New Case on Observation Period

Case Name: People v. Van Bellehem (.pdf)

Court: Appellate Court of Illinois, Fifth District

Date Decision Filed: 5/7/09

Before a police officer gives a DUI suspect a breath test at the police station,  he must watch the suspect for twenty minutes to make sure that the suspect does not place something in his or her mouth, vomit, belch, etc.  This twenty minutes is known as an observation or deprivation period.  In Van Bellehem, the defendant testified that she had gum in her mouth during the observation period.  There wasn’t any evidence to corroborate this claim and the trial court did not believe the defendant.  Despite this, the trial court decided that the breath-test evidence was inadmissible since the police officer neither “asked the defendant if she had anything in her mouth” nor “asked her to open her mouth so that he could look inside.”

The appellate court reversed the trial court, because, according to the appellate court,  neither the applicable Illinois regulations nor public policy demand that the police question a DUI suspect in any particular way or look in the suspect’s mouth.

Jeremy Richey

Jeremy J. Richey, Attorney at Law
© Jeremy J. Richey and The East Central Illinois Criminal Law & DUI Weblog, 2008-2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.