McElwain v. Ill. Sec’y of State

McElwain, was involved in a traffic accident.. The driver and passenger of the motorcycle that hit McElwain's vehicle had substantial injuries; the passenger died. On the date of the accident, plaintiff was neither issued any tickets nor asked to take any chemical tests. During their investigation, police discovered rolling papers and a bag containing a residue that appeared to be cannabis in McElwain’s vehicle, but officers at the scene did not think he appeared to be under the influence of cannabis. Two days later, McElwain was questioned and admitted that he had smoked marijuana two weeks before the accident. The police issued a ticket for failing to yield when turning left and requested that he take a chemical test. The police read him statutory warnings (625 ILCS 5/11-501.6(c). McElwain refused. The Secretary of State suspended his driver’s license for three years. An ALJ upheld the suspension, rejecting an argument that the officers violated due process by waiting too long. The circuit court and Illinois Supreme Court disagreed, finding the statute unconstitutional as applied. While the state can condition receipt of a driver’s license on a driver’s agreement to consent to a chemical test if he is involved in a serious motor vehicle accident, the essential nexus between the state’s interest in protecting the public from intoxicated drivers and requiring consent to a chemical test following an arrest related to a serious accident no longer exists when the test is requested two days after the accident. View "McElwain v. Ill. Sec'y of State" on Justia Law