Tribune story paints an inaccurate picture of new IL DUI laws

Today’s online Chicago Tribune has a story entitled “New State Rules for accused, convicted drunken drivers takes effect,” which, like way too many stories about DUIs, paints an inaccurate portrait about DUI laws.

Here is a typical quote:  “With the unanimous support of lawmakers, Illinois is doing away with the mandatory suspensions for most first-time and repeat offenders, although drivers still will have to apply for special permits and pay for the devices and monitoring, which typically cost more than $100 a month combined.”

No, Illinois is NOT doing away with mandatory suspensions.

If you get arrested for a DUI, and either fail a breath, blood or urine test (say, by having 0.08 blood alcohol or greater or any amount of a narcotic) or refuse a test, your license will be suspended.

And if you get caught driving illegally during that suspension, you will face jail time and vehicle forfeiture.

What will change is that if you are a first offender, you will be eligible to obtain a “Monitored Device Driving Permit” requiring you to drive with an ignition interlock system, during the entirety of that suspension.  And if you are not a first offender, you will be able to apply for a Restricted Driving Permit through the Secretary of State once your case has been resolved, and you have completed alcohol treatment.

One important distinction between the permits available to first offenders and repeat offenders is that the first offender permit is (generally) available for the asking; whereas the repeat offender permit can only be obtained after a hearing has been held at the Secretary of State and you have been able to prove, to the Secretary’s satisfaction, that you will be a safe and responsible driver.  If you can meet that hurdle, then you must drive for five continuous years with the BAIID equipped permit before becoming eligible for full reinstatement.

There is another section of the article which discusses new rules for persons convicted of “multiple convictions” of DUI which are actually new rules for people with four or more convictions.  Those people, who have been ineligible for any driving relief since 1999, will now be able to apply for limited relief:  a Restricted Driving Permit, but only after it has been at least five years since their last DUI or release from prison, and if they can demonstrate that he or she is no long a danger to the public, has completed alcohol treatment, been abstinent for three years, and has been actively attending a support group such as A.A.

So-called “Fifth Chance” for repeat DUI offenders getting pushback from the get tough crowd

Since the Governor signed into law the Illinois Legislature’s bill which would allow restricted driving permits for people who have had four DUI convictions, there has been some after-the-fact blowback.  First, the Chicago Sun-Times, whose editorial board endorsed the legislation, devoted a front cover story designed to scare readers about the “5,085” repeat DUI offenders who would be back on the road.

Then today, I saw this blog post from a personal injury law firm.

Here was my response on their facebook page:

The law does not allow people to drive drunk. It would allow these individuals to drive only on a restricted driving permit while using a Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device which would prevent them from driving drunk. The permit would restrict the days and hours that they can drive and the reasons for which they could drive, typically for work and to attend support group meetings. These permits would only be allowed if the person has been through treatment, and has been abstinent for at least three years and been attending support group meetings. Over the years, I have heard from many people who committed multiple DUIs when they were much younger, and now, decades later, after they have reformed themselves and were trying to earn a living to support themselves and their family, were denied even an opportunity to have a hearing to show that they had made significant changes to their lives. All this law does is give them that chance. To say otherwise is give up on them, and encourage them to drive illegally, and take away any incentive for them to undergo treatment, maintain sobriety and attend a support group.

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.

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?

DUI News Roundup

Here are links to some news stories that I have seen over the past few days, most of which are updates to stories that I have already blogged about.  If you are following me on twitter, you may have already seen these links:

Bill to end lifetime license revocations advances through House Committee

The bill that would end the “lifetime license revocation” for anyone convicted of four DUIs has made it through a major hurdle — getting out of House Transportation Committee.

Elise Dismer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports on her blog:

SPRINGFIELD-Legislation giving Illinoisans with four DUI convictions another chance to get back on the road moved through a House committee Wednesday with backing from a prominent anti-drunk-driving organization.

By an 8-3 vote, the House Transportation: Vehicles & Safety Committee signed off on House Bill 4206, which would let four-time drunk-driving offenders apply for a restricted driving permit five years after their last offense—so long as they have logged three years of uninterrupted sobriety and a successful rehabilitation record.

“I believe in giving people a chance,” said Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Northbrook, the bill’s chief House sponsor. “For someone who’s truly turned their life around, we ought to be giving them opportunities.”

Under existing state law, anyone with four or more drunk-driving convictions faces a lifetime revocation of their driving privileges…

Nekritz’s bill also drew support from a police officer from northwestern Illinois.

Lt. Donnie Pridemore, of the Fulton Police Department, testified in support of the bill, saying he’s seen people—including his own alcoholic brother—turn their lives around.

“For those who have proven they have numerous years of sobriety, who have become productive members of society, and who don’t pose a threat to themselves or other drivers out there, they do deserve a chance to have independence—to drive to work, to drive to meetings—and they’ve earned that privilege,” Pridemore said.

But Nekritz’s opportunity comes with conditions: Those who obtain a restricted driving permit under her legislation must also drive a vehicle equipped with an ignition interlock device, which would affirm their identity through video technology and prevent them from driving without initially passing a breathalyzer.

Nekritz’s bill bars anyone convicted of a DUI-related crash resulting in a fatality from applying for the permit.

Rita Kreslin, executive director of the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists, said she supported the legislation in light of the permit eligibility requirements listed in the bill. Her group did not testify Wednesday…

Will Illinois amend its DUI lifetime revocation rule?

For about fifteen years, Illinois has had a law that prevents anyone with four DUI convictions from ever obtaining reinstatement of their drivers license (or even a driving permit), so long as the last DUI conviction occurred after January 1, 1999.

Over the years, two common phone inquiries come into my office.  One of them occurs when someone calls from another state, to tell me that “I had three DUIs in the State of ______ and another one when I was visiting my cousin in Illinois” and now “my home state is willing to give me a license so long as Illinois clears me, but Illinois is saying they won’t because of that one DUI years ago!” The other common call that I often get is from someone who tells me that although he had four DUIs he quit drinking years ago, has been working the steps at AA and needs a license to support his family.  He will tell me that he can’t understand why it is that there is nothing that he can do to get Illinois to at least consider him for a work permit.

Hopefully, things will change soon.  Today, I saw this story from WUIS.org which states that Northbrook State Representative Elaine Nekritz has proposed a bill which would allow people who have been convicted of four DUIs to apply for a restricted driving permit — after five years have elapsed since their last treatment or incarceration, and the permit would have to be granted by a judge, who would have the right to limit where and when the person could drive.

This proposal makes all the sense in the world.  It is much better to give people who have had multiple DUI convictions an incentive to undergo treatment and become abstinent than instead to discourage them and keep them from being able to support their families.  The rationale for keeping these people revoked the makes even less sense considering that we have BAIIDs and SCRAMS to test people to see if they have alcohol or drugs in their system.  And since Illinois has decided that it is better to give undocumented persons temporary visitor drivers licenses because we think it is better to have tested and insured drivers than unlicensed and uninsured drivers, doesn’t it make sense to treat revoked drivers the same way, assuming that they can demonstrate a lengthy period of sobriety and that they have learned and changed through an alcohol or drug treatment plan?