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Criminal Law FLASHPOINTS November 2020

Matthew R. Leisten, Winnebago County State’s Attorney’s Office, Rockford
815-319-4700 | E-mail Matthew R. Leisten

DUI Test Results Admissible if Defendant Consented to Testing Even When Not Under Arrest

In People v. Patel, 2020 IL App (2d) 190532, ¶38, the Second District Appellate Court reversed the trial court’s granting of a motion in limine that prohibited the state from admitting the results of the defendant’s consensual blood and urine tests because the defendant was not under arrest when he consented to blood and urine testing during a driving under the influence (DUI) investigation. The appellate court held that 625 ILCS 5/11-501.2 does not require that a defendant be under arrest when he or she consents to blood or urine testing in order for the results to be admissible. 2020 IL App (2d) 190532 at ¶33.

625 ILCS 5/11-501.2(a) states in part:

Upon the trial of any civil or criminal action or proceeding arising out of an arrest for an offense as defined in Section 11-501 [DUI] . . . evidence of the concentration of alcohol, other drug or drugs, or intoxicating compound or compounds, or any combination thereof in a person’s blood or breath at the time alleged, as determined by analysis of the person’s blood, urine, breath, or other bodily substance, shall be admissible. [Emphasis added.]

In Patel, the defendant was charged with various aggravated DUI charges, including for having a blood alcohol concentration over 0.08 and having consumed a controlled substance. 2020 IL App (2d) 190532 at ¶3. The defendant had been involved in a two-vehicle accident and suffered a head injury in 2014. 2020 IL App (2d) 190532 at ¶¶4 – 5. The defendant told paramedics that he had consumed vodka and Norco before driving. 2020 IL App (2d) 190532 at ¶6.

The investigating police officer went to the hospital and met with the defendant. The officer administered the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test. The HGN test indicated that the defendant had consumed alcohol. The defendant’s portable breath test result was 0.168. 2020 IL App (2d) 190532 at ¶9. The officer asked the defendant to provide blood and urine samples. The defendant consented to providing the samples. The defendant was not under arrest at the time that he provided the samples. 2020 IL App (2d) 190532 at ¶11.

The officer received the blood test results in May 2015 and received the urine test results in November 2015. Although the opinion does not cite the results of the samples, it is implied that the samples contained a blood alcohol concentration equivalent of over 0.08 and the presence of a controlled substance. The officer arrested the defendant in 2016 for DUI. 2020 IL App (2d) 190532 at ¶12.

The defendant filed a motion in limine and argued that the blood and urine tests were inadmissible because he was not under arrest when he consented to giving the samples. 2020 IL App (2d) 190532 at ¶31. The trial court granted the motion in limine because the officer read the wrong warning to motorist form and because of the Fifth District Appellate Court’s opinion in People v. Pratt, 2018 IL App (5th) 170427, 142 N.E.3d 746, 436 Ill.Dec. 345 (holding that drawing blood from defendant while he was unconscious in hospital did not constitute valid consent search under implied consent provisions in Illinois Vehicle Code, 625 ILCS 5/1-100, et seq.). The state appealed the motion in limine ruling. 2020 IL App (2d) 190532 at ¶18.

On appeal, the Patel court distinguished Pratt because in Patel the state relied on actual consent rather than implied consent, as in Pratt. The Patel court interpreted the phrases “arising out of an arrest” and “for an offense as defined in section 11-501” as meaning that testing will be admissible for any case based on a DUI arrest. The court held that the statute did not require that a defendant be under arrest at the time he or she consented to the testing for the testing to be admissible at trial. 2020 IL App (2d) 190532 at ¶¶31 – 33.

The Patel court concluded that, under the statute, a defendant’s drug or alcohol testing shall be admissible in any case based on an arrest for a DUI. The court rejected the defendant’s argument that the statute required a suspect to be under arrest when he or she consented to drug and alcohol testing. 2020 IL App (2d) 190532 at ¶33. The court therefore reversed the motion in limine ruling, which had barred the results of the consensual blood and urine tests. 2020 IL App (2d) 190532 at ¶38.

Patel’s effect will likely be seen in situations in which someone is not initially arrested for DUI but is involved in a potential DUI situation like an accident, as well as in situations when police suspect a driver of intoxication hours after a potential DUI incident.


Sami Azhari, Azhari LLC, Chicago & Rolling Meadows
Sergio Lopez, Second-Year Law Student, DePaul University College of Law, Chicago
847-255-2100 | E-mail Sami Azhari

Material Impediment Required for Obstruction of Justice Conviction

A number of Illinois statutes make it a crime to obstruct the administration of justice. Destroying evidence, lying to the police, or even hiding from the police may all subject otherwise innocent citizens to criminal liability. Although the crime has always required an intent to obstruct justice, it was not clear until 2012 that the prosecution must also prove that the defendant’s conduct actually “obstructed” justice — by impeding an investigation by the police. This was initially held in People v. Baskerville, 2012 IL 111056, 963 N.E.2d 898, 357 Ill.Dec. 500.

