Carly Rousso found guilty of Aggravated DUI

Carly Rousso, the young woman who was charged with aggravated DUI and reckless homicide for allegedly “huffing” canisters of cleaning products, getting high and driving into a family, killing 5 year old Jaclyn Santos-Sacramento, was found guilty of aggravated DUI today after a bench trial.  She had plead guilty to the allegations of reckless driving on Tuesday.

The case was continued for post-trial motions and sentencing.  In the interim, a pre-sentencing report will be prepared for the judge to help in sentencing.  Rousso remains free on bond pending sentencing.  She faces a sentence of up to 14 years in prison.

Bill to allow driving permits for those with 4 DUI convictions fails in Illinois House

For the last 15 years, Illinois law disqualifies anyone with four DUI convictions from obtaining license reinstatement or even a restricted driving permit.  I have discussed this law several times on this blog, so I won’t re-hash all the reasons why I have felt that this “one-size fits all” law ignored the specific reality of individuals who have undergone dramatic change since their last DUI and are no longer a risk on the road.

Over the last few years, there had been some movement towards amending this harsh law, to allow these individuals a chance at a driving permit, on condition of driving with a breath alcohol ignition interlock device (BAIID), and proof of several years sobriety.

Sadly, the recent bill that was proposed failed to get the 60 votes necessary to make it out of the Illinois House (it only received 52).  While I am not a mind-reader, I am sure that the House members were reluctant to vote for anything that could be seen as “soft on drunk driving” particularly after the national headquarters of Mothers Against Drunk Driving overruled the Illinois chapter’s initial decision to support bill, and after the Chicago Tribune ran a front page headline that referred to the bill as giving “chronic drunken drivers another chance” (as opposed to a headline that said bill to give longtime sober drivers another chance”).

There is still a chance that the bill might be revived, after some changes have been presented.  If you or a family member is affected by this, you should contact your legislator now.

NFL, union working towards new policy mandating suspension for first offense DUIs

This weekend, Pro Football Talk reported that the NFL and the Players Association are largely in agreement to amend its substance abuse policy to require a mandatory one game suspension for first time DUI offenders.

PFT stated that:

the new substance-abuse policy…would impose a one-game suspension for a first-offense DUI.  The penalty also would include a fine in the amount of one game check.

Currently, the rules require two-game fine for players who ultimately are deemed to be legally responsible for first-offense DUI.  Barring unusual circumstances, a suspension arises only for a second offense.

The league has wanted tougher penalties for several years.  The NFLPA, possibly influenced by the reality that a member of the union died in December 2012 while riding with a drunk teammate, wants the enhanced penalty as well.

Ironically, this story was published the same weekend that Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay was formally charged with two counts of DUI in California.

Updates: Aldon Smith, Ottawa County Judge plead guilty to DUIs

Here are a couple of updates to previous blog posts:

San Francisco 49er Aldon Smith has entered a guilty plea to his 2013 DUI arrest (his second DUI) as well as to weapons charges from a 2012 case.  He will be sentenced on July 25th, two days after the 49ers begin training camp.  Smith is facing the possibility of up to 52 months imprisonment for the DUI, but there is a good chance that he will receive probation. Smith will likely face discipline from the NFL as well.

Ottawa County Judge Joseph Hettel plead guilty to DUI as part of a plea deal and was sentenced to two years supervision, undergo alcohol substance abuse treatment, attend a victim impact panel, perform 100 hours of community service and pay fines.  His drivers license will be suspended for one year but he can apply to get a Monitored Device Driving Permit (“MDDP”) which would allow him to drive for the last 11 months of his suspension so long as he drives a vehicle equipped with a breath ignition interlock device (“BAIID”).   Judge Hettel may also face discipline from the Judicial Inquiry Board.

A real life example of why lifetime license revocations for four DUIs should be abolished

As I have mentioned before, our state legislators are considering a bill which would allow for restricted driving permits for persons who have four DUI convictions (which is currently a lifetime license revocation).  Today’s Chicago Tribune highlights one of the people that this law may (but may not) help out:

Lawmakers heard a personal plea from Mike Geever, a 52-year-old from Glendale Heights who wants his driving privileges restored so he can do his job as a plumbing parts salesman.

