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?

 

Arrest of college football star demonstrates that you can get a DUI even when not driving

People are often surprised to discover that you can get charged with a DUI even if you are not driving.  A good example was recently demonstrated by the arrest of Alabama star defensive lineman Da’Shawn Hand, who was found by police sleeping in his vehicle.

From the Sporting News:

Alabama defensive lineman Da’Shawn Hand was reportedly not driving his vehicle at the time of his DUI arrest on Saturday, according to a report from The Tuscaloosa News. He was asleep behind the wheel in his car, which was parked.

The Tuscaloosa News reports that the officer who arrested Hand found him at 4:30 a.m. in a parking lot near campus. Hand was sitting in the driver’s seat with the car’s headlights turned on and his vehicle cranked. The fact that his keys were in the ignition is what prompted his arrest.

In Illinois, the DUI statute (625 ILCS 5/11-501) states that “A person shall not drive or be in actual physical control of any vehicle within this State while…”  [under the influence of alcohol, drugs, etc.].

The Illinois Pattern Jury Instruction (I.P.I. 23.43) explaining “actual physical control” states as follows:  “The phrase “actual physical control” means that the defendant was in the vehicle and in a position to exercise control over the vehicle by starting the engine and causing the vehicle to move.”  Actual movement, or even having the ignition turned on, are not required; just the ability to do so.

This means that if you get into your car while intoxicated, but decide that instead of driving home that you will just stay put and try to sleep it off, you are in danger of being arrested for a DUI.

I have never agreed with this law.  What do you think?

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.

Amended version of new DUI law now online

The latest version of the proposed rewrite of the Illinois DUI statutes are now online and can be read here.

I see that it now fixes one obvious mistake — whereas first offenders who failed a breath, blood or urine test, and second offenders who either did that or refused a test could get their summary suspension periods reduced by complying with the Ignition Interlock Permit (“IIP”) program, repeat offenders who failed a test inexplicably could not.  Now, they too will be able to reduce the period of their suspension, from 18 months to 12, so long as they sign up for the IIP within 30 days of their suspension and are otherwise in full compliance.

They are keeping the part that requires everyone who receives a summary suspension to present proof of an alcohol evaluation and treatment before reinstatement, even if they are found not guilty of the underlying DUI offense.

The proposed law also changes the definition of “first offender” for summary suspensions.  Currently, a motorist is classified as a first offender under the suspension law if they have not had a DUI or similar offense in the past 5 years (note:  this only applies to summary suspensions, not DUIs). Under the bill, the “five year” rule would be eliminated and only actual first offenders would be classified as such.