The Chicago Tribune Editorial Board comes out in favor of scrapping the DUI 30 day hard time rule

Last week, I posted a blog post about a pending bill in the Illinois legislature that would end the 30 day hard time rule which prevents first time DUI offenders from getting a driving permit until they have served 30 days of their statutory summary suspension.

Now, the Chicago Tribune editorial board has come out in favor of it too.

Here is their editorial, which is pay-walled on their site (why would they want to keep people from reading their opinions?):

Illinois law says that if you’re arrested for drunken driving, you’re supposed to serve the driver’s version of “hard time.” That is, you can’t drive, period. This “hard time” is supposed to be 30 days for first-time offenders and up to three years for repeat offenders.

But people steer around that law in several ways. Some simply drive without a license. Some work out plea deals with local prosecutors to pay hefty fines so they can avoid a suspension.

The Illinois State Bar Association has proposed a way to end the evasion — by ending the “hard time” period of suspensions.

The ISBA proposes that motorists charged with DUI be required to install ignition interlock devices that test for alcohol on a driver’s breath. They would drive — sober — with the interlock instead of losing driving privileges. The presumption is that more drivers would pay to install the devices and drive legally, rather than drive illegally or cut deals to avoid suspension.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving — long an advocate of ignition interlocks for all DUI offenders — is on board with the idea. So is the Chicago-area advocacy group called Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists. They’re not exactly known as pushovers on drunken driving.

State Senate President John Cullerton, who has passed valuable traffic safety laws in recent years, tells us that he supports the idea. “There’s an evolution in this area from the hard suspension which was sacrosanct” years ago, he says. Now, advocates recognize that “it’s safer to have people driving with the interlock than to have them illegally driving, as many of them do.”

This page has supported broader use of ignition interlock devices to help curb intoxicated driving. The National Transportation Safety Board recommended in 2012 that states mandate interlocks for all DUI offenders. The states with the strongest interlock laws, such as New Mexico, Arizona and West Virginia, have seen greater reductions in drunken driving deaths than the national average, MADD reports.

The threat of automatic suspension is a strong deterrent — when it’s enforced. That would be our preference, but it’s not easy to force local prosecutors and municipalities to give up their deal-making.

So we can see value in using interlocks after an arrest. That change would not affect how DUI offenders are punished after a conviction.

A first conviction for a misdemeanor DUI in Illinois carries a revocation of driving privileges for at least one year, two years if you’re under age 21. If your blood-alcohol level is more than twice the legal 0.08 limit, there’s a mandatory minimum $500 fine and 100 hours of community service. Depending on circumstances, including whether anyone was hurt in a crash of if there was a child in the car, penalties escalate, including possible jail time.

This interlock proposal could help curb a widespread and infuriating practice exposed by the Tribune last year. Local prosecutors in some suburbs cut plea deals to reduce DUI charges and collect wads of cash for municipal coffers. Those arrested often pay those fines to avoid a license suspension. The prospect of driving with an interlock instead of serving “hard time” might reduce the incentive for these municipal workarounds.

This all depends on how the concept is translated into proposed law. If a bill is presented to them, lawmakers should make sure it doesn’t create new loopholes in safety law. The message shouldn’t change: Drink. Drive. Pay.

FL Judge rejects plea deal for attorneys who set up opposing counsel for DUI arrest

This is a follow-up from my post from Wednesday about the three Florida lawyers who set up their opposing counsel in a high profile case for a DUI arrest.

From the Tampa Bay Times (Anna Phillips reporting):

Calling the punishments “disproportionate and unacceptable,” a Pinellas judge Thursday rejected plea agreements for three Tampa lawyers accused of orchestrating the drunken driving arrest of an opposing lawyer.

Pinellas-Pasco Senior Judge W. Douglas Baird, presiding over the disciplinary proceeding, said in a written decision that the sanctions outlined in the agreement between the lawyers and the Florida Bar do not correspond to the serious allegations they face. He called for a trial with “actual testimony with vigorous cross-examination” — even if the lawyers refuse to say a word on the stand.

Accused by the Bar of misconduct, unfairness to opposing counsel and disrupting court, the three lawyers from the firm of Adams & Diaco agreed to sanctions that would allow them to avert a week-long trial. Under the terms of the deal, Stephen Diaco, 46, would surrender his law license, an offer designed to protect the firm where he is a partner. Robert Adams, 45, and Adam Filthaut, 40, agreed to 91-day suspensions, after which they would have to secure the state Supreme Court’s permission to practice law again.

