With new year, new law will end the 30 day “hard time” wait for DUI driving permits

As the Chicago Tribune noted over the weekend, as of January 1, 2016, there will no longer be a 30 day “hard time” period before people who are suspended for first time Illinois DUIs can get a driving permit.

The new law ends an anachronism that had kept a 1980’s era law on the books despite recent changes in Illinois drunk driving laws that made the hard time period unnecessary and counter-productive.

In Illinois, first time DUI offenders receive a license suspension if they either fail or refuse a breath, blood or urine test.  The suspension is six months for failing the test and twelve months for refusing.

This suspension law has been around in one form or another since the 1980s. The idea was to get drunk drivers off the road without having to wait for their DUI case to be resolved.

Since 2009, these first offenders have been eligible for a Monitored Device Driving Permit (“MDDP”) which allows the person to drive their car 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so long as their vehicle is equipped with a breath alcohol ignition interlock device (“BAIID”).

However, as a holdover to the old law, there was still a 30 day “hard time” rule, which was designed to keep drunk drivers off the road.  Since now there is a BAIID requirement, there is enough of a safeguard that the person won’t drive drunk, so there was no longer any need for the wait.  In light of that, Congress removed the 30 day hard time provision that was a condition of Federal Highway appropriations back in 2012, with the blessing of MADD.

It took Illinois another three years to act on this and remove the 30 day wait time.

You may ask, “why should we do anything that helps drunk drivers?”

And here are the reasons:

  • They can’t drive drunk with a BAIID installed on their car.
  • If they do somehow drive drunk (or stoned), they will be charged with felony and face one to three years in prison, if not more depending on his or her background.
  • This will discourage people from driving while suspended during that 30 day time period, as well as skipping out on the BAIID restricted permit altogether since it wasn’t helping them during the hard time period.
  • It will also give prosecutors more reason not to agree to rescissions of the license suspension for people who have a hardship with the 30 day hard time provision (although it is still a useful tool for prosecutors as a carrot to dangle to encourage guilty pleas).

 

Justin Blackmon arrested for DUI (again)

Justin Blackmon, who has had three previous brushes with the law, including a 2012 aggravated DUI shortly after he was drafted by the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars, was arrested once again for DUI.

From ESPN.com (story by Mike DiRocco):

Suspended Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Justin Blackmon is facing more legal issues after his fourth substance abuse arrest.

According to an Ardmore (Oklahoma) Police Department arrest report, police performed a traffic stop on a 2015 Jeep Wrangler that Blackmon was driving because of a non-working brake light at 3:46 a.m. ET. The report said the officer smelled alcohol and asked Blackmon and the passenger, identified as Reginald Thompson, if they had been drinking.

The report said both admitted to drinking at a local bar and that Blackmon said he had “just two drinks.” The officer said Blackmon had slurred and slow speech and asked Blackmon to take several field sobriety tests.

The report said Blackmon failed those tests and also failed a preliminary breath test. Blackmon was then arrested, after which he refused to take a breathalyzer test.

According to the report, Blackmon became angry and refused to give officers his phone number when he was booked at the Carter County Jail for DUI.

This is Blackmon’s third alcohol-related arrest and fourth arrest overall.

The former Oklahoma State standout was also arrested July 23, 2014, when Edmond (Oklahoma) Police Department officers stopped him for a traffic violation and said they could smell marijuana coming from his car. He pleaded no contest to misdemeanor marijuana possession, a charge that was later reduced to disorderly conduct for which he had to play a $454 fine.

Blackmon’s attorney said Blackmon completed a voluntary drug-rehab program in 2014.

Blackmon, 25, also was arrested in Texas in 2010 on a misdemeanor DUI charge (later reduced to underage alcohol possession) after police officers caught him speeding outside of Dallas. He was arrested again in May 2012 — less than a month after the Jaguars drafted him — during a traffic stop in Stillwater, Oklahoma, after a breath test allegedly showed his blood alcohol content to be three times the legal limit.

Why is it that 80 percent of Chicago squad dash cams don’t record sound?

According to DNAinfo.com, “80 percent of the Chicago Police Department’s 850 dashcam video systems don’t record audio due to “to operator error or in some cases intentional destruction” by officers, according to a review by the Police Department. Additionally, about 12 percent of dashcams experience “video issues” on any given day due to “equipment or operator error,” police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said. ”

If you are wondering about how that could possibly happen, perhaps you are a newcomer to this blog.

Here is a quote from former Chicago Police Chief Jody Weis that I took from a WBEZ story and posted to this blog four years ago:

Weis says it’s not too much of a stretch to think officers would divert the cameras. He says when he was in charge they had a problem with officers turning off the cameras in their cars, “and I think it was because people had a fear, we don’t want this camera recording what we’re doing and I don’t know how many times I spent and said ‘Guys, if you’re doing your job correctly this camera’s your greatest friend.’”

So why are the officers doing turning off their sound?  I must admit that as a DUI defense attorney, this is something that never bothers me.  That is because bad audio can lose a case for me.  It is one thing to see a motorist have an animated conversation with a cop; it is a whole different matter when you hear that disagreement, and you can listen to all the times that the motorist misunderstands something, repeats something, gets belligerent for no reason or can’t follow a simple instruction.  It is also one thing for a judge or jury to hear that a defendant had slurred speech, yet another for them to actually hear it.  So I don’t complain when there isn’t any sound.  It is (generally) helpful to the defense.

