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People v. Jung

July 06, 2000

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, APPELLANT, V. EDWARD M. JUNG, APPELLEE.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Heiple

Agenda 30-May 1999.

At issue in this case is the constitutionality of section 11-501.4-1 of the Illinois Motor Vehicle Code, which allows the results of physician-ordered blood or urine tests conducted in the course of emergency treatment for injuries resulting from a motor vehicle accident to be reported directly to state or local law enforcement officials. 625 ILCS 5/11-501.4-1 (West 1996). The circuit court of La Salle County ruled that the statute violates a patient's right to privacy in his medical records under article I, section 12, of the Illinois Constitution, which states that, "[e]very person shall find a certain remedy in the laws for all injuries and wrongs which he receives to his person, privacy, property or reputation." Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, §12. The State appealed the circuit court's ruling directly to this court pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 302(a). 134 Ill. 2d R. 302(a). For the following reasons, we reverse and remand.

On March 22, 1997, at approximately 3:30 a.m., the defendant, Edward Jung, and a passenger riding in his car were involved in a one-vehicle accident. Master Sergeant T.W. Dalton of the Illinois State Police arrived to investigate the accident scene. While Sergeant Dalton was administering first aid to defendant he noticed that defendant had a strong odor of alcohol on his breath and was slurring his speech. Defendant told Sergeant Dalton that he was driving at the time of the accident, and that he had been drinking since approximately 6 p.m. that evening, consuming a total of four or five beers.

An ambulance arrived and took defendant to the hospital for emergency treatment. Sergeant Dalton arrived at the hospital shortly afterward. Approximately 45 minutes after Sergeant Dalton's arrival, a lab technician offered him a copy of defendant's blood test results in accordance with section 11-501.4-1 of the Motor Vehicle Code, which provides in pertinent part:

"(a) *** [t]he results of blood or urine tests performed for the purpose of determining the content of alcohol, other drugs, or both, in an individual's blood or urine conducted upon persons receiving medical treatment in a hospital emergency room for injuries resulting from a motor vehicle accident may be reported to the Department of State Police or local law enforcement agencies. Such blood or urine tests are admissible in evidence as a business record exception to the hearsay rule only in prosecutions for any violation of Section 11-501 of this Code [625 ILCS 5/11-501] or a similar provision of a local ordinance, or in prosecutions for reckless homicide brought under the Criminal Code of 1961 [720 ILCS 5/1-1 et seq.].

(b) The confidentiality provisions of law pertaining to medical records and medical treatment shall not be applicable with regard to tests performed upon an individual's blood or urine under the provisions of subsection (a) of this Section." 625 ILCS 5/11-501.4-1 (West 1996).

Defendant's blood test revealed a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.19, in excess of the legal limit of 0.08. Sergeant Dalton placed defendant under arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol.

Prior to defendant's first scheduled court date, the State filed a motion to turn over medical records, which was granted over defendant's objection. The State also filed a subpoena duces tecum, requesting that defendant's medical records be released to the trial court. Defendant subsequently filed a motion in limine, seeking to bar the State from using the blood test results on the grounds that section 11-501.4-1 is unconstitutional.

Statutes are presumed constitutional. The party challenging a statute's constitutional validity bears the burden of clearly establishing that the statute is unconstitutional. Since our decision is one of law, we review de novo the circuit court's decision with respect to a statute's constitutionality.

In conducting our review, we initially note that the State mistakenly refers to "section 5/11-501.4" several times in its opening brief, rather than to section 5/11-501.4-1, which the circuit court held unconstitutional. Nevertheless, reading the entire brief as a whole, the issues are sufficiently defined and presented so as to make dismissal inappropriate. See People ex rel. Carter v. Touchette, 5 Ill. 2d 303, 305 (1955). Our decision to address the State's claims on their merits is supported by the fact that the appellee neither sought to have the State's brief stricken or sought sanctions against the State, but rather filed a coherent response to the State's arguments.

Nationwide, over 16,000 lives were lost and over 1 million people were injured in alcohol-related crashes in 1997 alone. In Illinois, over 42% of the total motor vehicle crash fatalities involved drunken drivers. Because the public has a compelling interest in safe roads, a driver's expectations of privacy are significantly diminished. Highway driving is a privilege and not a right. Drivers must demonstrate knowledge of driving rules and their own capacities. When a person obtains a driver's license, he consents to the conditions imposed by the legislature in exchange for that privilege, one such condition being that found in section 11-501.4-1.

