Daredevil Robbie Knievel charged with fourth offense DUI

From the Montana Standard:

Robbie Knievel, the youngest son of the late daredevil Evel Knievel, was charged Wednesday with felony drunken driving and criminal endangerment after allegedly causing a four-car pile-up in Butte the previous night.

Knievel, 52, made an initial appearance before Judge Ben Pezdark in justice court at the Butte-Silver Bow Detention Center early Wednesday afternoon. In lieu of bond being set, he agreed to either come to the jail each morning and evening and submit to alcohol screening or wear a bracelet that detects alcohol.

The DUI is a felony because Knievel has three previous drunken driving convictions. The felony criminal endangerment charge stems from Knievel allegedly running a red light at the intersection of Dewey Boulevard and Harrison Avenue at 7:31 p.m. Tuesday and causing an accident that created substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury to another.

Police said none of those others involved in the wreck appeared to suffer injuries.

Knievel also was charged with three misdemeanors –- leaving the scene of an accident, operating a motor vehicle without an interlock device, and running a red light.

The drunken driving charge carries a maximum five-year sentence and $50,000 fine, and the criminal endangerment charge carries a maximum 10-year sentence and $50,000 fine.

The three misdemeanors carry possible six-month jail sentences and fines ranging from $200 to $500.

According to Butte police, Knievel was driving a 2005 GMC Yukon at a high speed heading south on Harrison Avenue. Witnesses told police he rear-ended a Honda Accord, it hit a Ford Taurus, and the Ford struck a Hummer.

Knievel fled the scene in the GMC, and it was located shortly afterwards parked on Sanders Street two blocks away. Police then saw Knievel walking on Busch Street, a block from the accident scene, and stopped him.

He refused to take a Breathalyzer and could not take some of the field-sobriety tests because of his bloody lip, police said, so they got a search warrant and had a blood sample taken at St. James Healthcare.

Knievel was cited for felony DUI and was booked into the jail.

Cook County State’s Attorney will no longer prosecute small possession of cannabis cases, but will still prosecute DUIs with trace amounts of it in your system

Cook County State’s Attorney picked 4/20 as the day to announce that her office will no longer be prosecuting small-time marijuana cases, and will be offering alternative sentencing for other small amount drug possession cases.

According to the Chicago Tribune:

Under the new policy, prosecutors won’t proceed with misdemeanor charges for possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana for those with fewer than three arrests or citations for similar charges, Alvarez said. Those with three or more arrests or citations will be sent to an existing drug school program and have their charges dismissed if they successfully complete the program.

Except for those with significant criminal histories of violence, anyone charged with Class 4 felony drug possession charges will be routed to an alternative prosecution program that will link them to treatment and social services. Offenders will be identified for the program at bond court, the earliest stage in the court process, to reduce their days in custody, Alvarez said…

Alvarez said the new policy would help shift tight financial resources to fighting violent crimes. Last year Class 4 felony drug possession cases accounted for almost one-fourth of the nearly 40,000 felony cases prosecuted by the office. In addition, about 15,000 misdemeanor marijuana cases were charged.

“Drugs are bad, and I am not promoting any drug use. I am not promoting the legalization of anything,” Alvarez told reporters. “This is not being soft on crime at all. This is being smart.”

Having said that, this is not legalization.  Nothing that she says would prevent an officer from stopping and investigating you if he or she thought you were using illegal drugs.  You could still be arrested, and it would be up to a prosecutor to determine whether the facts of your case, the weight of the narcotics and your background merited dismissal of the case.

Also please note that this change in policy only applies to cases being prosecuted by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office.  It doesn’t apply to local prosecutors, or prosecutors in other counties.  Also, if your job has a zero tolerance policy, then that still applies, regardless of Anita Alvarez’s position on drug prosecutions.

Finally, and most relevant to this blog, Cook County State’s Attorneys will still prosecute you for driving under the influence of drugs or driving with any amount of a drug in your system.  Illinois is a “zero tolerance” state, meaning that you can get a DUI even if you are not high.  All the prosecutor needs to prove is that there were drugs in your system.

