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What Should You Do If You Are Pulled Over for a DUI?

by Robert Kerr

When it comes to serious driving offenses, there are few things more devastating than being charged with a DUI. The consequences of such a charge can be life-changing, and not in a good way. That is why it is important that you understand what to do should you ever be pulled over the suspicion of driving while under the influence. There are a few things in particular that you should keep in mind in order to get out of the situation as painlessly as possible.

Do Not Incriminate Yourself

One of the main issues that people find themselves facing with regards to being pulled over under suspicion of driving while under the influence is the tendency to want to cooperate with the police. Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t do so. You should, of course, be respectful and polite at all times. But what you should not, under any circumstances, do is offer up information or answer questions about the stop, your driving, or your evening. Hand over your license and registration when asked, and decline to answer any questions.

Note that refusing to answer questions includes the standard “do you know why I pulled you over” query that comes standard with most traffic stops. Do not guess at the reason, simply respond with “no”. Do not answer questions about whether or not you’ve been drinking, either. You have the right to remain silent, and it’s a good idea to use it. This might be difficult, especially if the officer becomes visibly annoyed by your refusal to engage in conversation, but it the best course of action.

Understand You are being Detained

When you’re pulled over to the side of the road due to a traffic stop, you are not free to simply leave whenever you’d like. In fact, you are generally considered to be “detained”, but not yet “in custody”. This is an important distinction because as long as you are not officially in police custody, officers do not have to Mirandize you. That means that they are free to ask you incriminating questions without reminding you that you do not have to answer them. Refer to the above point for more information regarding why you should not answer questions and instead simply decline to answer.

Do Not Take Field Sobriety Tests

Much like answering the questions police officers ask you during a traffic stop, performing field sobriety tests is an optional decision. You do not have to do them, and in fact it is probably better that you do not do so. These are highly subjective and any perceived “error” can and will count against you. Politely decline to perform them – this is the best and least self-incriminating option.

About Breathalyzers and Chemical Testing

Unless you are under 21 or are on probation, you generally do not need to submit to a Breathalyzer – the test administered on the side of the road. Should you be placed under arrest, of course, then all bets are off and you should cooperate with the test.

The bottom line when it comes to DUI charges is that you do not want to treat them lightly. Find a lawyer who will be able to ensure your rights are protected.


Top Defenses Against Criminal Charges That You Should Know About

by Robert Kerr

Criminal Defense Lawyer Chicago

Whether you have been charged with the possession of a controlled substance or illicit drug, or with trafficking with the intention to sell or distribute drugs illegally, there are a number of legal defenses that can help you reduce the severity of sentencing, particularly if it is a first time offense.

As a criminal defense lawyer in Chicago, our firm has seen decades of cases and designed strategic defense plans to serve our clients.  We’ll review some of the key defense strategies used successfully in court.

Denial of Ownership

You’ve probably already heard the saying that possession is 9/10th of the law, and this statement is most true when it comes to a drug or illicit substance charge.  The worst thing you can do after being searched or having your premises searched for drugs is to admit ownership of the drugs, particularly if there is a large amount of drugs found in the discovery.

Penalties for drug possession increased dramatically when quantities are above and beyond what the law determines to be representative of individual use.  The possession of a small amount of marijuana might be construed as individual property for recreation purposes. To be clear, possession of marijuana is still a felony offense, however if you were in possession of a garbage bag full of marijuana, a case will be built for trafficking in distribution of illicit substances.

While it is not recommended to perjure yourself by being dishonest with the authorities, you may simply opt to remain silent when asked about ownership of the drugs, until you have had time to consult with your legal counsel.

Medicinal Use

The prevalence of the use of medicinal marijuana and the legalization of medicinal marijuana in many states has created a plausible defense for the medicinal use.  While a drug card is required to identify a licensed user of medicinal cannabis, many people do not qualify and may have a perfectly reasonable pain symptom, anxiety disorder or other health condition that is being medicated through the use of marijuana.

The existence of a medical condition which has been proven to be assisted by some medical marijuana is a valid defense, and while the possession of marijuana is still a felony offense, the court and jury may look on the situation with empathy given the health condition of the accused. In many cases where an individual has a terminal illness and has been found in the possession of marijuana, sentences have been dramatically reduced by compassionate jurors.

Malicious Intent

Nobody likes to go through life thinking that someone else is out to get them. However in some cases where there is bad blood between former spouses, romantic relationships and partners, or even family members there is the potential for illicit substances to be planted with the purpose of creating an arrest scenario.  A malicious intent can be proven by documentation which can include emails and phone records, or verbalized threats promise and action that will create legal consequences for the defendant.

Laboratory Analysis

There have been examples where a drug arrest has been made and property has been seized which appeared at the time of seizure to be an illicit substance. After investigative examination of the substance, it may be determined that it was not an illicit drug after all.

