Published: February 18, 2007
Judges navigate through DUI laws
By Aaron Chambers
Register Star Springfield Bureau
SPRINGFIELD — When Judge Steven Nordquist agreed to a breath test during his DUI arrest last summer, he became an anomaly among his colleagues on the bench.
The judge from
Two of these judges also refused to cooperate with field sobriety tests. Another judge, charged with DUI in December, refused both breath and field sobriety tests.
Welcome to a crash course in Illinois DUI law. And who knows the law better than a judge?
If you’re arrested for DUI and refuse a breath test, your driver’s license is automatically suspended for six months. A misdemeanor DUI conviction, on the other hand, means up to a year in prison, loss of driving privileges for a year, 100 hours of community service and a fine of up to $2,500, according to the
With each subsequent conviction, the penalties grow.
Drivers who know the law know it may be in their best legal interest not to blow.
“You’re depriving the state of that evidence, so you’re enhancing the chances that you will avoid criminal sanctions that will ensue if you’re found guilty of criminal charges. And in exchange, you’re willing to accept the enhanced penalties — license penalties, not criminal penalties — because you refused,” said Larry Davis, a
“You’re not going to go to jail for refusing a breath test or a blood test or a urine test. You will go to jail if you are found guilty of DUI.”
Judges getting DUIs
Cases filed by the state’s Judicial Inquiry Board, which prosecutes judicial misconduct, read like a playbook for limiting your culpability during a DUI stop. Since the 1970s, the JIB has charged at least seven judges, including Nordquist, with misconduct after their DUI arrests.
The JIB’s charges are independent of any criminal prosecution. Nordquist’s JIB case is pending. The other six judges were reprimanded or censured.
John Karns, an appellate court justice from southern
The next morning, Karns and his lawyer seized all police documents pertaining to his arrest. The JIB said he and his lawyer destroyed or suppressed them, and that he was never prosecuted.
The JIB prosecuted two other judges arrested for DUI in the 1970s, but its complaints in those cases make no mention of breath or field sobriety tests. In that decade, breath tests were not yet widely used.
George Ray, a trial judge in central
Ray was convicted of improper lane usage but the DUI charge was dropped.
Edwin Gausselin, a
The same year, a sheriff’s deputy arrested LaSalle County Judge Cynthia Raccuglia for DUI. The deputy discovered her vehicle in the middle of a street after another motorist towed it from a ditch. As the deputy followed her from the scene, the judge steered her vehicle off the road and attempted to drive down railroad tracks.
Raccuglia submitted to field sobriety tests but refused to take a breath test. She pleaded guilty to reckless driving.
The JIB has not charged downstate Judge Patrick Young with misconduct, though its work generally follows criminal charges by several months.
Young refused to submit to breath and field sobriety tests when he was stopped for DUI in December.
“To the best of my knowledge, Jim Ryan has absolutely no knowledge relating to DUI law,” said Chris DeRango, his attorney. “I don’t think this knowledge of the law had anything to do with what he did or didn’t do.”
Nordquist, who presides over divorce and custody matters, refused to take a field sobriety or preliminary breath test when he was stopped for DUI in
An hour later, Nordquist agreed to provide a breath sample and his blood-alcohol concentration was .116. Under
Francis Martinez, a
“I cannot speak for any other judge or any other person, but in Judge Nordquist’s case it has been his position to accept full responsibility for his actions,”
Nordquist pleaded guilty to misdemeanor DUI, so the city did not have to take him to trial. In
Joe Bruscato, the city prosecutor who handled Nordquist’s DUI, said the city would have used the breath test result against the judge if it had needed to.
High court weighs in
The Illinois Supreme Court has upheld the mandatory six-month suspension for refusing to blow as a legitimate way to discourage drivers from refusing to take the test.
The court said in a 1992 opinion that the statutory “right” to refuse to take a blood-alcohol test does not derive from a constitutional protection such as the right against self-incrimination. Instead, the court said any such right of refusal is “simply a matter of grace” bestowed by the Legislature.
Then in 2004, the court ruled that
Such involuntary testing remains uncommon in
Don Ramsell, another DUI defense lawyer based in
The question, as defense lawyer Davis sees it, is not so much whether to refuse to blow but whether to refuse field sobriety tests. He says the results of these tests can give police probable cause to arrest a DUI suspect, which in turn gives an officer the right to ask for a breath test.
“If you refuse a field sobriety test, you enhance the chances that the officer is not going to have probable cause to make the arrest to begin with,” he said. “If I am telling somebody at a cocktail party what you want to do to avoid a DUI, it’s ‘Don’t take the field sobriety test.’ ”
Register Star reporter Kiyoshi Martinez contributed to this story.
Staff writer Aaron Chambers may be reached at 217-782-2959 or email@example.com.