Supreme Court rules a 'slight' deviation is enough for a DUI stop

Jul 9, 2012

The Illinois Supreme Court has ruled in a DUI case that there is no specific required driving deviation to justify police making a traffic stop.

In 2008, Dennis Hackett was driving through Joliet when a sheriff's deputy pulled him over. The deputy said he saw Hackett's car cross a lane divider twice, so he stopped the car and charged Hackett with drunken driving.

Earlier this year, Hackett's attorney Ryan Kosztya argued before the Supreme Court that police shouldn't be able to pull people over for every little lane deviation.

"It isn't an absolute,” Kosztya said. “You don't point your car one way and you're automatically in that spot driving within that parameter of a particular roadway and carrying on."

Two lower courts agreed, but the Supreme Court didn't.

Asst. Atty. Gen. David Iskowich argued that police have to be able to respond to even slight swerving by drivers.

"It's important that drivers pay attention to what they are doing,” he said, “and one of the most important ways to pay attention is to remain within your lane line."

The justices sided unanimously with prosecutors. They say the law on improper lane usage has no distance requirement. As long as there are no potholes or other obstacles, even a brief swerve can justify a police stop.

In a unanimous opinion, the justices rejected the idea that drivers have to cross lane lines for a while before police are justified in making a stop.

Hackett's appeal came before he stood trial on the DUI charge. The case now goes back to the Will County Circuit Court.