The Illinois DUI statute states that:

5/11-501(a) A person shall not drive or be in actual physical control of any vehicle within this State while:
(1) the alcohol concentration in the person’s blood or breath is 0.08 or more based on the definition of blood and breath units in Section 11 501.2;
(2) under the influence of alcohol;
(3) under the influence of any intoxicating compound or combination of intoxicating compounds to a degree that renders the person incapable of driving safely;
(4) under the influence of any other drug or combination of drugs to a degree that renders the person incapable of safely driving;
(5) under the combined influence of alcohol, other drug or drugs, or intoxicating compound or compounds to a degree that renders the person incapable of safely driving; or
(6) there is any amount of a drug, substance, or compound in the person’s breath, blood, or urine resulting from the unlawful use or consumption of cannabis listed in the Cannabis Control Act [720 ILCS 550/1 et seq.], a controlled substance listed in the Illinois Controlled Substances Act [720 ILCS 570/100 et seq.], an intoxicating compound listed in the Use of Intoxicating Compounds Act [720 ILCS 690/0.01 et seq.], or methamphetamine as listed in the Methamphetamine Control and Community Protection Act [720 ILCS 646/1 et seq.].    625 ILCS 5/11-501.

So until this law is changed, you run the risk of getting a DUI simply for driving while there is still the residue of cannabis in your blood or urine.  Which can be a month after you last used it.

Future and Former NFL players got DUI arrests this week

PJWilliamsProjected first round NFL draft pick P.J. Williams, a cornerback from Florida State, was arrested for DUI last Friday in Tallahassee.  According to USA Today:

Williams, whose full name is Kenneth Lamar Williams, was arrested shortly after 3 a.m. ET by the Florida State University Police Department after he made an illegal left turn on Dewey Street out of the McDonald’s parking lot. There is a posted sign prohibiting a left turn.

He was driving the rental car on a suspended license, according to court records.

Williams, 21, stopped during a green light at the intersection of Dewey and Tennessee Streets before turning onto Tennessee Street.

He swerved over the center line several times and the outside line nearly hitting the curb before he was stopped, court records show.

The FSUPD officer noticed Williams’ eyes were red and watery and he spoke with slurred speech, according to court records.

He told officers he was coming from local bar Recess. His stance swayed and he braced against the door of the vehicle when officers asked him to exit.

He refused a field sobriety test and to give a breath sample at the Leon County Jail.

Also under arrest for DUI, and assault, is former 49er and Raider tackle Kwame Harris.

From the Bay Area ABC news:

A former Bay Area football star has been arrested and was accused of hitting two cars in San Francisco and being under the influence of drugs.
Police took 33-year-old Kwame Harris into custody at 14th Street and Van Ness Avenue at 7:30 p.m. Sunday night.
Harris used to be a lineman for the 49ers, Raiders, and the Stanford Cardinals.
When police first tried to detain Harris, they say he tried to bite an officer. The officer was not hurt.

Proposed Illinois bill would require 2d offense drunk drivers to have a BAIID for five years

There is a pending bill in the Illinois House (HB 3533) which would require persons who have been granted a driving permit or license reinstatement after having been convicted of a second offense DUI to drive for five years with a BAIID, instead of one year as is currently required.

Here is a link to the bill’s status:

Synopsis As Introduced
Amends the Illinois Vehicle Code. Provides that the Secretary of State shall require the use of ignition interlock devices for a period not less than 5 years on all vehicles owned by a person who has been convicted of a second or subsequent offense of driving under the influence of alcohol, other drugs, intoxicating compounds, or any combination. Provides that a person convicted of a second or subsequent violation of driving under the influence of alcohol, other drugs, intoxicating compounds, or any combination, or where the use of alcohol or other drugs is recited as an element of an offense, may not make application for a driver’s license until he or she has first been issued a restricted driving permit by the Secretary, and the expiration of a continuous period of not less than 5 years following the issuance of the restricted driving permit without suspension, cancellation, or revocation of the permit, or violation of a regulation requiring use of an ignition interlock device.

Is this a good change to the law?  I think it is extreme.  In order to obtain a restricted driving permit or reinstatement after a second DUI, the petitioner must prove that he or she has completed alcohol treatment and is not a danger to the public.  The Secretary of State scrutinizes these cases and do not reinstate as a matter of course.

Five years is a long to time to have to have a BAIID in your vehicle.  They are expensive, and it is embarrassing to have to use one.  Plus, the BAIID is not easily removed (for good reason), so every one in the family who uses that vehicle has to go through the same embarrassment and humiliation as the repeat drunk driver.