There have been cases where young adults have attempted to sell something that looks like an illicit drug.  Aspirin tablets have been crushed to look like cocaine, oregano has been used in place of marijuana, and colored paper with no controlled substance has been used to mimic acid and sold by distributors.  As ridiculous as it sounds, drug deals that involve artificial drugs or harmless materials do happen and a laboratory analysis will confirm if the substance is harmless.

In the event that an individual is charged with attempting to sell drugs or traffic drugs, the case may be reduced to to a misdemeanor or mischief charge rather than a drug-related offense.

Entrapment

Imagine a scenario where someone is offering to sell you drugs and you refuse repeatedly. Nonetheless the individual keeps coming back to you, offering to sell you drugs, and continues to harass you and pressure you until you relent to purchase.  At that time you are arrested for purchasing and possession of a controlled substance.

There are laws that govern the behavior of the authorities when investigating drug-related offenses.  The law is clear about what an officer can and cannot do when undercover, and coercing someone to purchase drugs aggressively is defined as entrapment.  The court realizes that the purchase of the illicit substance would not have occurred without undue pressure from the law enforcement officer, and with the right evidence, the argument is an effective one, particularly with a witness.

There are laws that are established to protect your rights, the right to search and seize illicit property, and to charge a defendant with possession of drugs. However knowing your rights is the first step to ensure that you protect your interests in the event of a drug charge.

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How to Fight a Drug Possession Charge

by Robert Kerr

Drug Lawyers Chicago

Whether you have a small amount of a recreational drug on your person, or a larger quantity for distribution, there are circumstances where you can fight a drug possession charge and create reasonable doubt sufficient enough to reduce your sentencing.

In all cases in the United States it is illegal to possess any amount of an illicit substance. That can also include selling medications that are prescribed to others, for recreational purposes. This article will explain how drugs are classified in terms of federal offenses, and provide advice on what you can do to fight a drug possession charge successfully.

Penalties for Drug Possession in Illinois

The Federal Government provides a classification for illicit substances based on three categories.  The categories and drugs in each class, are defined by their severity in terms of addictive properties and risk of loss of life, and other criterion.

The Federal categories or drug schedules are outlined as follows:

Schedule I

Drugs identified under Schedule 1 (according to Federal classifications) are the most lethal and dangerous types of drugs which are subject to the highest restrictions by the United States law.  For individuals charged with possession of schedule one drugs, or with trafficking of drugs in this category, the penalties are severe.  It should be noted that despite the legalized use of marijuana in some States and for medicinal prescription purposes, in court rulings as recent as April 2015 Cannabis was still determined to be a Schedule 1 drug legally in the United States.

Drugs included in this classification are: Heroin, Ecstacy (MMDA), LSD and Mescaline and Marijuana.

Schedule 2

Drugs classified under Schedule 2 are less dangerous, and present a lesser addiction risk as compared to Schedule 1 drugs.  Nonetheless the drugs outlined in Schedule 2 remain dangerous to the health of users and highly addictive.

Drugs included in this classification are: Cocaine, Crystal Meth (Methamphetamines) and Methadone.

Schedule 3

The drugs classified in Schedule 3 represent the least threat in terms of illicit drugs and substances, and most frequently refer to prescription or enhancing drugs that are abused for recreational purposes.

Drugs included in this classification are: Steroids, Valium, Xanax and many other prescription pain killers or mood management drugs.

When it comes to management of classifications that the state level, some states refer to all illicit substances in equal terms, particularly on charges of trafficking, but differentiate between narcotics and other substances.  For more information on sentencing and punitive fines for drug related charges, see the “Drug Offenses: Maximum Fines and Terms of Imprisonment for Violation of the Federal Controlled Substances Act and Related Laws” (2015).

Recommended Behavior While Being Searched for Drugs

No matter where a drug search occurs, in a residence, in a public building or facility, or even in your car when stopped by the authorities, you have specific rights that protect you against unreasonable search.  Understanding your rights can help determine how you should behave, what you should say and how little you incriminate yourself during a routine search.

When you are stopped by police officer who is not wearing a uniform, you have the right to request to see their badge or warrant.  Frequently in the case of drug trafficking or suspected drug use, plain clothed police officers will be used by the authorities to collect evidence to assist with the drug conviction.  However in the interest personal safety, an undercover drug officer must identify himself or herself when asked during a search or arrest.

Your clothing, your vehicle and your own personal residence searched on a reasonable suspicion that you are in possession of any number of controlled goods, including firearms or weapons, knives and blades which may have been used in an assault.  You may also be searched on suspicion of possession of stolen goods, or on suspicion of purchasing or facilitating the purchase of stolen goods.

