St. Charles police say their ability to get a search warrant for blood factored into the weekend arrest of a suspected drunken driver who nearly ran down a group of people on a city sidewalk.
The driver, Donald E. Rericka, 47, of West Chicago, initially refused sobriety tests after crashing his pickup truck into two trees and a garbage can about 2 a.m. Sunday in downtown St. Charles, police said.
The crash seriously injured a Geneva woman whose head struck a building when she was hit by one of the trees as she walked down the sidewalk, according to police.
It wasn't until officers confronted Rericka about four hours later with a search warrant to draw his blood that he submitted to a breath test, authorities said.
St. Charles police spokesman Paul McCurtain said it was believed to be the first time the department, on its own, took steps typically reserved for law-enforcement efforts known in Kane County as No Refusal Weekends.
"It looked like it was going to be a refusal," he said. "But as soon as the driver was given the search warrant and the choice of breath or blood, he elected to give breath."
Kane County State's Attorney John Barsanti, who has encouraged police agencies to pursue warrants more often in serious DUI cases, lauded the department for taking the extra step, which resulted in a felony charge. Barsanti said he has supplied local police with warrant templates to make obtaining one less of a chore during late-night hours.
"We want people to kind of take over like that in these situations," he said. "Police could use it as another tool in their arsenals. We completely and heartily endorse it."
According to the police affidavit used to obtain a warrant, Rericka had glassy, bloodshot eyes, slurred and "mumbled" speech, and exhibited an "inability to maintain balance while walking or standing." Associate Judge Robert Janes signed the warrant shortly before 6 a.m., after police consulted with an on-call prosecutor.
Authorities would not disclose Rericka's blood-alcohol concentration, but said it was greater than the state's legal threshold of 0.08. He told police he drank two beers at a local tavern, the affidavit states.
Ed Yohnka, director of communications and public policy for the American Civil Liberties Union in Illinois, said Thursday that the organization is aware police are turning to warrants more often in DUI cases but "it's not something we've really analyzed" to form an opinion.
Rericka, of the 29W200 block of Helen Avenue, is charged with aggravated driving under the influence of alcohol, cannabis possession and drug paraphernalia possession. He remains free on bond and is due in court Feb. 9.