CHICAGO (Heartland Newsfeed) — Law enforcement officers investigating cases involving pending DUI charges will now require a warrant to be presented before drawing blood and urine samples from suspected impaired drivers, according to a split decision in an Illinois court of appeals.
The Illinois Appellate Court of the First District in Chicago ruled in a 2-1 decision that part of the state’s current DUI law was unconstitutional, thus reversing a conviction of Ralph Eubanks, who was sentenced to four decades in prison for the 2009 death of 48-year-old Maria Worthon. Eubanks refused to give investigating officers permission to draw blood or take urine samples, but officers unlawfully did it anyway, citing the state law allowed them to do it anyway.
The appeals court disagreed with the officers’ assumption and interpretation of the law, with the decision overturning a statute allowing law enforcement to take blood and urine tests without a warrant or without consent of the alleged suspect. It previously allowed for officers with probable cause believing that a driver is impaired, as well as those involved in a crash resulting in a death or injury, to do so without a warrant or consent.
John Sharp, a DUI defense attorney from Springfield’s Sharp and Harmon Law Office, said that situations will 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 that there were no emergency circumstances in the Eubanks case, since officers waited for nearly three hours and didn’t seek a warrant within that timeframe before forcing Eubanks to provide the 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 added that the trial presented a unique set of circumstances as a result of a long delay and Eubanks declining the tests, but also noted that law enforcement should get a warrant in all circumstances.
“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 decision which overturned the Eubanks conviction has sent the case back for retrial, citing the newly unconstitutional portion of the DUI law.
Jake Leonard, a broadcast media and journalism veteran, is the editor-in-chief of Heartland Newsfeed. Leonard is also GM and program director of Heartland Newsfeed Radio Network, wrestling editor and contributing writer for Ambush Sports, a contributing writer for My Sports Vote and Midwest Sports Network, and a former contributor to Bleacher Report and Overtime Heroics. He resides at home in Nokomis, Ill. with his dog Buster.