For the story behind the bill, here is an article from by Kevin Craver of the Northwest Herald:

Joel Mains got a call last November from the Palatine Police Department that would make any father’s blood boil.

The drunk driver who killed his stepdaughter a decade earlier in a head-on crash was picked up Nov. 15 – yet again – for driving under the influence.

Seventeen-year-old Caitlin Weese was driving back to her Wonder Lake home on May 22, 2003, when James Stitt, then 23, swerved into the oncoming lane on Route 72 near Gilberts and struck her head-on. Weese died two days later, just weeks before her 18th birthday and her graduation from Larkin High School in Elgin. She was to be the maid of honor in her sister’s wedding.

Stitt was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison, was released in 2009 and got his driver’s license back in January 2013, according to records. He had been convicted of DUI twice before he killed Weese, and was driving with a suspended license that night.

Drunk-driving offenders who are eligible to regain driving privileges under Illinois law must have their cars equipped with an ignition interlock device, which will not start a car if the driver blows more than .025. But that device comes off with the end of a driver’s suspension, and even repeat offenders under state law can get it removed after 12 consecutive months of driving without the device ever detecting alcohol.

A law now sailing through the General Assembly will increase the time and the steps that repeat DUI offenders must take to get their driver’s licenses back. And it started when Mains and his family reached out to their state lawmakers – including the one Mains had unsuccessfully tried to unseat in the election weeks prior.

With the initial aggravation, the kids and I talked about it, and we were all pretty upset and wanted to do something,” Mains said.

State Rep. Barbara Wheeler, R-Crystal Lake, wanted to do something as well when she received the email from Mains, who was her Democratic opponent for the 64th House District she has represented since 2012. They worked together to craft House Bill 3533, which is before the Illinois House for a vote.

“Something is severely wrong with the law when somebody who has multiple DUI convictions, and murders someone, is driving [without monitoring] when they have a problem with alcohol,” Wheeler said.

House Bill 3533 prevents a repeat DUI offender from applying to the secretary of state’s office for driver’s license reinstatement until the person has gone for five years on a restricted driving permit – which limits car usage to work, grocery shopping, school and emergencies – without incident. It also increases to five years the amount of time that a repeat DUI offender has to drive with an ignition interlock. Such devices are installed at the driver’s expense, come with monthly monitoring and rental fees, and are regularly checked by state authorities for compliance.

The bill passed the House Transportation: Vehicles and Safety Committee on a 9-0 vote March 18. Mains, a firefighter paramedic with Downers Grove, had a large contingent of his fellow firefighters sitting in the audience in a show of solidarity when he testified on its behalf. Besides being touching, Wheeler said, it made an impression – three of the committee’s members have signed on as co-sponsors of the legislation.

When it passes the House, the bill will go to the Senate, where Mains’ state Senator, Republican Pam Althoff, R-McHenry, will carry it.

“This is a nonpartisan issue. Families of all makeups get affected by the thousands, and people of all types cause this,” Mains said. “We didn’t want this to happen to any other family.”

Weese was the first DUI victim in Illinois honored with a memorial sign from the Illinois Department of Transportation.

Mains and his wife Diane became actively involved in the group Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists, and Joel Mains now sits on its board. Diane, Weese’s biological mother, died in 2006.

Seahawks Bruce Irvin thinks pretending to drive drunk is a funny April’s Fools gag

IrvinThe Seahawks Bruce Irvin decided to make a funny today.  He tweeted that he made a  bad decision to drive after drinking and apologized to the and his team.  25 minutes later, he tweeted that it was an April Fools prank.

Needless to say, the internet was not amused.  As you can see from the screenshot below, Irvin received a lot of heat on Twitter in response to his gag.

Irvin2What do you think?

Making it Easy: Man charged with DUI after slamming into police gate

From JRN.com:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A man was arrested for driving under the influence after driving into a gate at the Metro Nashville Police Department’s West Precinct.

The man was driving his SUV on Charlotte Pike when he drove onto White Bridge Pike and slammed into the gate.

Officials said the man told them he thought he was on the onramp for Interstate 40. The freeway entrance and turn for White Bridge Pike are separated by just 100 feet.

The unidentified driver was not seriously hurt, but was charged with DUI.

Investigators said it was at least the driver’s third arrest for drunk driving.

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.