Rockford's Independent Newspaper

Section of state DUI law ruled unconstitutional

Law enforcement officers investigating DUI cases need a warrant before drawing blood and urine samples from a driver suspected of being impaired, a split Illinois appeals court ruled.

In a 2-1 decision, the 1st District Illinois Appellate Court ruled part of the state’s DUI law unconstitutional and reversed the first-degree murder conviction of Ralph Eubanks, who was sentenced to 40 years in prison in the 2009 death of 48-year-old Maria Worthon.

In that case, Eubanks refused to give investigating officers permission to take blood and urine samples, but officers said state law allowed them to do so anyway.

The divided appeals court disagreed. It overturned a statute allowing blood and urine tests to be taken without a suspect’s consent or a warrant when an officer has probable cause to believe a suspect was both impaired and involved in a crash resulting in death or injury.

John Sharp, a defense attorney who handles DUI cases at Sharp and Harmon law firm in Springfield, said situations would have to be reviewed on a case-by-case basis in Illinois.

“They have to look at all the facts that are involved,” Sharp said. “They cannot just decide at the scene and say, ‘Well, you were involved in this accident. You are going to the hospital and we are going to take your blood.’”

The court ruled there was no emergency circumstance in the Eubanks case. Officers waited for nearly three hours and did not seek a warrant in that time before forcing Eubanks to provide blood and urine samples.

“The state’s attorney ends up having the burden to show that there was this exigency; there was this emergency; there was this rapid need to be able to get the samples,” Sharp said. “It really kind of blew their argument.”

Sharp said the trial presented a unique set of circumstances because of the long delay and Eubanks declining the tests. He said Illinois officers should get a warrant in all circumstances if they can.

“The rules are there for a reason,” Sharp said. “You get the warrant. You cannot just stand around and do whatever you were going to do and then, because three or four hours go by, then suddenly say ‘Well, this is an emergency and we have a right to take blood forcibly.’”

The appellate court sent the Eubanks case back for retrial.

–Illinois News Network

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