It was the lighter sanctions for Adams and Filthaut that irked the judge, who singled that out for criticism in his decision. But because each half of the deal was contingent on the other — “all or nothing,” as the attorneys put it — the judge rejected it in its entirety. He set a trial date of March 31.

Making it Easy: Man arrested for DUI after driving to police station to bail friend

From the Chicago Tribune (reporting by Carrie Napoleon):

A Merrillville man is facing alcohol-related charges after he tried to bail a friend who was arrested by Crown Point Police on drunken driving charges.

Brendon L. Luker, 27, of Merrillville, pulled into the parking lot of the Crown Point Police station at about 1:30 a.m. March 16 while Crown Point Police Officer Travis Thomas was completing paperwork, according to Assistant Police Chief James Janda.

Thomas saw Luker on the security camera pull into the parking lot and walk into the lobby of the police station, he said. As he was attempting to post bond for his friend, the dispatcher called Thomas to let him know the man in the station appeared intoxicated.

When Thomas met Luker in the lobby, he noticed the man smelled of alcohol. Luker denied drinking but failed field sobriety tests. A portable breathe analyzer registered a .182 BAC, Janda said.

Luker was arrested for operating while intoxicated. A sober friend later bonded him out, Janda said.

Three Florida lawyers suspended or disbarred for setting up opposing counsel’s DUI arrest

Two years ago, I wrote on this blog about Florida attorney Phil Campbell, who was arrested for a DUI one night while he was in the midst of a locally high profile jury trial between two Tampa shock jocks (M.J. Schnitts and “Bubba the Love Sponge” Clem).  Almost immediately, questions were raised about whether Campbell had been set up by the attorneys who were opposing him in the trial.  (Campbell had been drinking with a woman who turned out to be a paralegal in the opposing firm’s office, the attorneys contacted the police as soon as Campbell left the establishment, and there arresting officer was a friend of one of attorneys.  Ultimately, the DUI case against Campbell was dropped.

Now comes news that three attorneys who were involved in the set up have been either suspended or disbarred.  From the Tampa Bay Times (story by Anna Phillips):

Three lawyers accused of orchestrating the DUI arrest of an opposing attorney have agreed to a plea deal that would cost one of them his license.

Under the agreement, the details of which were discussed at a Tuesday hearing, Stephen Diaco, 46, will surrender his law license, an offer designed to protect the firm of Adams & Diaco, where he is a partner. The other lawyers, Robert Adams, 45, and Adam Filthaut, 40, will receive 91-day suspensions, during which they cannot practice law.

Although the details of the bargain have been worked out, authority to approve it rests with Pinellas-Pasco Senior Judge W. Douglas Baird. He gave no indication Tuesday whether he will accept the deal. If he does, it moves to the Florida Supreme Court, where the justices will have ultimate say…

The deal, which was negotiated about a month ago but signed Monday, may disappoint some members of Tampa Bay’s legal community looking for closure to a case they consider profoundly embarrassing to their profession.

Nowhere in the agreements do Diaco, Adams, or Filthaut accept responsibility for the roles the Florida Bar accused them of playing in arranging the arrest of a rival lawyer. They admit only to poorly supervising one of their employees, Melissa Personius, a paralegal who was alleged to be one of the main actors in the incident…

The lawyers’ alleged target was Philip C. Campbell who, in January 2013, was representing radio shock jock Todd Schnitt in a defamation case against Bubba the Love Sponge Clem. Clem had retained Adams & Diaco as his counsel.

According to the Bar, which filed a complaint against Diaco, Adams and Filthaut last June, the three lawyers stopped at nothing to ensure Clem prevailed.

One evening after trial, Campbell found himself seated next to a pretty young woman at Malio’s, a steak house bar downtown. According to witnesses, she flirted with him and told him she worked at Trenam Kemker, a Tampa law firm.

In fact, the woman who charmed Campbell that night from a neighboring bar stool was Personius, the Adams & Diaco paralegal. Phone records would later show that over the next few hours, she texted and called her bosses multiple times. They, in turn, texted and called each other.

Ultimately, she persuaded Campbell to drive her home. He had offered to get her a cab. He had tried to call a car service. And finally, he insisted that she leave her car there overnight. But according to the Bar’s complaint, Personius persuaded him to get behind the wheel.

Once he did, Campbell was arrested by Tampa police Sgt. Ray Fernandez. A good friend of Filthaut’s, Fernandez had exchanged multiple texts and calls with Filthaut that evening.

“Got it,” he messaged a colleague when he was told Campbell and Personius were on their way out.

Allegations of a DUI setup surfaced soon thereafter, when Campbell realized he had left his trial briefcase in the car of his opponents’ paralegal.

