People v. Romanowski, 2016 IL App (1st) 142360 (August). Episode 222 (Duration 8:07)
Is it prejudicial to tell the jury that defendant was told if he refused to blow that his DL would be suspended?
Defendant is discovered in his parked vehicle, with the engine running, at a tollbooth lane displaying a red “X,” indicating that it was out of service.
Trial counsel objected to the testimony regarding the contents of the warning to motorists.
Arguing that the civil consequences of a refusal to submit to blood-alcohol testing are not relevant in DUI cases and are highly prejudicial.
Defendant acknowledged that his refusal to take a blood-alcohol test was admissible at trial.
Section 11-501.2(c)(1) of the Illinois Vehicle Code specifically provides for the admissibility of evidence of a driver’s refusal to submit to blood-alcohol testing. And our courts have long recognized that a defendant’s refusal to take such a test is “relevant as circumstantial evidence of his consciousness of guilt.” See also Birchfield v. Nebraska, Episode 186 from June 2016.
Defendant’s beef was that the circuit court erred when it permitted the arresting officer to also testify to the contents of the admonishment he received warning him of the consequences of such a refusal.
His primary argument was that the statute prohibits admission of this type testimony and that the trial judge did not have discretion to admit it.
The Second district prevents this kind of testimony while the 4th and 5th Districts allow it.
This 1st District court also said the testimony was proper because the contents of the warning to motorists to be relevant circumstantial evidence of a defendant’s consciousness of his own guilt.
Evidence is unduly prejudicial only if it casts a negative light upon the defendant for reasons that have nothing to do with the case on trial, or invites the jury to decide the case “on an improper basis, commonly an emotional one, such as sympathy, hatred, contempt, or horror.
While the warnings may be circumstantial evidence of a defendant’s guilt, this does not encourage a decision on any improper basis.
The evidence at issue here is not technical in nature but rather implicates basic common sense: a person is given an incentive to submit to testing and nevertheless refuses to be tested, indicating that he knows the results will be unfavorable to him.