to show he was insured the day of the stop.

McFarland, who was elected as an at-large city councilman in 2013, faces up to 364 days in the County Jail if found guilty of the misdemeanor DUI charge.

 

DUI, Race and the Chicago Suburbs

There has been a viral facebook post by Brian Crooks about growing up black in suburban Naperville.  So far, it has garnered over 25,000 shares.  Please read it.

I wanted to excerpt part of it about the numerous DUI and other traffic investigatory stops that he endured, because the key to solving our current policing crisis is through listening and understanding:

I got pulled over a lot in high school. Like, a lot a lot. By this point, I was no longer driving the Dodge. I had a Mazda of my own. It was flashy and loud, but this was 2002 and everybody with a Japanese car was doing a Vin Diesel impression, so it’s not like mine stood out that much more than anyone else’s. I spent a ton of money on my car and was especially aware of its appearance. You can understand, then, why it was weird that I was routinely pulled over for a busted taillight. After all, that’s the kind of thing I would’ve noticed and gotten fixed, especially if that taillight tended to burn out once a week or so. My parents had told me how to act when pulled over by the police, so of course I was all “Yes sir, no sir” every time it happened. That didn’t stop them from asking me to step out of the car so they could pat me down or search for drugs, though. I didn’t have a drop of alcohol until I was 21, but by that point I was an expert at breathalyzers and field sobriety tests. On occasion, the officer was polite. But usually, they walked up with their hand on their gun and talked to me like I’d been found guilty of a grisly homicide earlier in the day. A handful of times, they’d tell me to turn off the car, drop the keys out the window, and keep my hands outside the vehicle before even approaching…

Once, when I came home from college, I was pulled over less than a block from my parents’ house. It was late, probably about midnight or so, but I hadn’t been drinking and it was winter so I wasn’t speeding because it had snowed that day. The officer stepped out of his car with his gun drawn. He told me to drop the keys out the window, then exit the car with my hands up and step back toward him. I knew he was wrong, but I wasn’t about to be shot to death down the street from my parents’ house because my failure to immediately comply was interpreted as me plotting to murder that officer. So yeah, I stepped out and backed up toward the officer. He hand cuffed me and refused to tell me why I had been pulled over, or why I had been asked to exit my vehicle. Only when I was sitting in the back of the police car did he tell me that there had been reports of gang activity in the area and that a car fitting my car’s description with a driver fitting my description had recently been involved in said gang activity. Gang activity. In south Naperville. Committed by a Black male driving a bright blue Mazda MX-6 with a gaudy blue and white interior. Yeah, alright. He was very short in asking me what I was doing in the neighborhood so late at night. I explained that my parents lived at that house with the glass backboard over there. He didn’t believe me. He took me back out of the car and put me face down on the hood of the police car to frisk me. I’d already been searched once before he put me in the car. Then, he spent about 15 minutes searching my car while I stood hand cuffed in the cold. My ID had my parents’ address on it, but he still didn’t think I lived there. I could tell he wanted to accuse me of having a fake ID. About a half hour after being pulled over, when he found nothing on me, nothing in my car, and nothing on my record, he reluctantly let me go. He didn’t even say sorry, or explain that it was his mistake; he must’ve been looking for another Black man in a bright blue Mazda MX-6 who was a gang leader in south Naperville. He sat in the street until I drove to my parents’ house, opened the garage door, drove inside, and then closed the garage door.

By the way, for the younger readers, I want to make it clear that having stories like this in the public conversation is not a new thing. When I was a young man in the 1980’s I read plenty of accounts of “driving while black.”  Perhaps the most memorable news item in this vein this was from 2000 when it became a temporary news story when it was revealed that Highland Park, IL police officers admitted that “they were taught to spot Mexican drivers to pull over by looking for large hats. A radio dispatch transcript submitted as evidence includes a Highland Park officer saying, “We got a winner,” after a sombrero sighting.” – Chicago Tribune story from March 31, 2000.  But then after a few weeks or months, stories like this pass away and nothing gets done.

