Bears’ Evan Rodriguez arrested for DUI in Chicago

rodriguezChicago Bears TE/FB Evan Rodriguez has had his second alcohol related arrest of the off-season, and this time its a DUI.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Rodriguez was arrested by Illinois State Police earlier today at 3:30 a.m. downtown on I-90.  According to reports, he blew 0.17, over twice the legal limit.  Under Illinois law, a first offender who has such a high breath test result is required to undergo an alcohol evaluation, comply with recommended education and/or treatment, attend a victim impact panel, perform 100 hours of community service and pay a minimum fine of $500 (plus mandatory fees and costs, which will more than triple that amount) as part of any sentence.  Also, his driver’s license will be suspended for six months, although he can obtain a “monitored device driving permit” (“MDDP”) which will allow him to drive for the last five months of the suspension so long as he has an ignition interlock device installed on his vehicle.

Earlier this off-season, Rodriguez was arrested in Miami Beach after he allegedly was drunk and interfering with a police officer who was conducting a DUI investigation after an accident in which Rodriguez was a passenger.  The charges against Rodriguez were later dropped, but surely it does not reflect well on Rodriguez that he has demonstrated a pattern of late night drinking and poor decision-making.

Illinois Legislature votes to expand eligibility for sealing criminal records

Both the Illinois House and Senate have approved a new bill that would expand the types of felonies that are available to be sealed from public view.  Under the change, courts could seal convictions for theft, retail theft, deceptive practices and forgery, possession of burglary tools and small amounts of cannabis, controlled substances, methamphetamine ingredients, steroids, so long as it was the person’s only conviction and they have not had any arrests in four years.The bill now awaits Governor Quinn’s signature in order to become law.

From the Chicago Tribune (story by Robert McCoppin):

Lawmakers have approved a proposal that would significantly expand the list of felony convictions that people seeking to escape their criminal pasts could ask to have sealed.

The measure, which aims to give ex-offenders a better shot at jobs, housing and education, awaits a decision by Gov. Pat Quinn on whether to sign it into law.

The bill would require convicts to have a clean record for at least four years. If so, they could ask a judge to seal their convictions from the public, so only law enforcement officials, judges and professional license regulators could see them.

Currently, the law generally allows the sealing of convictions for nonviolent misdemeanors and only two felonies — prostitution and the possession of small amounts of drugs.

The proposed changes would allow the courts to seal from the public record convictions for theft, retail theft, deceptive practices and forgery, as well as convictions for lower-level possession of cannabis, controlled substances, methamphetamine ingredients, steroids and burglary tools.

The changes could offer a chance for clean records to a much broader swath of people than the small percentage of convicts who are now eligible.

“This would be huge,” said defense attorney Matt Fakhoury, a former prosecutor who specializes in clearing up past convictions.

“People are most frustrated when their economic opportunities are limited because of the trouble they got themselves into when they were younger,” he said. “It’s going to give them hope for a brighter economic future.”

Perhaps the most common violation that shadows low-level offenders, Fakhoury said, is retail theft. Under current law, walking out without paying for a pair of jeans worth more than $150 could result in a felony conviction that would follow someone the rest of his or her life.

Almost half of prior offenders without jobs commit another crime, compared with only 8 percent of those who have jobs — yet most employers won’t hire someone with any kind of criminal conviction, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

The bill also sets the criteria that judges may consider in weighing such cases, including the petitioner’s age, criminal and work history, and how long it’s been since the last offense.

Rep. La Shawn Ford, a Chicago Democrat, sponsored the bill. Ford said the subject is important for minorities, who are often denied jobs because of criminal records. He said that may lead to them becoming tax burdens rather than taxpayers.

Ford himself has pleaded not guilty to bank fraud charges, but they are at the federal level and would not be affected by the legislation.

“We should do everything we can to give people a second chance,” he said. “That’s what this country is about — opportunity.”

Opponents raised concerns about keeping offenders accountable for their actions, but Ford said under the bill anyone who commits another crime would have their records made public and could never seal them again.

After negotiations with lawmakers and prosecutors to remove more serious crimes from the bill, Ford said, some opponents dropped their objections and the bill passed with some bipartisan support. The Senate approved it 42-13 last week. The Illinois attorney general and Cook County state’s attorney took no public position on the idea, and neither has the governor’s office, Quinn spokesman David Blanchette said.

