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People v. Ruppel

March 22, 1999

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
PATRICIA RUPPEL, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from Circuit Court of Champaign County No. 97DT100 Honorable Michael Q. Jones, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice McCULLOUGH

Patricia Ruppel, defendant, appeals her conviction for driving with a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) over .10. 625 ILCS 5/11-501(a)(1) (West 1996). Most of defendant's arguments relate to the admissibility of involuntary blood test results that indicated defendant had a BAC of .228. Defendant argues (1) the State failed to show it had probable cause to arrest her or to perform the blood test; (2) the blood sample was not lawfully drawn; (3) the State failed to provide an adequate foundation for the blood test results; and (4) the trial court erred by allowing the State to reopen its case to cure a defect in the foundation given for the blood test results. Defendant also raises several evidentiary issues and argues the trial court erroneously rejected three of the jury instructions she offered. We affirm.

The parties are well aware of the facts of this case, and they will only be discussed as relevant to our analysis.

Defendant first argues the trial court erred by denying her motion to quash her arrest for lack of probable cause. A warrantless arrest will be deemed lawful only when probable cause has been proved. People v. Robinson, 167 Ill. 2d 397, 405, 657 N.E.2d 1020, 1025 (1995). A denial of a motion to quash an arrest for failure to show probable cause will be reversed only if the trial court's decision is manifestly erroneous. People v. Cabrera, 116 Ill. 2d 474, 485-86, 508 N.E.2d 708, 712 (1987). Probable cause to arrest exists when facts exist that would lead a reasonable person standing in the shoes of the police officers to conclude that a crime has been committed and the defendant is the person who committed the crime. Robinson, 167 Ill. 2d at 405, 657 N.E.2d at 1025.

In this case, Champaign police officer Bruce Ramseyer placed defendant under arrest at a hospital where she was taken on March 15, 1997, after she drove her car into a stalled truck driven by Amanda Judth. Judth and Mike Cloyd, a passenger in the truck, were taken from the scene by ambulance. Mark Parr, a retired member of the Carroll fire department with training as an emergency medical technician, was at the accident scene and spoke with defendant before she was taken to the hospital by ambulance. He testified he did not smell alcohol on defendant.

Ramseyer and fellow officer Melinda Williams also spoke with defendant at the accident scene. Neither Williams nor Ramseyer observed any skid marks in the intersection. Ramseyer testified this was a sign defendant did not make a reasonable response to the stalled truck and did not attempt to stop.

While Williams did not smell alcohol on defendant's breath when she first spoke with her, Ramseyer smelled a moderate odor of alcohol on her breath. Defendant spoke with Williams and admitted to her she had consumed two beers. Ramseyer testified defendant's eyes were red. Though Ramseyer also testified defendant's eyes were glassy, he retracted this statement when confronted with his initial and supplemental reports, which did not include this detail. Ramseyer described defendant's speech as slurred, but repeatedly stated it was not "the worst slurred that [he's] ever heard." Both Williams and Ramseyer admitted testifying at the prior trial that defendant's speech was not slurred. However, Ramseyer maintained defendant's speech was not quite "perfect."

Ramseyer testified defendant did not have any difficulty with balance, her clothes were not disheveled, she appeared to be calm, and her account of the accident was consistent. Williams admitted testifying at the prior trial that defendant did not have any trouble standing. Norma Ruppel, defendant's mother, testified she saw her later that evening and defendant appeared upset but sober, and she did not smell of alcohol.

After speaking with defendant, Ramseyer left to talk to others present at the scene. When Ramseyer returned a minute later, he could still smell alcohol on defendant's breath, but she was then chewing on peppermint gum or candy. Williams also testified defendant appeared to be chewing gum the second time she talked to her.

Defendant told Parr she did not believe she was injured, and neither Parr nor either officer noticed any injuries. According to Ramseyer, defendant told him at the accident scene that she did not need any treatment. However, when both officers were busy attending to other matters at the accident scene, defendant was voluntarily taken to the hospital by ambulance. Ramseyer testified that, when he arrived at the hospital, he learned defendant had refused to receive treatment. The trial court found probable cause, commenting that Ramseyer was "an exceptionally credible witness."

Red eyes, altered speech, and the odor of alcohol are factors that could lead a reasonable person to conclude a suspect was driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI). People v. Brodeur, 189 Ill. App. 3d 936, 941, 545 N.E.2d 1053, 1057 (1989).

Defendant points to People v. Lukach, 263 Ill. App. 3d 318, 326, 635 N.E.2d 1053, 1059 (1994). Though this case is similar to Lukach in several respects, there are several crucial differences. First, the trial court found in favor of the defendant in Lukach. The standard of review cuts the other way here, where the trial court ruled in favor of the State. Second, Ramseyer noted defendant's eyes were bloodshot, though not all of his reports included this detail. Third, Ramseyer noted defendant had the smell of alcohol on her breath. Fourth, Ramseyer testified defendant's speech, though perhaps not slurred, was altered. Fifth, there were no skid marks around the pickup truck, suggesting defendant did not attempt to stop, as a reasonable person not under the influence of alcohol would.

The trial court could also infer defendant's guilty knowledge from the fact she apparently attempted to cover the smell of alcohol on her breath with a peppermint, and she voluntarily left the accident scene in an ambulance even though she did not need or want medical treatment. While factors such as furtive gestures, attempts to hide items when speaking with police, or attempts to flee police are not enough alone to support a finding of probable cause, they may be considered when other circumstances tending to show probable cause are present. See People v. Felton, 20 Ill. App. 3d 103, 106, 313 N.E.2d 642, 645 (1974); People v. Belton, 257 Ill. App. 3d 1, 6, 628 N.E.2d 287, 291 (1993); People v. Matthews, 137 Ill. App. 3d 870, 875, 485 N.E.2d 403, 407 (1985). The trial court could and did properly find probable cause to arrest.

Defendant next contends the trial court erred by allowing the State to submit the results of an involuntary blood test performed at the hospital. As a constitutional matter, involuntary blood tests are admissible where they are supported by probable cause, the evidence is of an evanescent nature, and they are performed by medical personnel in a reasonable and medically acceptable manner. See Schmerber v. California, 384 U.S. 757, 16 L. Ed. 2d 908, 86 S. Ct. 1826 (1966); cf. People v. Byrd, 215 Ill. App. 3d 468, 471, 574 N.E.2d 1269, 1271 (1991); People v. Brown, 175 Ill. App. 3d 725, 530 N.E.2d 71 (1988) (standard for involuntary breath tests). Defendant's blood contained evanescent evidence, her changing BAC. The test in this case ...


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