Comedian Kevin Hart was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol on Sunday April 14, 2013 in Los Angeles. According to reports, Hart almost collided with a tanker truck on a Southern California freeway. He failed a field sobriety test and was arrested. Analyzing whether or not the police officer had reasonable suspicion to make the stop is one of the first things that an experienced criminal defense attorney would look at. Next, the attorney would question the police officer’s evidence that supported the arrest. Was it based on a field sobriety test? Was a breath test administered? And were proper procedures followed?
In Illinois, a driver can be stopped by the police for any driving violation, such as improper lane usage, speeding, or driving erratically. Such stops constitute “probable cause.” In this case, the police officer’s likely had a reason to stop Hart and conduct a brief inquiry into his ability to drive. Once a police officer stops a vehicle, he will look for clues of intoxication. Specifically, odor of alcohol, bloodshot and/or glassy eyes, slurred speech, or fumbling while retrieving a driver’s license. If the officer observes signs of intoxication, the driver will be asked out of the vehicle to perform field sobriety tests and a portable breath test. Contrary to popular belief, there is no penalty for refusing all field sobriety tests or the portable breath test. However, there is a penalty for refusing a Breathalyzer exam at the police station.
In Illinois, such a refusal of the Breathalyzer on Hart’s part will result in an automatic 12 month suspension of his driving privileges, while complying with the officer’s request of performing the Breathalyzer, and blowing above the legal limit of .08 will only result in a 6 month suspension of driving privileges. Officers frequently try to convince drivers into performing the Breathalyzer by telling them of the shorter suspension. However, by encouraging the Breathalyzer, the officer is only trying to make a stronger case for the prosecutor against the defendant. The choice comes down to whether the individual wants a shorter suspension of driving privileges while providing the prosecution with incriminating evidence for the criminal charge, or whether the individual wants to take a longer suspension, but make it more difficult for the prosecution to prove its case without Breathalyzer results. Obviously, if the driver has had nothing to drink, there is no harm in submitting to the Breathalyzer. However, if the driver has consumed any amount of alcohol, the choice is a little more difficult, as it is impossible to predict the Breathalyzer result.
Sami is experienced at defending charges of driving under the influence as well as other criminal and traffic matters. For assistance with a traffic violation or criminal matter, please feel free to contact him at (312) 626-2871.
 The penalties stated in this article apply only to individuals charged with their first DUI offense in the State of Illinois.