DUI arrests in the Chicago suburbs have dropped in half since 2007

Four years ago, I had a post entitled “Why are DUIs becoming less Frequent?”  I gave five reasons, which I will copy here:

1. The penalties for committing a DUI have gone way up; this includes vehicle forfeitures, fines 2-3 times what they were, mandatory breath ignition interlock devices, mandatory minimum sentencing and expanded eligibility for felony classification. These tough new laws have been heavily advertised.
2. Public attitudes against drunk driving continue a thirty year trend towards less and less acceptance. When is the last time that you saw a “comic drunk” in a movie or tv show?
3. Less people are going out to drink due to the economy and smoking bans. People may also be more risk-averse in these bad economic times and more unwilling to chance the financial, legal and professional costs of a DUI.
4. Less traffic stops due to less police officers on the street and the expanded use of red light and speeding cameras instead of police for traffic enforcement.
5. In Chicago, many of our top DUI officers are no longer on patrol, as many of them were caught exaggerating or making up facts. Other officers have been on an unofficial work stoppage in misplaced solidarity with these officers.

DUIs continue to drop.  According to this Daily Herald story, DUI arrests in the Chicago suburbs have dropped to nearly half of what they were back in 2007.  Jake Griffin reports that:

The number of drunken driving arrests is dropping sharply across the suburbs, although local police say they’re spending as much time on enforcement as ever.

The number of crashes involving alcohol-impaired drivers also decreased sharply five years ago and have held steady ever since.

Does that mean the war on drunken driving is being won? And if so, should some of the funds being spent on those efforts be shifted elsewhere? The various camps involved in the issue — law enforcement, lawyers and awareness groups — have differing views.

DUI arrest totals last year in 79 suburbs were about half what they were in 2007, despite only a small drop in police staffing. There were 6,955 arrests last year, compared to 12,166 in 2007, according to annual state-funded surveys compiled by the Schaumburg-based Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists.

Meanwhile, those same suburbs in six counties reported 1,555 crashes involving alcohol-impaired driving in 2007, according to Illinois Department of Transportation crash reports. By 2009, that number was down to 1,012 alcohol-impaired crashes, and it has hovered near that mark ever since, with 1,065 crashes in 2014, the reports show.

Whatever the reason, this is a positive trend, and lets hope that it continues.

Cook County Hospital Exec gets 100 days, probation for DUI fatality

Under Illinois statute, a person convicted of a DUI that causes the death of a person is facing a sentence of a minimum of three years imprisonment, up to 14 years, unless there are “extraordinary circumstances” which require probation.

Stroger Hospital executive Robert Vais must be very grateful today to his attorney and for Judge Nicholas Ford, who found extraordinary circumstances in his case, enough to warrant a sentence of only 100 days of jail and probation for a DUI fatality case which took the life of former U.S. Marine Hector Avalos.

According to news reports, the Judge considered Vais’ clean criminal and driving history, his accomplishments as a Cook County Hospital executive, and his remorse for his actions.

I’m sure the Judge also considered that the victim was riding a bike, wearing dark clothes, and had just exited a viaduct when he was struck from behind.  Vais had a BAC of 0.118, which, while it is over the “legal limit” of 0.08 and is more than enough to impair an individual, is not an extraordinarily high BAC level (the average person charged with a DUI in Cook County has a BAC of 0.18).

From the Tribune:

Judge Nicholas Ford said he had to take into account that Vais had no criminal background, hadn’t fled from the accident scene and could again become a productive member of society.

“If I sentence him to 14 years in prison, would that be any worse than … every night when he closes his eyes, his last thought is that of causing the death of a Marine?” Ford asked.

“What Hector’s family has gone through is a thousand times worse that what (Vais) has gone through. To the mother whose life has been affected forever, you have my heartfelt sorrow for what you’ve gone through.”

Avalos’ mother nodded as Ford handed down his sentence. Later, she seemed at peace with the judge’s decision.

“He’s got a new beginning,” she said of Vais. “I hope he takes advantage of it.”


Lee County Illinois State’s Attorney arrested for DUI

sacco miller

From WQAD8.com:

Lee County, Illinois’ top prosecutor found herself on the other side of the law over the weekend, accused of driving under the influence after an accident.

Lee County State’s Attorney, 48-year-old Anna Sacco-Miller, was arrested after a crash that occurred shortly after 7 a.m. Sunday, November 15, 2015, according to police. Police said Sacco-Miller’s vehicle collided with an unoccupied parked vehicle in the 500 block of E. Fellows Street in Dixon, Illinois.

