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People v. Lach

December 24, 1998

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
MARIAN LACH, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice South

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County.

Honorable Edward F. Cozzi, Judge Presiding.

Following a bench trial, defendant was convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI), driving on a suspended license and damage to city property. He was sentenced to serve seven days in the Cook County Department of Corrections, two years' conditional discharge and six months' electronic home monitoring.

On appeal, defendant raises three issues: (1) whether this case should be reversed and remanded for a new trial where there was no understanding jury waiver in open court; (2) whether the trial court erred when it admitted the results of the blood-alcohol test without establishing a chain of custody; and (3) whether the State failed to prove him guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol beyond a reasonable doubt.

Defendant contends the evidence was insufficient to prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt; therefore, a recitation of the facts is necessary.

Mark Menke, a Chicago fire department paramedic, testified that on December 8, 1995, while in his ambulance, he observed a vehicle strike a light pole. He identified defendant as the driver of that car. His observations of defendant were that he was combative, disoriented, had alcohol on his breath, spoke with a slightly slurred speech and staggered. Based upon his experience in observing thousands of people who were inebriated, it was his opinion defendant was under the influence of alcohol.

Officer Riley, the reporting officer at the scene, did not observe the accident, but he identified defendant as being in a Chicago fire department ambulance with paramedics working on him at the time of his arrival. His investigation revealed that defendant was the owner and operator of the car involved in the accident. He testified defendant's face was flushed, his eyes were bloodshot, he was confused and had a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage on his breath. Based upon his personal and professional experience in observing hundreds of people who were inebriated, it was his opinion defendant was under the influence of alcohol.

Officer David Ryan investigated this accident on the date in question and observed defendant, whom he identified in open court, while he was in the ambulance. He testified defendant's face was "blushed" and that he had a strong odor of alcohol on his breath. After defendant was transported to the hospital, the officer spoke with him and observed his eyes were bloodshot, his face was flushed and he had a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage on his breath. He also appeared to be confused and angry. Subsequent investigation revealed defendant's driver's license was revoked at the time of the accident. Defendant was arrested and issued citations.

Defendant was transported to Mt. Sinai Hospital, where he was initially treated by Michael Panagon, a staff nurse, who testified blood was drawn from defendant upon orders of the attending emergency room physician, which is standard protocol for trauma patients at that hospital. The blood was sent to the hospital lab, and the results indicated defendant's alcohol level was at 313 milligrams deciliter. He identified defendant in open court as the individual he treated that evening.

Defendant, who testified through a Polish interpreter, stated that on December 8, 1995, he had been loading trucks from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., after which time he went home to his apartment, which was being painted at that time by a Kazimierz Soltyz. He then left his home at approximately 5:30 p.m. and went to a treatment center to meet with his substance abuse counselor. He arrived at the center at approximately five minutes to 6 p.m. and departed at 8:30 p.m. It was 9:20 p.m. when he arrived home, and at no time was he involved in a car accident and taken to a hospital.

Kazimierz Soltyz testified he painted defendant's apartment on December 8, 1995, and dropped him off at the treatment center sometime after 6 p.m.

Visia Fahbrgr, a substance abuse counselor, testified defendant attended a counseling session with her on December 8, 1995, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

At the close of all the evidence, defendant was convicted.

For reasons set forth later in this opinion, we remand the case ...


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