New DUI forfeiture opinion upholds forfeiture of Wife’s Harley driven by Husband

The Illinois Supreme Court has reversed an Appellate Court ruling that I previously discussed on this blog.

In the case, a husband and wife went drinking.  The husband’s license had already been suspended for drunk driving.  The wife claimed that she had been the driver of the motorcycle, but when the left the bar to go home, her husband, who had a key fob, got on their Harley Davidson first and refused to relinquish control.  He was later arrested with DUI with a BAC of twice the legal limit, and the vehicle was forfeited.

The Appellate Court held that the forfeiture was unconstitutional, considering that the wife had paid $35,000 for the bike and that she was not the one violating the law.

On further appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court, the Court noted that the actual value of the vehicle at the time of the forfeiture had not been proven during the forfeiture hearing, only the cost of purchase four years earlier.  It also held that the wife bore some degree of culpability for this occurrence, because she knowing consented to her husband driving even though she knew that his license was suspended and that he was intoxicated.

Read the Opinion here:  The People of the State of Illinois ex rel Matthew Hartrich v. 2010 Harley Davidson, 2018 IL 121636 (February 16, 2018).

Chicago considering providing officers with Textalyzers

From WGN news:

A new piece of technology called a “textalyzer” debated at Chicago City Hall Thursday would make it possible for officers to scan drivers’ phones after pulling them over. State legislatures in New York and Tennessee are also considering the technology, but so far Chicago is believed to be the first city to discuss it.

The City Council’s Public Safety Committee discussed the growing issue of distracted driving Thursday. According to experts, distracted driving is blamed for the biggest spike in traffic deaths in 50 years. In some studies, as many as 50 percent of teenagers admit to texting or emailing while driving.

Read the entire story here:  http://wgntv.com/2018/01/11/chicago-debates-giving-cops-textalyzers-to-test-drivers-smartphones/

Cook County will stop prosecuting some traffic offenses

From the Chicago Tribune:

Citing a lack of personnel, the Cook County state’s attorney’s office plans to stop prosecuting certain traffic offenses, a top county official said.

Under a policy expected to take effect later this year, the state’s attorney’s office will not prosecute people accused of driving on licenses that have been suspended or revoked for financial reasons — such as failure to pay child support, tolls or parking tickets.

Instead, individual cities will have the option to prosecute those violations.

“We are in a triage mode, and we can’t continue to do what we were doing 10 years ago with 30 percent less resources,” Eric Sussman, the first assistant state’s attorney, told the Tribune on Wednesday…

In the new policy on traffic cases, Cook County prosecutors will continue to handle cases in which a driver’s license was invalidated because of more serious crimes, such as DUI, fleeing a police officer and reckless homicide.

In addition, the new traffic policy raises the bar for felony charges against people who cause serious car crashes while their licenses were revoked for financial reasons.

Under current law, a driver’s license-related misdemeanor charge can be upgraded to a felony if the driver causes a serious car crash and has one prior conviction for driving on an invalidated license.

Under the new policy, the state’s attorney’s office would upgrade those charges only if the defendant has five or more convictions for driving on a revoked or suspended license, if the license was taken away for money-related reasons.

Utah lowers DUI legal limit to 0.05

Utah is about to become the first state in the nation to lower its DUI “legal limit” to 0.05 BAC, which would put it in line with most other countries and the NTSB’s 2013 recommendation.

The Utah legislature passed the law this week and the Governor is expected to sign it.

Utah has never been an alcohol friendly state, so it is not surprising that it is the first state to pass this type of legislation.  I suspect that other states will follow its lead, but it may take a while. On the other hand,  I do not expect the current Congress to force the states to lower their limit by conditioning receipt of Federal highway funds on doing so (as it did previously to get the states to lower their BAC limits to 0.08 and raise drinking ages to 21).

Going to a 0.05 standard is getting very close to a zero tolerance, “don’t drink and drive” standard, as opposed to our current tolerance for some alcohol consumption so long as the person is not impaired.

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.”

Illinois Court finds that forfeiture of wife’s 35K motorcycle was excessive penalty for hubby’s DUI

In a recent case from the Illinois Appellate Court, Fifth District, in The People ex. rel. Mathew Hartwich v. 2010 Harley Davidson, 2016 Ill. App. (5th) 150035, it was held that Courts must consider whether a forfeiture is an excessive penalty considering the crime committed.

In this case, a married couple drove to a bar.  The motorcycle, a Harley Davidson valued at $35,000, was owned exclusively by the wife.  The wife drove the vehicle to the bar, where she did not drink.  However, her husband, who became intoxicated, insisted on driving home.  He was stopped by police and charged with felony aggravated driving under the influence, because he did not possess a valid driver’s license at the time.  He had only driven 12 blocks to his home.  He had a blood alcohol level of 0.161, twice the legal limit.

The State filed for a vehicle forfeiture.  In Illinois, a vehicle can be forfeited if used in the commission of an aggravated DUI or driving while revoked, and the revocation was based upon a prior DUI conviction.  Vehicles can be forfeited even if the owner was not operating the vehicle, so long as he or she knew of the illegal use of the vehicle and consented to it.

The Court found that the forfeiture in this case was grossly disproportionate to the underlying offense of aggravated DUI.  To support its finding the Court emphasized three factors: 1) that the owner of the vehicle was not the person who committed the offense; 2) the husband only drove 12 or 13 blocks from the bar to their home and 3) the Harley had an estimated value of $35,000