Are the Numbers of Drug-Related DUIs Rising?
Interviewer: Out of all the cases you handle nowadays, what percentage would you say are due to drugs, whether prescription or illegal, versus alcohol?
There Are Three Main Types of Drug-Related DUIs
Jerald Novak: Well, the drug cases fall into three categories. There is the drug user, in other words, someone who consumes some type of recreational substance. That’s your primary type of DUI drug case, or the police stop the driver for some traffic violation. They smell an odor of alcohol.
They claim that the driver failed the field tests and arrest him, and then when they search the car they find paraphernalia and they charge him under the combined influence of alcohol or drugs. In Illinois, even a trace amount of drugs in your system will trigger a charge of driving under the combined influence of alcohol and drugs. That’s your primary type.
Your secondary type of DUI drug case is someone who has a number of illnesses who is being treated medically and is on a variety of medications. That’s what I alluded to earlier where somebody has a number of medications. Maybe they’ll have a glass of wine with dinner and for some reason when all those medications are mixed together added with small amount of alcohol and it affects their ability to drive.
Then there’s the third variety of DUI, and this is a real case I had, where a gentleman was stopped where he had driven over the center line. When he was stopped by the police, and this was in the middle of the afternoon, the police officer asked him why he drove over the center line. My client had a map in his hand. He said because he was looking at the map while he was driving, he stared at the map a second too long, and went over the center line.
They had him exit the vehicle. He passed all the field tests, and when they searched his car, they found some prescription bottles for a number of medications. He admitted that he had taken those medications for his illnesses. So they arrested him for DUI even though he had clearly passed the field sobriety tests. He was arrested even though he had a very good explanation for why he had gone over the center line. Ultimately we did get that case dismissed.
Those would be the three primary reasons you get a combined influence case or a drug DUI, or if they do a blood or urine test and they find a trace amount of any illegal substance, that’s sufficient to support the charge.
DUI Case History: Does Body Mass and the Effects of Alcohol Consumption
Interviewer: Have you handled any DUIs with unusual circumstances?
Jerald Novak: I had a gentleman about 2 years ago. He was driving his truck, and I wouldn’t say it was terribly late in the evening. He was driving a pickup truck and he came to a T-intersection and was going to make a left-hand turn. He waited for the traffic control device to turn green.
He made his turn and he made a somewhat wide turn. The police officer behind him activated his emergency lights to pull him over, and so the driver stopped almost immediately at the first driveway. Unfortunately, that driveway was not exactly properly aligned with the street. The driver of the truck was in an extended bed pickup truck. In order to make the turn into this driveway, in the course of his turn, his rear wheel went over the curb.
When he stopped and got out of the car, the first thing the police officer said to him is, “Have you had anything to drink tonight?”, and my client responded, “Yes, I’ve had some beer.” The police officer said, “How much have you had to drink tonight?”, and my client said, “Nine beers.”
The police officer then got him out of the car and summarily arrested him for DUI. The part that I hadn’t told you was that my client was 350 pounds. What that really means is that even if he had nine beers, because he had such a large body mass, that amount of alcohol wouldn’t have affected his ability to be a safe and responsible driver.
The whole reason my client made the wide turn at that T-intersection is because he just spilled coffee all over his pants, hot coffee, and he was trying to finish the turn, put the coffee down, and get to someplace safe to clean up. When he exited the vehicle, he was asked if he was drinking, he said yes. He admitted he had nine beers, and he had a big wet spot on his pants.
Circumstantially, it looked really bad. I was able to explain to the jury at 350 pounds, the consumption of nine beers would not affect this individual and I was able to do that by demonstrative evidence.
I took a clear test tube, filled it up with water halfway and took nine drops of red Kool-Aid and shook it up, and held it up to the jury and said this is polluted. Then I took a one gallon Lucite bucket that was filled halfway with water and I put nine drops of Kool-Aid in it. I stirred it up and the nine drops of Kool-Aid disappeared.
It was to demonstrate how that much alcohol would not affect someone of that great size. That was a big victory in the courthouse.
I have certainly handled some interesting cases.