IL enacts new laws on texting while driving and “dooring” bicyclists

From WQad8.com:

A new law in Illinois enhances the punishment for texting behind the wheel.

Starting in July 2019, drivers caught using cell phones while driving will not only get fined, but it will count as a moving violation that could lead to license suspension.

The new law signed this week by Gov. Bruce Rauner now makes the first ticket for texting and driving a moving offense. That means it goes on the offender’s record and can lead to a suspension if they commit two other violations in the next year.

And from the Chicago Tribune:

The new law, which goes into effect next July, makes the penalty $75 for a first offense, $100 for a second, $125 for a third and $150 for a fourth or subsequent offense. Under current law, drivers get a warning and no fine the first time.

Distracted driving has been cited as a factor in an increase in traffic deaths nationally over the last three years…

Another bill signed by the governor adds the “Dutch Reach” method of opening car doors to Illinois’ Rules of the Road manual and adds bike safety questions to the state driver’s license exam.

The Dutch Reach encourages drivers and passengers to use the hand farthest from the door to reach across the body to open the door after parallel parking. This prods people in motor vehicles to look back for cyclists and other traffic, and can help prevent sometimes-fatal “dooring” crashes, said the Active Transportation Alliance, a bike, pedestrian and transit user advocacy group. It is called the Dutch Reach because it is taught and used in the Netherlands.

lllinois Department of Transportation data shows dooring crashes on the rise across the state. In 2015, there were more than 300 reported in Chicago, a 50 percent increase from the previous year.

Illinois one of toughest states for speeding, reckless driving according to study

From WJBC.com:

Illinois’ police forces may not give out the most speeding tickets but when they do, state laws make them some of the most expensive in the nation.

A new report by financial service company WalletHub found that Illinois comes down the harder on speeders than nearly any other state but it has some of the harshest penalties in the nation. It was tied with three other states for eighth-strictest overall and fourth in terms of speeding enforcement, behind only Virginia, Arizona and New Mexico. It ranked fourth in the nation in terms of WalletHub’s “speeding enforcement” rankings. That’s based on threshold for an automatic reckless driving ticket, average hike in insurance premium after a ticket, and how much a speeding ticket counts toward a suspension.

WalletHub Analyst Jill Gonzalez said one ticket in Illinois gets a speeder much closer to a license suspension than other states.

“It has about 45 percent in terms of how much a speeding ticket counts toward a suspension,” she said. “Usually, a ticket is 15 percent counted toward a suspension.”

Illinois also ranked high on the list because of the long jail sentences and costly fines for reckless driving.

“Illinois has some of the highest days in jail after a first conviction at ten days and 20 for a second and the fines are some of the most expensive in the country as well,” Gonzalez said.

Read the full story here:  http://www.wjbc.com/2018/07/12/study-finds-illinois-doles-out-some-the-toughest-penalties-for-driving-offenses/

IL Drunk Driving Fatalities down 43% in the 20 yrs since legal limit was lowered

According to this story in the Morris Herald, drunk driving related fatalities have dropped from 534 to 300, a decrease of 43%, since Illinois lowered its legal limit from 0.10 BAC to 0.08.

What the story doesn’t mention, is that during those years, Illinois has also made a great many changes to its drunk driving laws, greatly increasing the penalties for repeat drunk driving and requiring ignition interlocks for even first time offenders.  In addition, local municipalities began to impound (and sometimes forfeit) vehicles used in drunk driving and driving while suspended or revoked due to DUI cases.  Oftentimes, the impoundment fee alone is equivalent to several months car payments.

In addition to that, in the interim 20 years, there have been many social changes that have probably contributed to this drop, such as an increased awareness of the dangers of drinking and driving, a dramatic decrease in bars and drinking establishments, and a general increase in healthier lifestyles.

Having said that, I am sure that the drop to 0.08 made a significant difference.  It probably meant that many people passed on that extra drink or two that they might have had in 1996.  And that extra drink or two can make all the difference.

What do you think?

 

Illinois considering bill allowing 18 year olds to drink under parent’s supervision

House Bill 494, a bill pending in the Illinois legislature, would allow 18 to 21 year olds to drink beer or wine in the presence and supervision of a parent or guardian, including restaurants whose primary purpose is not the sale of alcohol.

According to Eater Chicago, 10 other states already allow this.  They are Connecticut, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nevada, Ohio, Texas, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

What do you think?

In Illinois, a fourth DUI is a mandatory minimum three years in prison

There was a story in today’s Chicago Tribune about a 52 year old Naperville woman who was sentenced to three years in prison for her fourth DUI.

She was not involved in an accident.  It sounds like she was being cooperative with the police.  She consented to a breath test.

Unlike a certain well-publicized case where a drunk driver killed a bicyclist and received only ten days in jail, this woman is going to prison.