His long record of driving infractions includes five DUI arrests, with four convictions. He lost his license from 1985 to 1995. He lost it again, permanently, in February. Oddly enough, the permanent revocation was tied to his last conviction, which was in 2003.

A nearly decadelong computer glitch at the Kane County circuit court clerk’s office meant 2,345 DUI convictions were not reported to the secretary of state’s office, said Tom Hartwell, the current clerk, who inherited the issue from his predecessor. Most of the backlog was reported to the state last year, Hartwell said.

The secretary of state’s office issued Geever a license in 2007, and he kept the driving privileges until the record mix-up caught up with him a few months ago — about a decade late and after Geever said he already had cleaned up his life.

For Geever, the change in life started with going to church, getting mentored by his pastor and working through the 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous, something he said he still practices each day. He met his wife at a Bible study, and they’ve been married for more than three years. He’s a deacon at Lamplighter Bible Church in Streamwood.

“Now I go to bed at 9 and wake up to go to the gym at 5 a.m.” he said Friday. “I don’t party anymore. I have a family. I have learned from my mistakes.”

While Geever testified in favor of the bill, there’s no guarantee he would qualify to get a license if the measure becomes law. No more than one of the four DUI convictions could be related to drugs, and a state prisons official said Geever was behind bars twice for drug-related DUIs.

(Story by Maura Zurick for the Tribune)

Can I personally guarantee that if Mike Geever gets a driving permit that he won’t get another DUI?  No, I can’t.  And neither can Mike Geever.  Alcoholics and drug addicts are always at risk to relapse.

But I do believe that any person who is able to go 10 years without incident, who has totally changed his life and is working every day with his sponsor to remain abstinent deserves a chance to have a restricted driving permit, requiring him to drive with a breath interlock device, so that he can support his family.

I hope our Illinois legislators listen to people like Mike and vote for this reasonable and compassionate bill.

Take My Advice: Beating yourself up won’t help you beat a DUI rap

Here is a story from England about a man who thought that if he beat himself up, he wouldn’t have to take a breath test.  So he punched himself in the face, slammed his head against doors and ran into a wall.

Well, it partially worked.  He didn’t have to take the breath test.  His actions qualified as a breath test refusal, however the court found that there was enough evidence of intoxication and he was found guilty and received a three year license suspension.

My advice is to avoid giving yourself a splitting headache and unsightly facial bruises.  If you are going to refuse a breath test, you can simply say “I decline to take a breath test.”  It works a lot better than slamming your head into a door and is easier too.  At least in Cook County.*

*These rules may not apply in Kane County or your local jurisdiction.

Bill to undo lifetime license revocations for repeat DUI offenders advances in Illinois House

From the State Journal-Register and Associated Press:

Drunken driving offenders stripped of their driver’s licenses could hit the road again if a proposal — supported by a prominent anti-drunken driving organization — keeps making its way through the Illinois Legislature.

A House committee voted 15-0 Wednesday to approve legislation that would allow four-time DUI offenders to obtain a restricted driver’s permit, which limits the time and place a person can drive.

Rita Kreslin, the director of the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists, said the measure improves road safety because many offenders drive illegally without insurance. Kreslin — whose 19-year-old son died in a crash involving a drunken driver — said rehabilitated offenders should get another chance.

“I understand the frustration that some people might think that ‘Wow, you’re giving somebody a privilege when they haven’t earned it.’ In some cases that’s true, and those individuals will not be given a permit,” she said.

That’s because the application process would be rigorous, state Rep. Elaine Nekritz said.

Under the Northbrook Democrat’s proposal, four-time DUI offenders could only obtain a restricted driver’s permit five years after losing their license or their release from prison. They would need to prove three years of sobriety, go through treatment programs, and install an in-car Breathalyzer for life.

“A lot of these people are driving anyway, so we might as well legalize them if we can,” Nekritz said. “How else do you support your family unless you have transportation? It gives these people one more bite at the apple.”

According to Secretary of State records, 380 Illinois residents lost driver’s licenses in 2013. A vast majority of these revocations resulted from a fourth DUI conviction. Others involved fleeing the scene of a crash involving serious injuries or reckless driving that resulted in a death.

Secretary of State Jesse White’s office and several statewide law enforcement groups are remaining neutral on the measure…

The measure moves to the full House for consideration.

I wholeheartedly agree with legislation and wrote about it here:  “Will Illinois amend its lifetime revocation rule?