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The Flaws in Field Sobriety TestsAfter stopping someone on the suspicion of driving under the influence, a police officer may ask the driver to perform field sobriety tests, which are meant to gauge the driver’s physical and mental responses. As a driver, you have the right to reject the tests or any other questions about your sobriety. If you believe you are sober, it is tempting to participate in the tests in order to prove your sobriety. However, you would still risk displaying signs that the officer will misinterpret as intoxication. There are three standardized field sobriety tests, each of which can pose challenges to sober drivers:

  1. Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus: For the first test, the officer will likely ask you to look at and follow the movement of a pen or finger. The officer is watching for signs of nystagmus, which is a condition that causes your eyes to make involuntary jerking movements. Eyes with nystagmus may be unable to smoothly follow the movements of an object. Intoxication is one possible cause of nystagmus, but some people have nystagmus when they are sober. Officers are supposed to check for signs of natural nystagmus, which would make the test unreliable.
  2. Walk-and-Turn: For the next test, the officer may ask you to exit the vehicle and walk along a real or imaginary line. The officer will tell you how many steps to take, after which you will turn around and repeat those steps. This tests both your ability to walk in a straight line and follow instructions. However, there are flaws in this test. Walking straight can be difficult, depending on where you are walking. More importantly, you are more likely to make a mistake in following instructions when you are nervous. If you ask the officer to repeat the instructions, they may misinterpret that as a sign of intoxication. The truth may be that you are distracted because you are upset.
  3. One Leg Stand: For the final test, the officer may ask you to stand on one leg while counting. You are expected to raise your foot at least six inches off the ground, keep your arms to your sides, and stay in that position while counting to 30. Some people would have difficulty completing this test in normal circumstances, let alone when under the pressure of a field sobriety test.

Contact a Wheaton Criminal Defense Attorney

Field sobriety tests are not always reliable indicators that a driver was intoxicated. A DuPage County criminal defense lawyer at Stephen A. Brundage, Attorney at Law, can argue that the results of your field sobriety test are misleading. To schedule a consultation, call 630-260-9647.

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How Federal Laws Can Conflict with State LawsIllinois abolished the death penalty as a punishment in 2011, largely due to alarming research showing that people have been wrongly convicted for violent crimes. Does this mean that an Illinois resident who commits a crime in Illinois could never face the death penalty? Only if the case is tried at the state level. Federal law still allows the death penalty, which is just one example of how federal and state laws can contradict each other in important ways.

Federal Crimes

Federal and state laws exist simultaneously and can both apply, depending on the details of a case. State prosecutors are the ones to bring criminal charges against a defendant in most cases, but federal prosecutors may have jurisdiction over a case if:

  • The alleged crime took place on federal property or involved a federal official;
  • The alleged criminal activity crossed state lines; or
  • The alleged crime involved immigration or customs violations.

You can be charged with both a state and a federal crime for the same alleged offense, but double jeopardy rules prevent you from being convicted for both. When state and federal laws contradict each other, jurisdiction can become an important issue for a defendant.

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Cyberbullying Can Have Criminal Consequences in IllinoisPeople going through adolescence are still learning the appropriate way to interact with and treat other people. Because of their immaturity, some children engage in harassing or bullying behavior. The ubiquitousness of digital communications has created a subcategory of bullying known as cyberbullying. A teenager who engages in cyberbullying may face more than school discipline if caught. Illinois classifies cyberbullying as a criminal offense, and a teen accused of cyberbullying can end up in court.

What Is Cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying falls under Illinois’ law against cyberstalking, which is electronic communication that causes victims emotional distress or to fear for their safety. Cyberstalking can take many forms, including:

  • Unwelcome personal messages of a violent or sexual nature;
  • Targeting someone through social media;
  • Creating or maintaining a website dedicated to harassing a victim; or
  • Using digital communications to violate the privacy or security of the victim.

Why Is Cyberbullying a Crime?

