In Illinois, if a person has had four DUI convictions, and at least one of them was after January 1, 1999, then that person is not eligible for any driving relief. No driving permit, no reinstatement, not even clearance to get a license in another state.
To which, many will say “good.” Who wants a repeat, let alone four-peat, drunk driver back on the road?
But hear me out.
About once a month, someone calls me from another state. Usually, they are very frustrated, because they are trying to get their license reinstated in their home state, but Illinois is holding them back for a DUI convictions years earlier.
A typical call goes something like this: “I got a DUI in North Carolina in 1994, then another in Illinois in 1997 when I was visiting my cousin. I picked up two more in South Carolina in 1999 and 2001. I was going through a bad period in my life but I have really changed since then. I haven’t had a drink since the last arrest. Been clean and sober for 10 years, going to AA and South Carolina wants to give me a license, but they can’t unless Illinois gives me clearance. I have a job waiting for me once I get my license, and I really need it to support my family.”
If you remember my first paragraph, you know that I have to tell the caller that he or she will be unable to drive, for the rest of his or her life, and not just in Illinois, but in any other State. People usually have a hard time accepting this. Thats because usually in this country, we give people chances to start their lives over and move on. But not when it comes to DUI, at least in Illinois.
I think it is much better and more humane to give people another chance. And by doing so, we are helping society, because that chance can be conditioned on abstinence from alcohol and drugs, alcohol/drug treatment, and continuing participation in a support group. This will give people an incentive to get and stay clean.
(In my experience, a lot of people only enter into treatment or support groups because they were forced to by family, employers or the courts. And I have met many people who are grateful for that push, because they were able to turn around their lives).
Today we have technologies like Breath Alcohol Interlock Devices (“BAIIDs”) which prevents a person from starting a car if they have more than a trace amount of alcohol on his or her breath. So it is quite possible to give a person a driving permit, conditioned on him or her driving with a BAIID or similar device, and setting a severe penalty if he or she deviates from the terms of the permit.
Otherwise, the incentives work the other way. If a person has no hope of ever getting a license, then they will continue to drink. And often, drive illegally.
Too much of our legislation is written in haste, often in response to the headline of the week. It is hard for any legislator to get behind any law that can be seen as “soft on crime” no matter how well-crafted, intelligently designed or creative it is. Still, I am not convinced that it has to be that way.
What do you think about the current Illinois law? Is it fair? Is it wise?