Two judges in accident draw DUI suspicion
By a Law Bulletin staff writer
Police who ticketed Circuit Judge Patrick M. Young 58, said at least one officer saw Young's passenger, Circuit Judge Jan V. Fiss, pour out an open beer can after the crash Sunday while the judges were returning from a St. Louis Rams game about 20 miles from here in St. Louis.
It was not immediately clear Thursday whether Fiss, 64, of Swansea, was charged.
Young's attorney, retired appellate justice Clyde L. Kuehn, said Thursday his client was ''absolutely within his rights'' to refuse a field sobriety test and a breathalyzer test, saying such mechanical tests have proved to be unreliable.
''If you've had anything to drink [alcoholic] at all, you're taking a chance taking a breathalyzer,'' Kuehn said. ''My advice is don't take the breathalyzer. I think from the standpoint of weighing the consequences, most lawyers would give the same advice.''
Messages left Thursday with Young and Fiss through the court were not immediately returned.
Refusing a blood-alcohol test automatically leads to a six-month license suspension in Illinois, but the suspension does not begin for 45 days. The misdemeanor DUI count carries a maximum punishment of a year in jail and $1,000 in fines, Kuehn said.
Young intends to plead not guilty, Kuehn said, adding that his client has already apprised the Judicial Inquiry Board of the charges.
In his report, Belleville police Patrolman Shane Brown said Young apparently was turning left in his sport utility vehicle when he entered the path of a pickup truck driven by Abel Muhammad, 39, of Swansea. Muhammad, initially trapped in the wreckage, eventually was taken by ambulance to a hospital, complaining of a broken leg.
Brown reported that he detected ''a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage'' emanating from Young's breath, and ''the suspect also had glassy, red bloodshot eyes.'' Another officer, Patrolman Brian Dowdy, said Young's speech sounded soft and slurred.
Brown said that Young, when questioned, said he was returning from the Rams game in St. Louis and refused to say whether he had been drinking.
Brown said Young was unstable on his feet, ''swaying forward and backward.''
Another officer, Jeffrey Sheary, said he saw Fiss pull an open can of Bud Light beer from the front passenger seat of the vehicle and pour it on the ground, then tried to hide the can an inside pocket in his coat. Sheary wrote that he then was dispatched to a disturbance but told Brown about seeing Fiss with the beer can. Brown searched for the can but failed to find it, Brown wrote.
After Young refused to take a sobriety test, Brown said, he was handcuffed and arrested. At the police station, Brown reported, Young refused to have his breath tested for alcohol.
Young was released after posting his driver's license and $100 as bond.
In last month's elections, Fiss won retention and Young — who was in his last day as an associate judge at the time of his arrest — won a circuit judgeship.
Thanks to the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin for this story.