The additional element of actual obstruction, added to the statute by recent cases from the Illinois Supreme Court and Illinois appellate courts, requires the prosecution to carefully assess whether a citizen’s refusal to cooperate with the police, even with the intent to obstruct an investigation, should be criminally charged. Very recently, the Illinois Supreme Court revisited the obstruction of justice statute and held that a “material impediment” is an element and must be proven to sustain a conviction.

The Obstructing Statutes

Under Illinois law, a person who knowingly resists or obstructs the performance by one known to the person to be a peace officer, firefighter, or correctional institution employee of any authorized act within his or her official capacity commits a Class A misdemeanor. 720 ILCS 5/31-1. If the act proximately causes injury to the officer, the offense is a Class 4 felony, punishable by a sentence ranging from probation to between one and three years in the Illinois Department of Corrections.

A person obstructs justice

when, with intent to prevent the apprehension or obstruct the prosecution or defense of any person, he or she knowingly commits any of the following acts:

(1) Destroys, alters, conceals or disguises physical evidence, plants false evidence, furnishes false information; or

(2) Induces a witness having knowledge material to the subject at issue to leave the State or conceal himself or herself; or

(3) Possessing knowledge material to the subject at issue, he leaves the State or conceals himself. 720 ILCS 5/31-4(a).

Facts

In People v. Casler, 2020 IL 125117, two Carbondale police officers were on foot patrol at various hotels throughout Carbondale. As they approached the Quality Inn, the officers saw Rasheed Casler open the door and emerge briefly, look at the officers, and go back in the room and slam the door. The officers smelled an odor of cannabis emanating from the room, so they knocked on the door. A woman answered the door, but Casler was not in sight. The officers noticed that the bathroom door was closed, knocked, and asked if anyone was inside. Casler responded that he was using the bathroom and identified himself as Jakuta King Williams but said he did not have identification on him. A check of that name did not reveal any records. When Casler exited the bathroom, one of the officers recognized him and remembered his name from a prior arrest. Casler was arrested after his name was run through the officers’ database and a warrant was discovered.

Casler was convicted of obstructing justice by furnishing false information. On appeal, he challenged that conviction on the basis that his conduct did not materially interfere with a police investigation because his true identity was quicky discovered and he was immediately arrested. The appellate court rejected that argument and affirmed Casler’s conviction. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed.

Recent Caselaw

As to the offense of resisting or obstructing a peace officer, the Illinois Supreme Court in Baskerville, supra, made clear that to prove “resisting or obstructing,” the prosecution must prove an actual obstruction of justice.

In Baskerville, the defendant was charged with misdemeanor obstruction of justice by providing false information. A police officer saw Christine Baskerville, whom he knew to be driving on a suspended license, enter their home. When the officer asked the defendant whether he could go into the home to retrieve Christine, the defendant falsely told him that he had been driving the car and that Christine was not home. He offered to let the officer go into the home to look for Christine, but the officer declined and said that he would send her a ticket in the mail and would refer the matter for obstruction of justice. 2012 IL 111056 at ¶7.

The court found that the state was required to prove that “(1) defendant knowingly obstructed a peace officer; (2) the officer was performing an authorized act in his official capacity; and (3) defendant knew he was a peace officer.” 2012 IL 111056 at ¶32. The court further found that to prove “obstructing,” “the false statement only has legal significance if it was made in relation to an authorized act within the officer’s official capacity and if the false information actually impeded an act the officer was authorized to perform.” 2012 IL 111056 at ¶35. The court found that there was no evidence that the defendant’s lies about Christine’s whereabouts obstructed the officer in any way because the officer was able to perform the traffic stop, despite the defendant’s lies. The court also found: “Even if [the officer] had probable cause to arrest Christine, and Christine thwarted his ability to arrest her in a public place, the defendant consented to a search and [the officer] chose not to enter the home. Therefore, there was no evidence that defendant’s statement hampered or impeded the officer’s progress in any way.” 2012 IL 111056 at ¶35. Although Baskerville involved only obstructing a peace officer, not obstructing justice, the appellate court has applied the reasoning of Baskerville to a case involving obstructing justice. See People v. Taylor, 2012 IL App (2d) 110222, 972 N.E.2d 753, 362 Ill.Dec. 38.

