Chelios DUI test video holds good lesson for us all

 
 
Updated 2/12/2010 8:27 AM

The video doesn't lie.

So the saying goes. But in the case of Chris Chelios, it might not tell the whole truth of his guilt or innocence; it might serve as a good public safety lesson to all of us.

 

Chelios, the former Blackhawks star, is likely to beat the rap on a DUI, based on a videotape taken from the arresting officer's squad car. Chelios was stopped Dec. 28, ironically, near Blackhawk Drive and Ogden Avenue in Westmont on suspicion of speeding and weaving across lanes.

A DuPage County judge ruled this week that the 15-minute video lacked solid enough evidence that Chelios, who now plays for the Chicago Wolves, was impaired to warrant the arrest on the DUI charge. His attorney Terry Ekl will now go through the formality of seeking dismissal of the charges.

I watched the video before we posted it online Wednesday. (You can see it at dailyherald.com/story/?id=358139.) First, I was reminded of a scene in a 1983 Steve Martin movie, "Man With Two Brains," in which Martin is ordered to walk in a straight line - on his hands among other near-impossible feats. "Damn, your drunk tests are hard," he tells the cop.

I had heard that the field-sobriety tests are tough to ace, even to someone who might be stone-cold sober. So as Chelios struggled a bit with keeping his arms at his side, balancing on one foot and counting "one one-thousand, two one-thousand ..." I was compelled to stand up and try this myself. I didn't fall, but I wobbled and had to stretch out my arms for balance. And, for the record, I was stone-cold sober at the time.

by signing up you agree to our terms of service
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

So, Chelios didn't botch the test; he walked a straight line without too much difficulty, he did the one-foot balance thing and counted off a few numbers, though he stopped and restarted a few times.

Chelios does not appear to slur his words, though his voice is hard to pick up. He's clearly not falling-down drunk.

But the tape also reveals this: He answers "a couple" when he's asked how much he's had to drink and refuses to get more specific though he's asked repeatedly. He begs the officer to give him a break. And he also says, "I'm not gonna blow," which seems to be an in-the-know denial to take a Breathalyzer test. That's his legal right, by the way, but it also triggers the implied consent portion of the law, which calls for a one-year suspension of one's driver's license - unless the case is dismissed or the driver exonerated.

If the yardstick is Chelios' guilt had to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, I'd say the video probably acquits him. But would he have passed that breath test? We'll never know.

I wondered if others had more conclusive opinions on this, so I looked online to see if anyone had commented on our story and the accompanying video. Our posters did not disappoint. But as is often the case, instead of civil debate, a hockey game broke out.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

People who watched the same video came down on either side: Chelios clearly wasn't drunk, one said; yes, he was, said another. Ditto the handling of the case. Some expressed outrage over the fix being in: Chelios got off because of who he is; the judge needs to be run out of office; it's all about revenue for the municipalities.

Others vigorously defended the actions of the officer and the legal system in general. One suggested police station themselves outside all bars at 2 a.m. and "make" everyone coming out take a sobriety test. Another opined: "I would think that if Chris had struck a vehicle transporting your family down Ogden Avenue before this stop none of you would be complaining right now."

But even if you believe police, judges and the legal system are stacked against you, or that, as one poster put it, cops presume "anyone on the road at 4 a.m. is drunk. Period."

The question remains: Why put yourself in the position where the type of scrutiny applied to Chris Chelios is ever applied to you?

jdavis@dailyherald.com