People v. Martin (found here: http://www.state.il.us/court/Opinions/SupremeCourt/2011/April/109102.pdf) is a complete embarrassment to our state’s jurisprudence, in my opinion. Aggravated DUI Causing Death is in fact our state’s version of vehicular homicide, as it is referred to in other states. (We used to call it Reckless Homicide) In Martin, the Supreme Court held that a person could be convicted of Aggravated DUI Causing Death when the amount of drug found ONLY in their urine (the blood was clean) was so infinitesimal that it couldn’t have impaired anyone (in fact it was so small that it also couldn’t be found using a gas chromatography/ mass spectrometry -the gold standard- and had to be found using a more specialized form of mass spectrometry). In other words, if 2 people performed the same act – crossing the center line and negligently causing the death of another – then the driver found with .001 nanogram of a controlled substance goes to jail for 3-14 years, while the other isn’t even charged with a crime.
Frankly, the above example IS what People v. Martin is all about – sentencing past drug users to jail as status offenses. An equal protection violation. Can you imagine what will happen when modern science is so accurate that they can find an amount of drug in your system from years ago (they can already use your hair to go back about one month per inch of length)?
Not to mention, that the Supremes erroneously claimed that the legislature intended the proximate cause issue to apply only to bad driving and not to the use of the drug itself. How did they do that? They took another statute – driving with any amount in the system – a misdemeanor – and used that statute to create out of whole cloth the fallacy that these senators also meant that there need not be a proximate cause to the drug use when they passed AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT SET OF LAWS MAKING AGG DUI DEATH A FELONY.
My understanding of statutory construction in criminal cases suggests that ALL penal statutes are strictly construed in favor of the accused. People v. Martin doesn’t even mention this construct, because to acknowledge its existence would force them to apply it.
And here’s another insult to both forensic science and intellectual thinking – the Supremes held that, since one cannot tell if a person is impaired from a drug based on the level in their system alone, then we should just presume EVERYONE is impaired. Read that out loud to yourselves slowly – since we don’t know who is actually guilty of the crime, we should make everyone guilty of the crime! In fact, there are presumptive levels of drug impairment that are published in medical journals, as well as employed in certain states. Further, there IS a way to determine whether someone is under the influence of drugs – it’s called a medical EXAM! That’s right – doctors and toxicologists are specifically trained to determine if a person is being ‘influenced’ by drugs in their system. And Mr. Martin’s doctors, as well as ALL of the experts, could not say the defendant was impaired. So what do the Supremes decide is the best course of Illinois Jurisprudence? Find him guilty due to a LACK of REAL EVIDENCE.
Just so you readers know, yesterday the house passed a bill by a vote of 116-0 that will require anyone who is guilty of a crime like this to receive AT LEAST 10 years in prison (Class X 85% rule) if they have 2 prior DUIs. People v. Martin takes the concept of strict liability (there is no mens rea for DUI) and combines it with the newest concept (no causation for the actus reus either) and makes us the class clowns of modern forensic/criminal law. Could you imagine if we took all misdemeanors, and turned them into homicides simply because there was a death that was caused by from an unrelated act of negligence? Shame, shame, shame……