Sacco-Miller was not hurt, police said.

Sacco-Miller was charged with DUI, DUI with a blood alcohol content over .08, and failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident.  Jail records showed she was released from the Lee County Jail after she posted bond.

Off-Duty Chicago Police Officer Charged with Shooting Officer who tried to stop him for DUI

From the Chicago Sun-Times (story by Frank Main):

An angry Cook County judge berated a Chicago Police officer who was in court Tuesday after being charged with firing five shots at an off-duty suburban cop who tried to pull him over for driving drunk.

Cook County Judge Adam Bourgeois Jr. told 53-year-old cop John J. Gorman:  “The problem I have with this is that we have a climate in this city where citizens are shooting at each other. We have to expect and demand more from those who wear a badge.”

When Gorman’s attorney, Michael Clancy, argued for the officer to be released without having to post bond, the judge said that the bullets could have hit a 9-year-old. Last week, 9-year-old Tyshawn Lee was lured to an alley and shot and killed in a gang dispute. His funeral was Tuesday.

If police officers are misbehaving, “how can we expect citizens to obey the law?” the judge asked. He set bail at $50,000.

Gorman, who served in the military and has two teenage children, has been on desk duty since the 2014 incident, which was first reported by the Chicago Sun-Times.

It started at 4:39 p.m. on Nov. 23, 2014, when an off-duty Merrionette Park police officer was a passenger in a pickup truck and saw a car driving erratically, almost hitting a flower vendor standing in the street near 111th and Pulaski, according to court records.

At 111th and Spaulding, the pickup pulled next to the Buick that Gorman was driving. They were stopped at a red light.

The Merrionette Park officer showed his badge and noticed that Gorman was holding an open beer, but when the light turned green, Gorman drove off, prosecutors say.

The Merrionette Park cop called 911 and followed Gorman to Prospect and Pryor avenues on the Southwest Side of Chicago, about two blocks from the Morgan Park police station.

Gorman allegedly walked to the back of his Buick and aimed his gun at the pickup truck.

The driver of the pickup drove away as Gorman fired five shots, prosecutors say.

One of the bullets left a hole in the rear bumper of the pickup, but the Merrionette Park officer and the driver were not shot.

The Merrionette Park officer reported the shooting to officers at the Morgan Park station. Chicago Police officers ran the license plate of the Buick and realized it was registered to Gorman, who they arranged to meet.

Gorman allegedly told the Chicago Police officers that he fired the shots and he turned over his handgun. On the street, officers found five bullet casings that matched Gorman’s .380-caliber Ruger.

Gorman initially refused to take a Breathalyzer test, but more than five hours later Internal Affairs investigators required him to submit to the test for administrative purposes. His blood-alcohol content was .07, just under the legal limit for driving, and he was charged with a misdemeanor for driving under the influence.

At least 22 misconduct complaints have been filed against Gorman since 2001, according to a database made public Tuesday by the University of Chicago Law School and independent journalist Jamie Kalven.

Gorman, an officer since 2001, was not disciplined for any of those complaints, including the alleged 2014 shooting incident, the database shows. Many of the complaints alleged he was involved in illegal arrests.

In 2006, he and two other officers were defendants in a lawsuit alleging they used excessive force during an arrest. The city settled the case for $24,000 in federal court, but said the defendants denied any wrongdoing.

A Cautionary Tale for Attorneys: Don’t take photos in court!

This morning an attorney showed me the 2016 Chicago Traffic Court “key” calendar, which not only had all the “key dates” for next year, but also, by implication, the two weeks when court will be closed for judicial seminars (which is a good thing for attorneys to know).  (By the way, those seminars will be held the weeks of February 1rst and April 4th).

The attorney asked if I wanted to take a picture of the schedule.  I declined to take a picture, but instead typed in the information into my phone.  Why, you may ask, did I write down the information when taking a picture would be so much easier?  Because taking a picture in court violates the Court Rules.

Obviously, this information is easy enough to forget, as this attorney, who has been practicing for over 20 years, did, and, as it turns out, so did a partner at  Loop law firm firm, who got into trouble for taking pictures of exhibits in a “high-profile” Federal “spoofing” trial and tweeting them, along with his comments, to his twitter followers.

From the Chicago Tribune (story by Jason Meisner):

A partner at a large Chicago law firm is in hot water after he was caught taking photos on his cellphone and tweeting them from the courtroom during the recent high-profile “spoofing” trial of a New Jersey-based trader.

