The future of DUIs?

ct-met-aj-1-dui-technology-0628-jpg-20130627From today’s Chicago Tribune:

Starting Monday, just in time for Fourth of July celebrations, Illinois will add a high-tech tweak to its fight against drunken driving: a camera installed near the dashboard of motorists charged with driving under the influence.

Of the estimated 11,000 motorists in the state required to have Breathalyzer ignition interlock devices on their vehicles, more than 3,000 of them are caught each year trying to drive after drinking too much, said Susan McKinney, administrator of the state’s program. The Breathalyzer locks the ignition and stops them.

“We get an inordinate amount of people telling us it wasn’t them (blowing into the Breathalyzer),” McKinney added. “They say it was anybody but me. Now, the technology will allow us not to have to make a judgment call.”

Adding the cameras is the latest step in a movement that may bring even more technology to bear in the fight against drunken driving, a movement quietly gaining momentum even as it draws fire from those who think it would ensnare responsible drinkers and devastate the restaurant industry.

Prototypes in development would measure blood alcohol concentration through a touch pad on the dashboard or steering wheel, or perhaps through sensors that gauge the driver’s breath.

Illinois is far from installing that sophisticated technology, although Secretary of State Jesse White is “very interested” in the devices, spokesman David Druker said.

Motorists arrested on DUI charges can drive only with restrictions that include the ignition device. As of Monday, those restrictions also will require a camera on a visor, roof column or other unobtrusive spot that takes a snapshot when the driver blows into the Breathalyzer to start the car.

The camera activates again when he or she takes a Breathalyzer at random prompts three times an hour while driving.

I posted about this before (Smile while you blow?), and here were my thoughts then:

As you may know, the Illinois Secretary of State requires that most people who have been suspended or revoked in Illinois for one or more DUIs have a BAIID installed on their vehicle as a condition of a driving permit.  The BAIID will only allow the individual to start a motor vehicle so long as there is not a BAC reading of 0.025 or higher.  This means that a person can have a BAC that is well below the legal limit yet not be able to start his or her vehicle.  Because of this, it is quite common for people to find that they are locked out and unable to start their vehicle despite not having consumed alcohol for over 12 hours, and feeling completely sober.  When this happens, not only is the person unable to start the car, but he or she will then face repercussions for their “high” BAC, including but not limited to extensions of the suspension, revocation of the driving permit,and  impoundment or forfeiture of the vehicle.

 

Faced with such consequences, it is commonplace for the person in this situation to attempt to claim that someone else was responsible for the BAIID result.  Sometimes this is true, sometimes it isn’t.  Currently, the person may contest the action of the Secretary of State and request a hearing, at which time he or she can present their evidence.  This requires the Secretary of State to weigh the credibility of the witnesses and evidence.  A photograph of the actual test will make this determination a lot easier, for both the Secretary of State and motorist involved.

Illinois Supreme Court Upholds Vehicle Forfeitures for Aggravated DUIs and Driving While Revoked

Vehicle forfeitures have become an increasingly popular way for our legislature to be “tough on crime” while at the same time raise additional revenues without raising taxes.  What’s not to like?  So long as you are a State rep and not a family member of someone charged with an aggravated DUI or driving while revoked (DWLR).

Last week, the Illinois Supreme Court upheld a constitutional challenge to the Illinois Vehicle Forfeiture law.   Here is a link to the case: People v. One 1998 GMC, et. al., 2011 IL 110236.

The challenge alleged that the statute was defective because it did not provide for a fast, preliminary hearing to determine whether there was probable cause to hold the vehicle pending trial.  In dismissing the challenge, the court noted that the statute has been recently amended to require such a preliminary hearing within 14 days of the seizure.  720 ILCS 5/36-1.5.

More disconcerting, the Court also stated the following:  “The seizures in the cases before us occurred simultaneously with the aggravated DUI and DWLR arrests for which the police must have probable cause. This probable cause determination is made by trained police officers without a personal economic stake in the matter. Their evaluations are not the type prone to error.”  2011 IL 110236, par 68 (Emphasis added).

It is hard for me as a defense attorney to fathom this comment.  Police officers regularly misevaluate DUI cases.  Just this week, the Chicago Tribune, in a story of the increased frequency of police officers using Tasers, described a case in which a passenger was tased for being unruly while his wife was being subjected to field sobriety tests.  The results of her breath test?  0.000.

Remember TLC’s DUI show?  The show where three of the first twelve defendants had their cases dropped, and a fourth one reduced, as a result of breath or blood tests.  That’s a 33% fail rate right there.

Nor should I have to mention the several Chicago Police Officers who have been caught faking or exaggerating facts in DUI cases over the past few years.

