SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Supreme Court today unanimously reversed an appeals court ruling and reinstated an aggravated driving under the influence conviction and six-year prison sentence of a man who’s blood showed traces of methamphetamine after a traffic accident that left two people dead.

By Diane Lee

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Supreme Court today unanimously reversed an appeals court ruling and reinstated an aggravated driving under the influence conviction and six-year prison sentence of a man who’s blood showed traces of methamphetamine after a traffic accident that left two people dead.

The appeals court had ruled that there was no causal connection to show that the meth had caused the crash on Christmas night 2004 in which Aaron Martin’s car plowed head on into another vehicle.

But Supreme Court Justice Mary Jane Theis, in the opinion issued today wrote, “In this case, it was shown that defendant driver caused the accident. Thus, there was no need to prove that he suffered from any degree of impairment which caused the accidental fatalities.”

Under the state’s vehicle code, it is a crime for any person to drive under the influence of alcohol, intoxicating compounds or drugs, including marijuana and meth that would make them unable to drive safely.

If they are involved in an accident resulting in a death, then it would “aggravate” the sentence.

Ronald Smith, professor at the John Marshall Law School in Chicago, said the law has harsh consequences for those who are unaware.

“The Legislature, for whatever reason, decided to go this far,” Smith said.

The Supreme Court notes that causing physical injury to others by driving under the influence of drugs would turn a misdemeanor DUI into a felony.

“Any misdemeanor DUI can become aggravated DUI if the violation causes a death,” according to the high court’s opinion.

Martin was driving home from a Peoria bar at night on Dec. 25, 2004, when he crossed the center of a two-lane state highway, and collided with a car, killing two people. He was hospitalized and given a narcotic painkiller.

The Illinois State Police tested Martin’s blood and urine samples. A forensic scientist found “trace amounts” of methamphetamine in his urine, but no alcohol.

Martin denied using meth the night of the accident, even though he admitted to using it before. He insisted the state needed to prove whether key ingredients ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, which are used to make medicine and meth, were in his system instead of meth itself.

“There was evidence, however, that he had used methamphetamine, and evidence that no other substances in his urine could have yielded a false positive result,” according to the high court’s opinion.
People are taking a risk if they are under the influence of illegal drugs behind the wheel, Smith said.

“It sends a message: If you do methamphetamine or some of these other drugs and you drive,” Smith said. “Regardless, if it has any impact on the way you drive — you have committed a felony, and you can go to prison.”

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