Illinois legislature approves cellphone while driving ban, awaits Governor’s signature

nophoneThe Illinois Senate has joined the House in passing a statewide cellphone while driving ban.  Now it it up to Governor Quinn to sign it into law.  From the Chicago Tribune:

Drivers forced to navigate a confusing patchwork of cellphone restrictions in the Chicago area will no longer have to wonder whether they are breaking the law if Gov. Pat Quinn signs a sweeping ban on hand-held devices.

Coming four years after a statewide ban on texting and driving, the new law would require motorists to keep both hands free while using a cellphone or risk a $75 fine.

For those accustomed to having a cellphone stuck to an ear while driving, it hasn’t been easy knowing where it’s legal to gab away. A Tribune survey last year of 270 municipalities showed that 76 had an ordinance governing when and how motorists could use cellphones…

“We’re still allowing you to have a conversation; just have it over the hands-free device,” [Rep. John D’Amico] said.

Motorists would be allowed to use a hand-held phone only for emergencies, and the $75 fine would be imposed for a first offense. Additional violations would be more expensive and become part of the motorist’s state driving record.

Illinois Legislature passes new drunken boating law for Governor to sign

Both houses of the Illinois legislature have now passed a new drunken boating law, which will result in anyone refusing a breath, blood or urine test after a boating accident to have their Illinois driver’s license suspended.

USA Today has a new article about states cracking down on drunken boating.  Here is an excerpt:

It’s not just the highways: With the summer recreational boating season just getting underway, several states are moving to cut down on boating under the influence.

Alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. It was the main factor in 17% of the 651 deaths involving registered recreational vehicles in 2012; that was a slight uptick from 16% the year before.

National Safe Boating Week begins Saturday, and some states are moving to reverse the deadly trend:

Georgia on Wednesday lowered its blood-alcohol content limit for boaters from 0.10% to 0.08%, the same threshold for drivers; it also enacted harsher penalties for those convicted of boating while intoxicated. “We believe getting a drunk boater off the water gets a drunk driver off the roads,” said Harris Blackwood, director of the state’s Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.”That’s because they’re eventually going to head back to shore and most likely get in their car.”

The Illinois Legislature just passed a bill that authorizes the state to suspend a person’s driver’s license if the person is caught operating a motorboat while intoxicated; it extends the concept of “implied consent” to test suspected intoxicated boaters involved in injury or fatal accidents. Both houses gave unanimous approval to the measure and it’s now before Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat. “This is meant to deter the reckless behavior that is resulting in deaths and injuries every year on Illinois lakes and rivers,” Democratic state Sen. Julie Morrison said.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, on Thursday signed into law a bill that aligns the state’s boating under the influence law with its DUI law. The bill adds penalties for boaters found to be under the influence of marijuana and extends the implied consent concept to boaters.

Efforts such as these often follow horrific drunken boating crashes that galvanize public opinion….

Morrison said she introduced the Illinois bill after her 10-year-old nephew, Antonio “Tony” Borcia, was killed last summer on Petite Lake. He was being towed on an inner tube by his father driving a pontoon when he fell into the lake. Three of his siblings and his father watched in horror as a 29-foot powerboat operated by David Hatyina slammed into the boy. Hatyina pleaded guilty to operating a boat under the influence of alcohol and cocaine; he is to be sentenced next month.

“You talk about collateral damage, this all-American family is devastated,” Morrison said. “The kids and their dad had gone to the lake and Mom stayed at home. She got a call from the boat telling her that her child is dead. This family is going through that.”

With her bill, Morrison said, “we are going to try to change the culture.”

The culture is already changing to some degree, said Washington Sen. Mike Padden, a Republican who introduced his state’s new bill. “There is more and more of an awareness,” he said. “I don’t think we’re in the same place as with drunk driving, but it gets closer and closer.”

The recreational boating culture is changing, too, according to one longtime marine police officer.

“You have a lot of what I call the soccer moms out on the water with their children and their families,” said John Fetterman, director of law enforcement for the Lexington, Ky.-based National Association of State Boating Law Administrators. Those families “aren’t willing to take that risk” of potentially having their safety compromised by intoxicated boaters, he said.

“Years ago, if you were intoxicated and you were boating, we’d probably tell you to go home,” said Fetterman, who was a Maine Marine Patrol officer for 32 years. “Today, if you’re boating and you’re over 0.08 (blood-alcohol content), you’re going to jail.”