This was not a case of a judge being harsh.  Actually, the judge was being lenient.  This drunk driver received the mandatory minimum sentence.

In Illinois, a fourth DUI is a Class 2 felony, punishable from three to seven years.  Probation is not permitted in such a case (on the other hand, probation is allowed in DUI death cases when there is “exceptional circumstances”).

Here is the relevant section of the DUI statute (625 ILCS 5/11-501(d)(2)(C)):

A fourth violation of this Section or a similar
    
provision is a Class 2 felony, for which a sentence of probation or conditional discharge may not be imposed.

So, as the saying goes, “if you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.”

Marijuana decriminalization bill signed by Gov, ends “Zero Tolerance” Pot DUI law

Governor Rauner signed into law SB 92228, which makes possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana a fine only offense, and sets a new legal limit for operating under the influence of cannabis, replacing a zero tolerance standard and replacing it with a new “legal limit” of 5 nanograms of THC per mililiter of whole blood (or 10 nanograms in saliva or other bodily substance).

Not affected by this change is the previous law that also made it a DUI offense to drive or be in actual physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of cannabis.

The fine for marijuana possession under 10 grams will be a minimum of $100 and a maximum of $200.  Anyone cited for possession of marijuana paraphernalia at the same time will only be subject to a fine in a similar amount.

Since possession of marijuana under 10 grams is now a civil violation instead of a criminal offense, the legislature was able to ease the prosecution’s burden of proof.  A crime lab testing showing that the substance was tested and proven to be marijuana is no longer required; the prosecution can establish its case either through opinion testimony by the arresting officer (with the proper foundation) or use of a properly conducted field test.

Under the new law, anyone fined for possession of marijuana in an amount less than 10 grams will have their citation automatically expunged, if they have paid their fine and completed their sentence.  The Clerk is to expunge these cases twice a year, on or before January 1 and July 1.

 

Task Force Reports highlights problems with IL court fees

I have been a practicing attorney since 1994.  In that time, the cost of filing a civil lawsuit has gone up over 50%, with the additional costs going to fund the court system.

But far worse has been the exponential rise in court costs that are taxed on criminal defendants.  For example, in 1994, a typical Chicago DUI defendant would get a fine in the amount of $200 or $300 plus a $5 “spinal fund fee.”  Over the years, additional fees have been added, supposedly to pay for clerks, state’s attorneys, police, emergency services, etc. In 2016,  a typical defendant in a Chicago case pays an additional $1,339 in costs, in addition to fines.  Since these costs are now so high, they are often not given a “base fine” but still the total fines, fees and costs are over $1,000 more today than they were 20 years ago.  That is an increase of 333%.

It is no coincidence that the rise of these fines began after George H.W. Bush was hammered for breaking his “no new taxes” pledge.  Ever since, politicians in Illinois have found it much easier to raise additional income through regressive fines and sales taxes (probably the biggest increase over the last 20 years has been on cigarette taxes, even though smokers are addicted to the product and the demographics of smokers tend skew towards low income individuals).

These costs are applied regardless of a person’s income, so that they hit hardest on the poor.  Furthermore, the courts are not allowed to waive these costs or allow the defendant to work it off by doing community service.

The Illinois Statutory Court Fee Task Force has issued a report about this growing problem.

In their report they found four key problems:

  1.  The nature and purpose of assessments have changed over time, leading to a byzantine system that attempts to pass an increased share of the cost of court administration onto the parties to court proceedings.
  2. Court fines and fees are constantly increasing and are outpacing inflation
  3. There is excessive variation across the state in the amount of assessments for the same type of proceedings.
  4. The cumulative impact of the assessments imposed on parties to civil lawsuits and defendants in criminal and traffic proceedings imposes severe and disproportionate impacts on low- and moderate-income Illinois residents.

Their recommendations;

  1. The Illinois General Assembly should enact a schedule for court assessments that promotes affordability and transparency.
  2. The General Assembly and the Supreme Court should authorize amendments to the current civil fee waiver statute and related Supreme Court Rule, respectively, to provide financial relief from assessments in civil cases to Illinois residents living in or near poverty.
  3. The General Assembly should authorize a uniform assessment schedule for criminal and traffic case types that is consistent throughout the state.
  4. The General Assembly and the Supreme Court should authorize the waiver or reduction of assessments, but not judicial fines, imposed on criminal defendants living in or near poverty.
  5. The General Assembly and the Supreme Court should modify the process by which fines for minor traffic offenses are calculated under Supreme Court Rule 529.
  6. The General Assembly should routinely consult a checklist of important considerations before proposing new assessments, and should periodically consult the checklist in reviewing existing assessments.

I hope the legislature gives the Task Force’s report due consideration and implements their suggestions.