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DUI? No, just Reckess Driving

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Emergency Services Vehicles McHenry County, Illinois

DUI? No, just Reckess Driving

Gus Philpott
Woodstock Advocate
September 29, 2007

Earlier this year we were treated to days of DUI news after a McHenry County Sheriff’s Department deputy wrecked his $25,000 take-home patrol car after partying at the residence of another deputy. That was back on a Saturday in January.

I heard about it on Monday, when a tipster called me. The Northwest Herald published the first print story on Friday, after having to file a Freedom-of-Information Act request to pry the information out of the sheriff’s department. Oh, the excuses that flew around, trying to explain the “reason” for withholding this news. I certainly wish I had been publishing The Woodstock Advocate then!

As the story went, deputies were drinking in a Randall Road restaurant after work. They weren’t even hanging out at a “cop bar (where things can really get messy and the cops never get called)”. Somehow (it was never explained), the deputy and his car got to his Huntley residence. Then he drove to Crystal Lake to a party and wrecked his car after leaving that party.

His BAC? 0.142. OK, solid enough for a DUI conviction. Not just a little over the 0.08; right? Almost twice. Certainly, higher than after just a “couple of beers.”

And what happened in court? Another treat… Thanks to sloppy police work, he skated on the DUI charge last week and agreed to plead out on Reckless Driving. Not a bad deal, all things considered. Expensive? Yes. But no DUI conviction.

As part of the “deal” the judge granted Supervision. This means his conviction stays on the quiet side. Of course, except for the newspaper reporting. If he keeps his nose clean of traffic charges for a year, only police officers and judges will ever know of his Reckless Driving conviction, according to a Hearing Examiner of the Illinois Secretary of State’s Motor Vehicle Department. His conviction doesn’t become part of the public record and is not available to his insurance company.

What does this really mean? He’ll likely get a job somewhere as a police officer again.

Now, he has probably really learned his lesson. This experience may provide him with the basis for a solid, future career in law enforcement. If that’s the case, so be it. Everyone makes mistakes. You pay the price; you go on. Perhaps he might commit himself to a rule of never drinking before driving. And drinking responsibly, when he does drink. He’ll decide whatever he decides. I wish him good luck in restoring his integrity.

We’ll never know why the responding Crystal Lake police officer did not charge him with DUI. I have a strong suspicion, based on a tip from an insider at the sheriff’s department. But the Crystal Lake officer did not administer a roadside sobriety test and, according to news reports then and now, other deputies smelled alcohol and took him to the hospital, where his Blood-Alcohol Content (BAC) was determined to be 0.142.

Crystal Lake PD never should have let him out of their control. If they did allow deputies to transport him to the hospital, then it should have been an official transfer of custody and transport. The chain-of-custody was broken. As a result, the attorney for the City of Crystal Lake apparently thought he could not use the BAC in a DUI trial. All this, according to published accounts in the Northwest Herald.

How does something this sloppy occur? With whom did the Crystal Lake officer confer, when he reportedly discussed the situation with his superior(s)? Did someone tell him not to administer roadside sobriety tests? Did a supervisor agree with him that he would not administer roadside sobriety tests? If so, who are these supervisors? Perhaps a new FOIA Request, now that the case is closed, will reveal these facts.

One would think that simple steps of arresting and prosecuting a drunk driver ought to be pretty well known by now. All officers should be well-trained in recognizing drunk drivers and taking the necessary steps that lead to a successful prosecution.

I was in a DUI refresher training class at a sheriff’s department in Colorado, when the sergeant gave the example of a traffic stop involving an officer from a neighboring jurisdiction, who was very drunk. He asked, “What do you do?”

I was the first to raise my hand and the last to be called on. Every excuse (except arrest) was given. Call his supervisor. Call his wife. Take him home. Take him for coffee. Call your supervisor. Let him sleep it off.

When the sergeant finally called on me, I said, “By the book. Disarm him. Roadside sobriety test. Advise of rights. Arrest. Handcuff. Tow his car. Transport to jail. Book him.”

I can still hear the chairs sliding away from me across the wooden floor in that classroom, until I was sitting alone in the middle of the room. What a lovely sound...

“Okay, Sergeant. What would you do?” I asked.

The sergeant answered, “Exactly the same thing.”

Twenty years later I was laughing about this class with a friend, who also had been a deputy there. He said, “Yeah, sure…. He would have let him go.”

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