You’re driving to your friend’s house. It’s hot outside; a perfect day for a couple beers on the patio of your favorite bar. You stop at a light, and take a look around. You see a bicyclist pedaling a path through the intersection in front of you. He eventually makes his way to the bike lane and continues along to who knows where. A pedestrian crosses the crosswalk and your eye catches the flashing “don’t walk” sign to your right. You turn your attention back to the light. A few seconds later, the light changes to green. You accelerate. Suddenly, a siren blares and lights flash behind you. In your rear view mirror, you see a cop car. You hit your hazards and pull over to the shoulder. Your heart races as you replay the last 30 seconds in your mind—what possibly could you have done to be pulled over? The officer approaches your door. By this time, you have rationalized the fact that perhaps you were speeding—no big deal, you’ll just apologize and be given a warning, maybe a ticket, and be on your way. But the officer asks you to step out of the car. He places you under arrest! “What in the world is going on?” You think as you are hauled to the back of the police car.
“Sir, you are under arrest for DUI.” Says the cop.
Okay, so maybe this is a little far-fetched. Cops can’t pull you over for no reason and tell you that you are under arrest for DUI. That only happens in movies (and in bad law dramas on TV). But if you ask James Dean Jr. or Steve Lopez, they may tell you differently. According to the Chicago Tribune, both men recently settled lawsuits with the City of Chicago at a total cost to the city of $450,000. The lawsuits stemmed from one Chicago officer’s falsification of charges in hundreds of DUI cases. Due to the officer’s malicious, overzealous, and unconstitutional actions, Mr. Lopez nearly lost his job as a truck driver, and the district attorney was forced to dismiss hundreds of DUI charges alleged by this officer. The officer has since resigned, yet refuses to admit any wrongdoing.
Perhaps this is not an isolated incident.
Lately, Colorado radio stations have been playing commercials that boast “72 DUI arrests are made every day in Colorado.” This may be the case, but how many of those DUI arrests are made in compliance with the mandates of the United States Constitution? The falsification of DUI charges in Chicago reminds us of the important of the presumption of innocence. Furthermore, it reminds us that challenging a DUI arrest may not only benefit the accused, but can also benefit the general public by reminding the government that we will challenge any act that potentially infringes upon our constitutional rights.
If you or someone you know has been accused of DUI, be sure to call an experienced DUI defense attorney who can help ensure that your constitutional rights are protected.