But the bottom line is this: drive while revoked, or get a DUI when you didn’t have a valid driver’s license, or have had two prior DUIs, and you will not only face a serious criminal offense, but additionally you may be faced with a lawsuit seeking forfeiture of the motor vehicle that you were driving when you committed the offense.

Plainfield, Will Co. cops conduct sting on invalid licenses

Plainfield, Will Co. cops conduct sting on invalid licenses – The Naperville Sun.

About ten years ago, our local law enforcement, judiciary and legislators were repeatedly humiliated on a daily basis by the Chicago Sun-Times.  What did the Sun-Times do?

All it did was send a reporter and photographer to a different traffic court every day and  find a suspended or revoked driving defendant.  After taking notes on the “slap on the wrist” that the defendant received, and the (sometimes) stern warning from the judge not to drive until they had a valid license, the reporter would then follow the driver out into the parking lot and watch as he or she would get into his car and drive off.

Day after day there were pictures and photographs of these suspended or revoked drivers who were thumbing their noses at the law.

So, in response our legislators passed one tough law after another against suspended or revoked drivers in the hopes that the Sun-Times would lay off.  But they didn’t, so the laws just kept getting tougher and tougher.

Now, for example, if you drive just one time on a DUI suspension, you can be charged with a felony case, have your car forfeited, and you face a minimum of 30 days in jail (and possibly one to three years in prison!).  A fourth one would be a minimum 180 days in jail and a 10th would be a minimum two years in prison.  625 ILCS 5/6-303

Another thing to come out of this are the regular “sting” operations that police and sheriff do at local traffic courts.  They will be prepared with a list of all the license plate numbers of all the suspended or revoked defendant’s who are scheduled to be in court that day, and will be prepared to pull them over.  Also, they may follow revoked or suspended drivers out of court and into the parking lot (even private parking lots in downtown Chicago!).

Therefore, if you have a suspended or revoked driver’s license, consider yourself warned that you are facing a tough sentence and that the police will be motivated to catch you.

Instead of driving, consider consulting with an attorney to see if your license can be reinstated.

Chicago to dramatically increase impoundment fees in DUI, suspended license cases

City Fines and Fees to Double, Triple for Minor, Major Offenses – Chicago Sun-Times

Up until about 10 years ago, there was no such thing as an impoundment fee for driving while suspended or DUI in the City of Chicago or the surrounding suburbs.  The officer would merely park the vehicle or drive it to the police station, where it could be claimed at a later time.

Then in 2001, Chicago began to impound the vehicles used in DUIs.  Since that time, the impoundment fee has been approximately $1,200 for the initial impoundment, and another $40 per day until 15 days after notice, when, if not claimed, the vehicle can be sold or destroyed.  Even after the vehicle has been sold or scrapped, the City can send the outstanding balance to collections.  A few years ago, the City added vehicles used in driving while suspended cases to the list of impoundment eligble offenses.

If you wish, you can contest the impoundment fee at an Administrative Hearing, where you have the burden of showing that the arresting officers lacked probable cause to believe that you were committing the offense charged.  This is decided by an attorney hired by the City to serve as an administrative hearing officer.  The officers are not required to appear at this hearing, and their reports can be admitted in evidence.   So in other words, so long as the officer wrote a sufficient reason to arrest you, the City keeps your money.

As you can see from the above linked Sun-Times story, the City is now trying to make up for its budget shortfall by doubling and tripling the impound fees, up to $3,000 for DUIs within 500 feet of a school or park.

I really have to wonder if the Mayor and City counsel are living in La La land. A $1,000 impoundment fee for driving on a suspended license (and please note, this is not a fine, which will come later, but only after being found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt). Most of the people whose licenses are suspended are suspended because they have limited funds to pay old tickets, registration or insurance. They don’t have an extra $1,000 lying around.  If they did, they would clear up their license, which isn’t going to happen now.

And I understand that no one likes DUIs, or DUI defendants, but even without an impoundment fee, a person is looking at $4,000 and up, maybe way, way up for legal fees, social service fees, alcohol evaluation, alcohol treatment, fines, fees and costs, license reinstatement fee, driving permit and breath ignition interlock device rental. (You can see this article where I was interviewed by MSN Money about the costs of a DUI).  Add the $2,000 to $3,000 impoundment fee, this might be two months or more take home for an average Chicagoan, who probably has to support themselves, their children and perhaps others.

And let me remind you:  the impoundment fee has nothing to do with guilt or innocence.  It will stick so long as the officer’s reports make out “probable cause.”  This, in a City that has had multiple “top cop” DUI officers caught faking cases in the past five years.

These impoundment fees, along with the staggering increase in DUI fines, fees and costs, are a common Illinois solution to tax revenues: use regressive taxes like fines and fees, especially when its a politically unpopular group like smokers or drunk drivers. Who cares if it is not fair, hurts families or is simply unrealistic?

What do you think?