So if it helps defendants, why do the officers do this?  I can only guess (since they won’t tell me), but I would assume that it is for privacy reasons most of all.  Who would want to have every interaction, personal phone call, or moment of speaking to oneself, recorded and possibly be played in court.

In addition, I suspect that certain officers also do not want the sound recorded because they know the things that they say to people, and they don’t want that recorded.  And a few officers do not want their phone conversations recorded, or conversations recorded, because they are talking to other officers outside the normal channels of police radio and are saying things that would get them into trouble. And they know that.

What do you think?

(P.S., thanks to Chicago personal injury attorney Stephen Hoffman, who linked to this story on social media, where I first saw it).

Man flees DUI crash, tries to hide in Nativity scene

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From Newser.com:

Jesus Saves” probably doesn’t refer to getting someone off the hook for a crime, as one suspected drunk driver recently found out in the UK. A man slammed his Mini Cooper into a metal barrier in Yorkshire on Saturday and then fled the scene, seeking sanctuary from law enforcement in a Nativity scene about 220 yards away, reports the Telegraph. The North Yorkshire Police posted a pic of the car and decimated barrier on Twitter and noted the suspect had been “located & arrested.”

Social media had a bit of fun with the story, with commenters making appropriate holiday puns rounded up by the Telegraph. “God arrest ye merry gentleman,” reads one post, while another pipes in, “Obviously not one of the wise men.”

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U.S. Supreme Court to determine whether states can criminalize DUI test refusals

In Illinois, the only consequence for a DUI suspect who refuses to take a blood, breath or urine is a license suspension which is longer than the suspension he or she would receive had he or she taken and “failed” the test (and there is no suspension for someone who “passes” the test).

However, thirteen states make it an additional crime for a person to refuse such a test.  The Minnesota law was recently struck down but the case, and two others, have been taken up by the United States Supreme Court.

From SCOTUSblog:

In a move that could have a nationwide effect on the roadside actions of police officers, the Supreme Court agreed on Friday to decide whether a blood or breath test for drunk driving can be made without a search warrant and whether, if there is no warrant, an individual can be charged with a crime for refusing to take such a test.  The Justices took on three cases raising the issue: two from North Dakota and one from Minnesota.  Thirteen states make it a crime to refuse to take a drunk-driving test….

The drunk-driving cases provide the Court with something of a sequel to its ruling in 2013 in Missouri v. McNeely, which left the clear impression that, if police have enough time, they should get a warrant before taking a test of a suspected drunk driver.  The Court ruled that the natural dissipation of alcohol in the bloodstream does not always amount to an emergency situation that permits a DUI test without a warrant.

In North Dakota, state laws bars a person from driving in the state if he or she refuses to submit to a chemical test, of blood, breath or urine, to determine alcohol concentration.  It makes refusal to take such a test open to prosecution for a crime that carries the same punishment as a conviction for drunk-driving.   In Minnesota, state law makes it a crime to refuse an officer’s request to take a chemical test for alcohol in the blood, if the individual has been validly arrested for drunk driving.  The cases to be reviewed by the Court involve either a blood or breath test.

Lawyers for the three men involved in the appeals said that the issues they were raising were coming up more frequently in the wake of the McNeely decision.  And they argued that the decisions by the state supreme courts in these cases conflict with the McNeely ruling.  The Supreme Court, at its private Conference on Friday, considered thirteen cases on these issues, and chose the three from that list — all filed by the same attorneys.

The three apparently were chosen because they involve different legal scenarios: in two of the cases, the individuals were convicted for declining to take a test — one a blood test, the other a breath test. In the third case, the individual was convicted of drunk driving after he refused field sobriety tests and then was taken to a hospital for a blood test against his wishes.  The Court will be reviewing that individual’s punishment for refusing the field tests — a two-year suspension of his driver’s license — instead of the jail time and fine he got for the drunk-driving conviction.

The three cases to be reviewed are Birchfield v. North Dakota, Bernard v. Minnesota, and Beylund v. North Dakota.  The three will be consolidated, and will be heard together at a one-hour hearing.

New version of IL Marijuana decriminalization bill proposed

Last August, Governor Rauner vetoed a bill which would have decriminalized small amounts of marijuana, and created a “legal limit” of THC for drugged driving cases (as opposed to Illinois’ current “zero tolerance” statute).

In particular, the Governor wanted a “legal limit” of 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood, the same as Colorado, instead of the bill’s 15 nanogram standard, which was closer in line to a government study which showed that 13 nanograms is equivalent to the 0.08 blood alcohol level used in alcohol DUI cases.

Representative Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) has proposed a new bill (HB 4357) which much closer to Rauner’s amendatory veto.

Under the proposed bill, the “legal limit” for DUI cannabis cases would be, as Rauner requested, 5 nanograms of THC, and possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana would be a fine only violation, with fines up to $200.

 

Illinois Secretary of State stops sending out License Plate Renewals

According to WGN9 News, the Illinois Secretary of State has stopped sending out license plate renewal forms, due to the state budget impasse.

WGN says:

CHICAGO — The Illinois Secretary of State’s office has suspended mailing out notices that your vehicle registration is expiring.

The move is blamed on the state’s budget impasse.

A spokesperson said it will save the state $450,000 a month.

Hundreds of thousands of Illinois license plates expired at midnight Dec. 1 – but many vehicle owners likely did not receive a notice in the mail.

E-mail notices are not affected.

Drivers can check when their registration expires on the secretary of state’s website at: cyberdriveillinois.com.

New stickers can be ordered online or at any state driver’s license facility.