When you are being searched, if you are being arrested and taken into custody by the authorities you must be read your rights according to the Miranda law.  You always have the right to remain silent and in some cases this is the best option until you’ve had an opportunity speak with a legal representative. However in the case of an illegal search, where you have committed no crime, the ability to explain to the authorities your reason for being there or plausible explanation may actually support your defense if you make a statement at that time. If you are of course guilty and being searched, the best measure is to remain silent to avoid incriminating yourself further.

The Power of Plausible Denial

It is little more difficult to claim ignorance if the drugs are located in a personal area, such as a bedroom or inside your personal effects such as a backpack, purse or your own personal vehicle.  In cases where the evidence clearly points to ownership of illicit substances, consulting with Chicago drug lawyers is the best next step in a quality defense.

If your home or private property was searched, and you had no knowledge of drugs on the premises, it is best to be honest and deny your knowledge of the illicit substances, and place the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that you owned, or condoned the use of drugs on your property on the prosecution.

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Top Reasons You Shouldn’t Drink and Drive This Weekend

by Robert Kerr

DUI Attorney Chicago

The prevalence of drinking and driving in the state of Illinois is staggering. When you consider that the penalties for a DUI charge can involve a fine, vehicle impoundment, a suspended driver’s license for a year or more as well as imprisonment, it’s difficult to understand why anyone would take the risk and get behind the wheel when they are impaired.

Nonetheless every year thousands of people in the state choose to engage in the life-threatening activity. Not only is the choice of drinking and driving harmful and self-injurious, but it can also injure and kill other people, leading to a felony offense. In the cases of driving under influence where a charge of reckless endangerment, involuntary manslaughter or repeat offenses of DUI are involved, a sentence which can include prison time is probable.

On behalf of all residents in our state of Illinois we would like to educate people on the true cost of drinking and driving or operating a vehicle while impaired. When you find yourself charged with a DUI, life can change dramatically and will discuss how it will impact your quality of life, in the hope of educating our drivers and helping them to make better choices.

DUI: Just the Stats

How serious the problem is driving under the influence in major cities like Chicago and across the state of Illinois?  Statistics show that the highest prevalence of impaired driving is with young adults aged 16 through 25 years. The next highest risk group are young professional males from the age of 25 years 35 years, who are unmarried.

Here are some other statistics consider when it comes to impaired driving, as published by the Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Illinois chapter:

  • From 2014 to 2015, there were 322 drunk driving fatalities in Illinois. That number represented 32.5% of all total traffic deaths for the year.
  • The total number of DUI arrests in the state of Illinois was 34,611.
  • The number of DUI conviction in the state of Illinois was 14,343.
  • The total number of individuals who refused chemical testing in suspected DUI cases was 4,215.
  • The total cost to taxpayers as a result of fatalities in Illinois from 2014 to 2015 was $1.6 billion dollars in the past year alone.

These statistics really bring the problem to the surface for discussion. If you ask the average resident of Illinois how many impaired driving charges were laid in the last 12 months they would be likely to underestimate the number. The amount of drivers who make the decision to drive while impaired is not increasing annually but it is also not decreasing, and represents significant cost in terms of loss of life, injury, and expense annually.

The Financial Cost of Impaired Driving

Most people understand the social costs involved with impaired driving, and the risk of injury to themselves or to other people which is significant when you consider the number of fatalities that are directly caused by impaired driving.  But there is another side, a hidden cost that few people realize they will incur as a result of being charged with impaired driving.

Some people refer to an impaired driving charge as a $10,000 hangover.  The reason for this is that there are number of costs associated with being charged, convicted, and incarcerated.  There are also costs involved in reinstating your license after serving a suspension.  As part of the process of reinstating your license after suspension due to impaired driving, you would be required to engage in remedial education regarding driver safety.  If you are placed under probation there may be fees for your supervision, fees for chemical testing as part of compliance for probation and suspended licensing, legal fees and much more.

Being charged with impaired driving doesn’t just cost you physically nor does it simply cost you in terms of inconvenience, but is significantly costs you money in fines, fees and mandatory programs.  And depending on the severity of your DUI charge the cost may be far greater particularly if you are required to serve a sentence in prison.

Civil Liability

In addition to facing penalties if successfully convicted of impaired driving, you may also face additional civil liability with regards to personal injury suits.  If you are in impaired driver and your vehicle has caused damage to another vehicle, property, or created injury for another individual you may be sued.  A conviction of driving while impaired is sufficient evidence to demonstrate guilt and liability in civil cases, which can result in punitive damages being awarded to victims for short term or long term damages.

With so many other alternatives including assigning a designated driver, using affordable services like Uber or even calling a cab, it’s difficult to understand why people still choose to risk themselves and the safety of others by impaired driving. It simply is not worth the risk.

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