Under the instant statute, the medical information which may be disclosed to police is strictly confined to the results of physician-ordered blood or urine tests. Given that life, limb and property are seriously threatened by drunken driving and given the all too common reality that a driver involved in a motor vehicle accident may be intoxicated, waiver of a driver's privacy interest in his blood or urine test results in this situation is reasonable and does not violate his constitutional right to privacy.

Defendant additionally argues that section 11-501.4-1 is unconstitutional on its face because it also applies to passengers and pedestrians, who, as nondrivers, are not subject to the same reduced expectation of privacy. Defendant, however, was driving at the time of the accident and, thus, lacks standing to make this challenge.

In the alternative, defendant claims that section 11-401.4-1 is unconstitutional because it violates the separation of powers provisions found in the Illinois Constitution. Ill. Const. 1970, art. II, §1; art. VI, §§1, 16. Specifically, defendant contends that the statute conflicts with the uniquely judicial function of managing the discovery process. Defendant is incorrect. The statute states only that the blood or urine test results "may be reported" to law enforcement officials. 625 ILCS 5/11-501.4-1 (West 1996). This has nothing to do with separation of powers.

Accordingly, the judgment of the circuit court is reversed and the cause is remanded for further proceedings.

Reversed and remanded.

JUSTICE FREEMAN, specially concurring:

I concur in the judgment reached by the court today. Nevertheless, I, like Justice McMorrow, believe that the court's opinion "fails to adequately explain the basis for its judgment." See slip op. at 13 (McMorrow, J., specially concurring). I base my decision in this case on the reasons set forth in Justice McMorrow's special concurrence, in which I fully join.

I write separately, however, to provide a more complete picture of the State's briefing deficiencies as identified in the court's opinion and in the dissents. I agree with the court that the brief adequately allows this court to decide the substantive merits of this appeal. See slip op. at 2-3. In contrast, both Chief Justice Harrison and Justice Rathje believe that the State has violated Supreme Court Rule 341(e)(7) (177 Ill. 2d R. 341(e)(7)). Indeed, both take the court to task for, among other things, "advocating" for the State (see slip op. at 21-22 (Rathje, J., dissenting)) and being "an apologist for the State" (see slip op. at 18 (Harrison, C.J., dissenting). In light of these criticisms, I offer the following observations.

Both Chief Justice Harrison and Justice Rathje refer to Supreme Court Rule 341(e)(7). That provision of the rule provides that an appellant's brief must contain an

"[a]rgument , which shall contain the contentions of the appellant and the reasons therefor, with citation of the authorities and the pages of the record relied on. Evidence shall not be copied at length, but reference shall be made to the pages of the record on appeal or abstract, if any, where evidence may be found. Citation of numerous authorities in support of the same point is not favored. Points not argued are waived and shall not be raised in the reply brief, in oral argument, or on petition for rehearing." 177 Ill. 2d R. 341(e)(7).

According to Justice Rathje, the State's opening brief speaks only to section 11-501.4 and, as a result, the State has waived its challenge to section 11-501.4-1 because points not argued are waived. Chief Justice Harrison believes that because the wrong statute was argued, the State's brief is in violation of Rule 341(e)(7). Both justices appear to take the view that arguments that do not satisfy Rule 341(e)(7) do not merit consideration on appeal.

Rule 341 was promulgated to require parties to an appeal to present the court of review with clear and orderly arguments. See 47th & State Currency Exchange, Inc. v. B. Coleman Corp., 56 Ill. App. 3d 229, 232 (1977), citing Biggs v. Spader, 411 Ill. 42 (1951). Our appellate rules of procedure have the force of law, and this court has observed that "some logical order for the presentment of the issues to be reviewed must be observed, and the bar, or others appearing before us, are presumed to be aware of the rules prescribed." Biggs, 411 Ill. at 44. A party's failure to state properly or informatively the errors relied upon for reversal renders it impossible for a court of review to determine the issues sought to be raised and, as such, justifies dismissal of the appeal. Biggs, 411 Ill. at 44-45. Moreover, it is not ...


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