Illinois Senate passes bill to ban cell phones while driving

nophoneFrom Doug Finke of the Springfield Journal-Register:

The Illinois Senate Thursday approved a bill that bans the use of hand-held cell phones while driving.

The Senate OK’d the bill on a 34-20 vote. It now goes back to the House, which earlier approved the ban, for approval of an amendment added by the Senate stipulating that a first offense for violating the law is not a moving violation.

House Bill 1247 prohibits the use of hand-held cell phones while driving, although they could still be used if the phone is equipped with a hands-free device. Motorists could also use one-touch dialing and answering if the phone is so equipped.

A violation of the law would result in a $75 fine.

More than 70 local governments already have bans in place on using hand-held cell phones will driving. Eleven states require use of hands-free phones.

“This bill is about making roads safer,” said Sen. John Mulroe, D-Chicago, Senate sponsor of HB 1247. “I’m  concerned with people dying on the roads.”

But opponents argued that the bill is flawed and doesn’t really address the problem of distracted driving.

“I think this is going too far,” said Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford. “It’s going to make a lot of criminals of individuals who are conscientious drivers. We’re not addressing people eating in cars, reading newspapers in cars, adjusting radios in cars.”

Sen. Matt Murphy, R-Palatine, agreed. He said people can get equally distracted having a conversation with passengers in the car, or parents can get distracted by children fighting in the back seat.

“Where do we draw the line about where these distractions are?” Murphy said.

Mulroe countered with statistics showing that drivers who use hand-held cell phones are four times more likely to get into serious crashes. Crashes decreased by 17 percent in Evanston after the city banned hand-held cell phones while driving, he said.

The state has already banned texting while driving, and drivers under age 18 are prohibited from using cell phones while driving. Nationally, large truck and bus drivers are prohibited from using phones while driving.

Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, found it curious that use of a hand-held cell phone in a car would be outlawed while truck drivers could still used CB radios that require the use of their hands.

Sen. John Sullivan, D-Rushville, acknowledged he uses a hand-held cell phone in order to talk to constituents while driving around his sprawling, 11 county Senate district.

“I spend a lot of time on the road. I use that time to talk to constituents,” Sullivan said.

But Sen. Ira Silverstein, D-Chicago, said lawmakers often enact laws after someone dies tragically. This is an opportunity to act proactively, he said.

Springfield-area senators Sullivan, Sam McCann, R-Carlinville, and Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, all voted against the bill. Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, voted in favor of it.

What do you think?

Illinois House votes for 70 mph speed limit just as tougher speeding laws are about to go into effect

Today the Illinois House voted to pass a new law raising the speed limit on non-urban interstate highways from 65 to 70 mph.  The Illinois Senate has already approved the measure, so now it goes to the Governor for signature.  If passed, Illinois would become the 35th state with a 70 mph limit.

This comes one month before the new “Julie’s Law” goes into effect, which will prevent judges from granting court supervision for anyone speeding more than 31 miles over the limit in a rural area, or 25 miles over in an urban area.

Mixed signals, eh?

A Teen Texting and Driving Tragedy

nashHere is another sad example of why you should not text and drive.  Especially if you are a new driver.

16 year old Savannah Nash was killed last week in a car crash, in what has been described as her first solo drive.  Found in the crash was her cell phone with an unsent text message.

From the Christian Post:

A young girl who had just received her driver’s license was killed as she was traveling to the grocery store to pick up food for her family.

Savannah Nash turned 16 last week and on Thursday received permission to take the car and drive to the store in Harrisonville, Mo., but the young girl never made it home.

Local reports indicate investigators believe Nash was trying to make a left-hand turn on the two-lane Highway 7, but she pulled out in front of a 2003 Freightliner semi-tractor trailer, who was unable to slowdown or avoid a collision. The semi-truck slammed into the driver’s side, according to WAFB.

Investigators also found a cell phone with an unsent text message and are trying to determine if driver distraction played a role in the crash. The increase in driving while texting accidents has spurred educational outreach to young drivers, but it still a leading cause of traffic accidents.

There was a text message that was on her phone, however it was not sent yet,” Sgt. Bill Lowe of the Missouri State Highway Patrol told The Democrat-Missourian. “That is a probable contributing circumstance to the crash. That’s all part of the investigation.”