I have said this before on this blog, but I will say it again.  DUIs are a very easy crime to fake.  They are also good tools for police departments that want to harass “unwanted” characters to keep them out of town.  All it takes for a DUI arrest is an officer’s “opinion” that a person was intoxicated because had “bloodshot eyes” and an “odor of alcohol.”  They can not offer a breath test and claim that the defendant “refused.”  It is also easy to make up probable cause for a drug or gun stop.  Let’s say an officer suspects someone is dealing drugs.  He can conduct a stop and frisk.  If there are no drugs, you walk away..If there are drugs, then you say you saw it in “plain sight.”  Or you can create some probable cause by heading straight to the suspected dealer and getting him to make a “furtive move” or run away.

This is not to say that this happens every time, but keep it in mind when you hear that someone was arrested for DUI.  Ask the critical questions:  why were they stopped?  what evidence is there?  Is there video evidence?

This is why video evidence is so crucial.  It is frustrating to me that even in 2016, it is common to have DUI, drug and weapons cases without any corroborating dash cam or body cam video evidence.  This should be mandatory.  Video evidence will often (if not always) establish whether the officer had probable cause, acted in a professional manner, and whether the defendant was violating the law or was just driving while black.

Buffalo Bills rookie RB arrested for DUI

jonathanwilliams

From ESPN.com:

Running back Jonathan Williams, the fifth-round selection of the Buffalo Billsin this year’s draft, was arrested early Thursday morning on misdemeanor charges of driving while intoxicated and violation of implied consent.

According to the police report, the 22-year-old Williams was pulled over after he was seen weaving in Fayetteville, Arkansas. He was booked into the Washington County Detention Center at 3:20 a.m. and released around 5:30 a.m. Thursday.

Williams, who declined to give a breath sample on advice from his agent, told officers that he had one beer at 7 p.m. Wednesday night, but had watery eyes, slurred speech and had a “strong odor of intoxicants” and “swaying balance” during standard field sobriety tests, according to the police report.

The 10th-leading rusher in Arkansas history, Williams missed the 2015 season after suffering a torn ligament in his foot during practice last August. He led the Razorbacks in 2014 with 1,190 rushing yards last season and finished his college career with 2,321 yards rushing and 22 total touchdowns in 36 career games.

Former NHL star Ray Bourque gets probation for DUI

From Sports Illustrated:

Hockey Hall of Famer Ray Bourque was sentenced to one year of probation on Wednesday after entering an “admission to sufficient facts” plea to a charge of drunk driving.

The former Boston Bruins star also was handed a 45-day suspension of his driver’s license in addition to a mandatory 180-day suspension for refusing to take a breathalyzer test on scene. He must attend drug and alcohol education classes as well.

The sentence falls in line with state standards for first offenses.

Admission to sufficient facts is not the same as an admission of guilt, but it is tantamount to admitting that the prosecution has sufficient evidence to obtain a guilty verdict. SI.com legal expert Michael McCann says there were at least three main advantages for Bourque in pleading this way.

“Bourque avoids a guilty plea or a guilty verdict, which is important in terms of avoiding a criminal record with a guilty plea or verdict on it,” he said. “Avoiding a guilty plea/verdict is similarly valuable for Bourque in terms mitigating any adverse consequences to Bourque’s insurance policies and limiting impact on his ability to travel to and from other countries.
“Bourque’s case is now continued without a guilty finding, which would impose a more severe punishment than what Bourque now faces. [And] assuming that Bourque complies with the judge’s instructions, the judge will dismiss the case around this time next year.”

According to the police report, Bourque was arrested at 11:30 pm on June 24 after he rear-ended a mini-van with his Mercedes-Benz. Authorities say Bourque admitted on scene to “having a few drinks.” A test administered later revealed his blood alcohol level was .249, more than three times the legal limit.

Bourque pleaded not guilty in his first court appearance last week, but changed his plea on Wednesday.