In Taylor, the defendant gave a false name and date of birth and persisted in this lie for ten minutes, while the officer ran the false name in the computer, finding that no such person existed. The officer testified that he was “pretty sure” of Taylor’s identity from the beginning of the encounter. 2012 IL App (2d) 110222 at ¶4. The court in Taylor found that there was no obstruction of justice because Taylor’s lie did not significantly impede his arrest in any way. The entire encounter lasted less than ten minutes, the officer arrested Taylor even before he had seen his identification card, and the officer’s act of checking the false name against the computer database, while “commendable,” did not significantly delay the arrest. 2012 IL App (2d) 110222 at ¶17.

Baskerville and Taylor draw a line between citizen resistance to the police that is relatively trivial and citizen resistance to the police that actually hampers the administration of justice. The two cases are consistent with the predecessor case People v. Comage, 241 Ill.2d 139, 946 N.E.2d 313, 349 Ill.Dec. 119 (2011), in which the defendant had been convicted of obstruction of justice after he took a crack pipe out of his pocket and threw it over a fence while running from police officers. The officer saw the defendant throw the pipe, and it was recovered within 20 seconds. The Supreme Court, in reversing the conviction, criticized attempts by prosecutors to make a felony charge out of a minor misdemeanor offense and further stated that in enacting 720 ILCS 5/31-4, the legislature intended to criminalize behavior that actually interferes with the administration of justice, i.e., conduct that obstructs prosecution or defense of any person. The court went on to state that a defendant “actually interferes with the administration of justice” when he or she “materially impedes” police officers’ investigation. 946 N.E.2d at 319.

Casler

While the basis of Casler’s appeal was formed by the rule in Taylor, the appellate court nonetheless declined to apply that rule, instead holding that a showing of material impedance is not required to sustain a conviction. Nonetheless, the Illinois Supreme Court overturned the appellate decision, holding that “false information must constitute a material impediment to the administration of justice.” Casler, supra, 2020 IL 125117 at ¶31.

The Supreme Court began its analysis by reviewing the textual construction of the obstruction of justice statute, specifically the meaning of the word “furnish.” According to the state’s argument, “the word ‘furnish’ does not include a material impediment requirement. The State maintains that a person obstructs justice simply when he or she knowingly provides or supplies false information.” 2020 IL 125117 at ¶28. Conversely, Casler argued that “the plain meaning of the word ‘furnish’ suggests reliance on the information provided.” 2020 IL 125117 at ¶27. To settle this dispute, the Supreme Court turned to the dictionary definition of “furnish,” finding that the word possesses a “clear denotation of necessity.” 2020 IL 125117 at ¶30.

The Supreme Court further engaged in an extensive review of Taylor, Comage, and other relevant caselaw to reach the ultimate conclusion that the state must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant “knowingly (1) provid[ed] false information to [the police] (2) with the intent to prevent his arrest on warrants” and (3) “that the false information furnished by defendant materially impeded the administration of justice.” Casler, 2020 IL 125117 at ¶62. At the trial court level, however, the jury had only been instructed on the first two elements when it found Casler guilty, thus resulting in the Supreme Court reversing and remanding the case.

The Supreme Court made specific note of the necessity for a remand, citing caselaw that would have otherwise enabled the court to provide a judgment of acquittal. Based on its review of the trial transcript, however, the court determined that the trial court had barred the admission of evidence that would have addressed the third element of obstruction of justice. For this reason, the court ruled that remand was necessary so that a trier of fact could review the evidence relating to the third element of obstruction.

Conclusion

The obstruction of justice statute in Illinois is very vague, which opens the door to it being used to prosecute a broad range of conduct. Furthermore, the potential reach is vast. In the past, the law has reached, for example, swallowing illicit drugs, or what police officers believed to be illicit drugs. See People v. Brake, 336 Ill.App.3d 464, 783 N.E.2d 1084, 1086 – 1087, 270 Ill.Dec. 784 (2d Dist. 2003); People v. Smith, 337 Ill.App.3d 819, 786 N.E.2d 1121, 1125 – 1126, 272 Ill.Dec. 287 (4th Dist. 2003) (holding that, in order to convict for obstructing justice, it is not necessary for state to prove that substance defendant swallowed, which officer believed was controlled substance, was in fact controlled substance).

It has also reached providing a false name and birth date during a traffic stop. With Baskerville, Taylor, and now Casler, the Illinois courts have drawn a firm line between passive resistance to the police and active obstruction of police investigation. Like the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, the right to refuse cooperation with the police flows from our time-honored recognition that every person possesses a small sphere of personal freedom that is immune from governmental intrusion.

For more information about criminal law, see FEDERAL CRIMINAL PRACTICE (IICLE®, 2019). Online Library subscribers can view it for free by clicking here. If you don’t currently subscribe to the Online Library, visit www.iicle.com/subscriptions.


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