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Village of Plainfield v. Anderson

April 16, 1999

VILLAGE OF PLAINFIELD PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
DANIEL J. ANDERSON, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE



Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 12th Judicial Circuit Will County, Illinois No. 98-DT-11702 Honorable John Cirrcione Judge Presiding

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Lytton

The trial court quashed defendant Daniel J. Anderson's arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI). The Village of Plainfield (Village) contends that the court's ruling should be reversed because the arresting officer, Sandmire, had reasonable grounds to investigate defendant for DUI and then arrest him on that charge. We reverse and remand.

FACTS

Defendant was arrested for DUI and issued citations for a cracked windshield and an unreasonably loud muffler. At a hearing on a motion to quash the arrest and the two additional citations, Sandmire testified through an offer of proof that he was on routine patrol at approximately 1:30 a.m. when he pulled next to defendant's vehicle at a red light. Sandmire noticed that defendant's windshield had a number of cracks and that the muffler was unreasonably loud.

As the light changed, defendant drove away. Sandmire followed him for approximately one-half mile before activating the emergency lights on his police car. Upon approaching, Sandmire smelled a strong odor of alcohol emanating from the car. Sandmire also noticed that defendant's eyes were bloodshot and glossy, and his speech was slurred. Defendant admitted to Sandmire that he had consumed three to four beers within the past hour. Sandmire then administered a variety of field sobriety tests.

The trial Judge found that Sandmire was justified in stopping defendant for equipment violations, but believed that the circumstances as perceived by Sandmire did not warrant the administration of field sobriety tests. Specifically, the trial Judge stated that the cracked windshield was "another one of those things that the Courts have said it's a pretense for a stop, but it's permissive. However, that in itself doesn't justify going into a further search or a further investigation as to possible DUI."

Thus, the trial court ruled that all evidence related to defendant's alleged intoxication at the time of arrest was inadmissible and quashed the DUI arrest, but denied the motion to quash the two other citations.

DISCUSSION

The Village argues that (1) evidence of defendant's condition prior to the field sobriety tests should have been admissible as it was relevant to determine if the tests were properly administered and (2) based on defendant's condition, Sandmire was justified in conducting field sobriety tests and then arresting him for DUI.

A. EVIDENCE OF INTOXICATION

Courts may exclude evidence on grounds of relevancy if that evidence "has little probative value due to its remoteness, uncertainty or its possibly unfair prejudicial nature." People v. Ward, 101 Ill.2d 443, 455, 463 N.E.2d 696, 702 (1984). A ruling on the admissibility of evidence should not be reversed unless it was an abuse of discretion. People v. Enis, 139 Ill.2d 264, 281, 564 N.E.2d 1155, 1161 (1990).

Here, defendant objected to all evidence of intoxication, claiming that it was irrelevant. The court sustained defendant's objection. In an offer of proof, Sandmire testified that upon asking for defendant's driver's license and insurance card, Sandmire smelled a strong odor of alcohol emanating from the car, defendant's eyes were bloodshot and glossy, and his speech was slurred. Defendant also admitted that he had consumed three to four beers within the past hour.

The above testimony is directly relevant to the Village's contention that Sandmire was justified in conducting a DUI investigation after making the initial traffic stop. Without this testimony, there was no evidence to support the administration of field sobriety tests after an unrelated traffic stop. Consideration of Sandmire's observations at the time of the traffic stop was necessary to put the DUI ...


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