The Illinois Supreme Court on Thursday handed down the opinion in
People v. Martin, reinstating Aaron Martin's original conviction of
aggravated driving under the influence and a six-year prison
Peoria County Circuit Court prosecutors convicted Martin
of a charge of aggravated DUI because he was driving with
methamphetamine in his body when his car crashed into an oncoming
car, killing two people on Christmas night 2004.
The six other state justices unanimously concurred with Supreme
Court Justice Mary Jane Theis' 10-page opinion, which overturned the
appellate court decision that ruled there was no "causal connection"
to prove the drug had caused the crash, since the effects of the
drug had likely worn off.
"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,"
according to the high court's opinion.
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
"The Legislature, for whatever reason, decided to go this far,"
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.
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When Martin drove home from a Peoria bar at night on Dec. 25,
2004, he crossed the center of a two-lane state highway and collided
with a car, killing two people. He was hospitalized and given a
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
"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
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."
Statehouse News; By DIANE S.W. LEE]