Fernandez was eventually fired and the DUI charge against Campbell was dropped. The Florida Bar charged the three lawyers with misconduct, unfairness to opposing counsel and disrupting court. Their penalty could have ranged from an admonishment to suspension to disbarment.

Cops: Two Impaired Drivers Collide, cause death of pedestrian

From the Chicago Sun-Times:

wo people are facing DUI charges after a traffic crash left a pedestrian dead Friday night in southwest suburban Joliet.

About 8:30 p.m., a Mazda sedan was pulling out from a parking lot at the southeast corner of Hickory Street and Western Avenue in Joliet when it struck a westbound Hyundai on Western, Joliet police Deputy Chief Edgar Gregory said.

The impact sent the vehicles to the northwest corner of the intersection, where 56-year-old Mark A. Cipolla was standing, according to Gregory and the Will County sheriff’s office.

Cipolla, of the 300 block of North Ottawa Street in Joliet, was pinned under the Hyundai, police said. Emergency crews extricated him and took him to Provena Saint Joseph Medical Center in Joliet, where he was pronounced dead at 9:19 p.m., authorities said.

Both drivers, 21-year-old Jefferson Davis and 18-year-old Oscar A. Garduno Lopez, were arrested for DUI, authorities said.

Davis, of the 1300 block of Emington Lane in Minooka, was allegedly driving under the influence of alcohol and Garduno, of the 0 – 100 block of North Hunter Avenue in Joliet, was driving under the influence of cannabis, Gregory said. Court information was not immediately available.

DuPage Board Member Grant Eckhoff charged with DUI

From the Daily Herald (reported by Robert Sanchez):

A longtime DuPage County Board member, Grant Eckhoff, is facing a DUI charge after a traffic stop outside his Wheaton home.

Eckhoff, 55, of the 200 block of North Erie Street, was charged with one count of DUI and operating an uninsured motor vehicle, according to a Wheaton Police Department report.

Eckhoff was arrested around 8:30 p.m. March 2 at his home address, according to the report.

“He was, in fact, stopped in his own driveway,” Eckhoff’s attorney, Harry Smith, said. “He had a very calm interaction with the Wheaton Police Department. So there was nothing extraordinary or aggravated about the circumstance.”

Eckhoff declined to comment Wednesday and referred all questions to his attorney. Smith said his client might issue a statement after the case is resolved.

Smith said Eckhoff is planning to plead innocent to the DUI charge. He also said Eckhoff has automotive insurance but didn’t have a valid insurance card with him.

Eckhoff, a Republican, serves as chairman of the county board’s judicial and public safety committee.

I wonder how the experience of being arrested in his own driveway will affect Mr. Eckhoff’s future thoughts about heavy-handed police tactics and DUI enforcement.

Why the 30 day hard-time rule for first offense DUI offenders is outmoded and should be replaced

This weekend, there was a Chicago Tribune story about how “activists” are trying to get rid of the 30 day “hard-time” rule that keeps DUI arrestees from getting a driving permit until after their license has been suspended for 30 days.

What is the history and purpose of the hard time rule?

When our statutory summary suspension laws went into the books in the 1980s, the stated reason for the hard-time period was that it would created a “cooling off” period in which “drunks” would be taken off the roads.  Ultimately, a judge could issue him or her a Judicial Driving Permit to allow him or her to drive to work.  In reality, it was as much of a “tough on DUI” measure as anything else.

The 30 day hard-time rule was required under Federal Highway subsidy laws.  A state would have to have a 30 day hard-time period in order to get federal funds.

Why is it time to change?

Several years ago, Illinois changed its DUI suspension law, doubling the length of time of suspension, in return for a more “liberal” driving permit, which allows a person to drive 24/7 so long as he or she installs a BAIID in his or her car.

The BAIID removes the need for the 30 day period, since you can’t drive drunk if you have a BAIID.  The BAIID prevents a person from starting a car with a BAC of 0.025 or higher.

As mandatory BAIID laws became popular, the federal government removed the 30 day hard-time rule from its highway funding bills for states that required them.  But Illinois didn’t do anything when this happened.  Instead, they kept the 30 day hard time.

As a result, people who are accused of DUI have to worry about that hard-time period.  How will they get to work?  How will they get their kids to school?  What if their mom needs to go to the doctor?  They put pressure on their attorneys to get that suspension lifted so they don’t lose their job because our legislature has failed to act.

There can be no question that the 30 day hard time rule is outdated and needs to be removed.  Let people get Monitored Device Driving Permits from day one of their suspension.