Vincent “Trace” Schmeltz, a co-chair of the financial and regulatory litigation group at Barnes & Thornburg LLP, has been ordered to appear before U.S. District Chief Judge Ruben Castillo on Dec. 8. He faces possible sanctions for nine photos he tweeted during the trial of Michael Coscia, according to a court filing late Friday.

Schmeltz was in the spectator’s gallery of U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber’s 19th floor federal courtroom in Chicago on Oct. 28 when an FBI agent spotted him holding his phone at chest-level and snapping photos, records show. Court officials later saw nine tweets on Schmeltz’s Twitter page, @TraceSchmeltz, each with a caption describing evidence that was being displayed in the trial.

“Prosecution trying to impeach … with this email,” Schmeltz wrote in one post, which included a photo of the email as it was being displayed in court on a flat-screen monitor, the filing stated.

Photographing or recording of any kind is forbidden at the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse except in the lobby.

Leinenweber had specifically barred all cellphone use in his courtroom for Coscia’s trial, which was the first of its kind in the nation and was closely watched by players in the controversial world of high-frequency trading.

On the day Schmeltz sent his tweets, there was a 4-foot sign posted outside the courtroom that read “PHOTOGRAPHING, RECORDING or BROADCASTING IS PROHIBITED,” according to the filing.

Reached at his office Monday, a contrite Schmeltz said he was caught up in the moment, calling the trial a “unique civics lesson” that he wanted his 244 Twitter followers to know about. He said that even though he is a seasoned attorney, it was one of the first times he’d ever been in court for a case that wasn’t his and he simply failed to notice the ban on cellphone use.

“I’m not used to being a spectator,” Schmeltz said. “It’s a lesson learned on my part.”

Schmeltz, who immediately deleted the offending tweets when he was notified of the violation, said he was careful to photograph only the evidence on the screen, not witnesses or jurors.

He was admitted to the Illinois bar in 2000 and has no disciplinary record as an attorney, according to online records with the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission.

A federal jury deliberated for less than an hour last week before convicting Coscia of all 12 counts of fraud and spoofing.

Officer allegedly drives drunk to accept an award from MADD. This happened in Florida, of course.

From RawStory.com:

fficer Michael Szeliga of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Department showed up to a Mothers Against Drunk Driving conference in Fort Lauderdale so drunk that he could not even walk straight.

Szeliga was scheduled to receive an award at the conference, for making over 100 DUI arrests, but he actually showed up drunk himself, and it is assumed that he drove himself to the conference in that state. However, the officer denies that he drove drunk and insists that he only had one or two drinks before the conference.

“It was wrong, and again, one of the most ridiculous things I’ve heard of. When I first heard about it, that was (what) my reaction was. ‘Come on, you’ve got to be kidding me. Really?’” Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said.

Once his supervisors encountered him, they described him as being “wasted” and sent him back to his hotel room to miss out on both the conference and his award.

After the incident, Szeliga was reprimanded and was given one day of paid suspension, and was forced to write an apology letter to the supervisors for being belligerent with them. Szeliga was scheduled to be promoted to detective and his promotion was not affected by the incident at the conference, he now works as a detective in the sheriff’s crimes against children unit, according to WFLA.

Oddly enough, this is actually not the first time that we reported on a story like this. Around this time last year, David Griffin, acting chapter president for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and a former deputy police chief was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol.

Since the incident, Griffin has resigned from his position with MADD after 18 years of being a CEO and high-ranking member of the organization.

Back in 2011, Debra Oberlin, a former president of MADD was arrested for driving with an alcohol level that was three times the legal limit.

Donovan McNabb ordered to spend 18 days in jail for “Extreme DUI” in Arizona

From the Huffington Post:

Former NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb was sentenced early Friday afternoon to 18 days in jail after pleading guilty to an “extreme DUI” charge stemming from his car crash and subsequent arrest last June in Arizona, according to TMZ.

At the time of the June 28 incident, McNabb reportedly had a blood alcohol level of .17. The legal limit for a driver is just half of that, at .08.

Following his 18 days in county jail, McNabb will have to spend over two months in home detention, receive counseling, complete 30 hours of community service and pay $6,342.23 as a result of the DUI.

This is the not the first time McNabb has been found driving under the influence: The ex-NFL player spent one day in jail about 18 months ago after his first DUI charge in late 2013.