People who instigate or participate in cyberbullying may believe that they are having innocent fun and have no intention of following through on any threats. However, cyberbullying can have real-life consequences if it affects the behavior of the target. A student may stop attending school out of fear of ridicule. In a few cases, cyberbullying targets have committed suicide. Cyberbullying can be more damaging than in-person bullying because:

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Five Facts About Wrongful Convictions in 2018Illinois by far led the nation for having the most defendants who were exonerated of their crimes in 2018, according to the National Registry of Exonerations. Of the 151 exonerations in 2018, 49 of them occurred in Illinois. The next closest states were New York and Texas, each with 16 exonerations. Thirty-one of the Illinois exonerations stemmed from a Chicago Police Department scandal in which officers framed defendants on drug and weapons charges. However, the 18 remaining exonerations would have still lead the nation. Wrongful convictions continue to plague the U.S. justice system, destroying lives in the process. The National Registry of Exonerations’ 2018 report shares several facts about wrongful convictions in the U.S.:

  1. Exonerees Spent an Average of 10.9 Years in Prison: The 151 exonerated defendants in 2018 lost a combined 1,639 years of their lives due to wrongful convictions, which was a record according to the report. Two defendants spent about 45 years in prison.
  2. Two-Thirds of the Exonerations Were for Violent Crimes: Of the 101 exonerations for violent crimes, 68 were for homicide or manslaughter charges. Sexual assault charges accounted for 17 more exonerations. The remaining violent crimes were for charges such as robbery, burglary, assault, attempted murder, arson, and kidnapping.
  3. Most of the Exonerations for Non-Violent Crimes Were for Drug Charges: There were 33 exonerations for drug crimes, such as possession or sale. Many of those drug crime exonerations came from the Chicago Police Department scandal. Other non-violent crime exonerations included gun possession, fraud, and sex offender registration.
  4. A Majority of the Wrongful Convictions Were Due to Official Misconduct: The report attributed 107 of the exonerations to police misconduct, which includes concealing evidence, threatening witnesses, and producing false forensic tests. Mistaken witness identification and false confessions were the other causes of wrongful convictions.
  5. Seventy of the Exonerations Determined No Crime Occurred: You can be exonerated for one crime while still being guilty of another charge. In 2018, 70 of the defendants who were exonerated had not committed any crime, including one defendant who had been sentenced to death.

Contact a DuPage County Criminal Defense Attorney

There are organizations that dedicate themselves to exonerating defendants for wrongful convictions. However, those organizations focus on high-profile cases, which is why homicide cases were the most common in the exonerations. A Wheaton, Illinois, criminal defense attorney at Stephen A. Brundage, Attorney at Law, is your best resource if you believe you have been wrongfully convicted. We can examine the evidence in your case to determine whether there might be cause to overturn your conviction. Schedule a consultation by calling 630-260-9647.

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Rescinding a Summary Suspension After DUI ArrestBefore your case even goes to trial, Illinois can suspend your driver’s license after you are arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence. A statutory summary suspension is a civil action that the Illinois Secretary of State's office will use if a DUI suspect failed a blood alcohol concentration test or refused to take the test. You may be able to rescind your suspension if you can prove that:

  • The officer did not properly place you under arrest;
  • The officer failed to warn you about the consequences of refusing the test;
  • The officer had no reason to believe that you were driving under the influence;
  • You did not refuse the test; or
  • The test results were not over the legal limit or were inaccurate.

Your suspension may be automatically rescinded if the state does not allow a hearing on your petition to rescind in a timely fashion. An Illinois appellate court recently granted a defendant’s petition to rescind for that reason.

Recent Case

In People v. Patel, the defendant has been charged with two counts of DUI and was scheduled to make his first appearance in court on Sept. 14, 2017. The defendant filed a petition to rescind his summary suspension on Aug. 14, 2017, along with a discovery request for:

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