Lake County IL introduces new pilot program to help people clear their suspended licenses

Lake County Celebrates Road to Reinstatement Pilot Program Milestone

Lake County Board members, along with other elected officials, and the public gathered this morning to celebrate a milestone in the County’s innovative Road to Reinstatement Driver’s License Pilot Program.

The program is the culmination of a concerted effort led by Vice-Chair Mary Ross-Cunningham on behalf of the Lake County Board to address at the local level an issue that is experienced by many low-income individuals nationwide: the loss of their driver’s license because of an inability to pay outstanding fees and fines.

Nationally, approximately 40 percent of individuals who lose their driver’s license do so for reasons unrelated to improper driving. Losing a license has consequences beyond not being able to drive. It can impede an individual’s ability to commute to a job and earn a living to support themselves and their families.

To combat this issue, the Lake County Board, with support of other partners, initiated the Road to Reinstatement Driver’s License Pilot Program in 2019. The program provides qualified individuals with a process to request a reduction in their outstanding fees and fines.

“We know that many individuals in our communities face a barrier to employment due to their inability to pay fees and fines that they have accumulated,” said Lake County Board Vice-Chair Mary Ross-Cunningham. “We are proud to be the first county in the state to implement a program that is necessary for our communities.”

Lake County introduced the pilot program in February, when individuals throughout Lake County participated in a driver’s education session, where they also received resources and information related to employment and training.

In March, participants completed applications and met with volunteer attorneys from the Lake County Bar Association throughout the summer to determine their eligibility.

“We recognize that it is fundamentally inconsistent with the ends of justice for citizens of this county to lose their driving privileges solely because they cannot afford to pay outstanding fines and court costs on minor traffic violations,” said Donald J. Morrison, one of the volunteer attorneys who worked with the program. “The Lake County Bar Association has been proud to offer the volunteer services of its members to support this vital driver’s license reinstatement program to help insure equal access to driver’s license privileges for all citizens of Lake County.”

The milestone celebrated today was the court call, where approximately 20 participants who successfully completed the application process were able to request a reduction in their outstanding fees and fines, which when paid, would allow them to renew or reinstate their license.

About 80 applications were initially received for the program. Individuals were not eligible if they had traffic offenses such as DUI citations or felony charges, were habitual offenders, had their license suspended because of a child support issue, or had citations issued outside of Lake County.

“Many households nationwide are impacted by the cycle of debt created by compounding fees and fines,” said Lake County Board Chair Sandy Hart. “I am proud of the work of Vice-Chair Cunningham and the County Board, our staff, and our many dedicated partners who worked tirelessly to make the Road to Reinstatement Pilot program a reality.”

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.

A recap of the new laws effecting DUI license revocations

Click here to get a post on my official website to read a full recap of the two new pieces of major legislation signed into law by Governor Rauner effecting DUI revocations.

http://www.illinoisduilawyer.com/il-dui-lawyer/major-new-changes-to-license-reinstatement-laws-enacted

Gov signs into law bill requiring repeat DUI offenders to spend 5 years with a breath interlock permit before full reinstatement

Governor Rauner has signed into law HB 3533, which makes a major change to Illinois’s driver license reinstatement scheme after a person’s license has been revoked for a second DUI offense.

Under the new law, such a person would not be eligible for full reinstatement for five years.  However, under the new law, he or she would be eligible immediately for a Restricted Driving Permit.

And that permit must have a Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device (BAIID).  So, under the new law, anyone revoked for a second or subsequent DUI will have to drive with a BAIID for five years.

Here is the synopsis of the bill:

Amends the Illinois Vehicle Code. Provides that the Secretary of State shall require the use of ignition interlock devices for a period not less than 5 years on all vehicles owned by a person who has been convicted of a second or subsequent offense of driving under the influence of alcohol, other drugs, intoxicating compounds, or any combination. Provides that a person convicted of a second or subsequent violation of driving under the influence of alcohol, other drugs, intoxicating compounds, or any combination, or where the use of alcohol or other drugs is recited as an element of an offense, may not make application for a driver’s license until he or she has first been issued a restricted driving permit by the Secretary, and the expiration of a continuous period of not less than 5 years following the issuance of the restricted driving permit without suspension, cancellation, or revocation of the permit, or violation of a regulation requiring use of an ignition interlock device.

IL Gov Signs Law Providing Path for Driving Permits for those Revoked for 4 DUI Convictions

Illinois’ sixteen year experiment to get tough on DUI by giving lifetime driver’s license revocations to anyone with four DUI convictions has come to a (partial) end.  Governor Rauner has signed into law a bill which will provide people with four DUI convictions an opportunity to obtain a Restricted Driving Permit.

From the Chicago Tribune (story by Monique Garcia):

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner on Thursday signed a measure into law that would allow drivers with four convictions for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol to receive a restricted permit to drive.

Under state law, those convicted of four DUIs automatically lose their right to a driver’s license. The measure signed by Rauner would let someone who had their license revoked apply for a restricted permit after five years.
An applicant would have to show “clear and convincing evidence” they have not used drugs and alcohol within the prior three years, and prove they completed a rehabilitation program. Those with more than one conviction for driving while under the influence of drugs would not qualify.

If approved for the permit, the driver would have to install a vehicle ignition interlock device, which prevents a car from starting if alcohol is detected on a driver’s breath. If later convicted of driving under the influence, the permit would be permanently revoked.

Sponsoring Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Northbrook, has said she knows the measure is controversial but is needed to help people trying to get their life on track do things like apply for jobs.

Here is the official synopsis of the legislation:

Amends the Illinois Vehicle Code. Provides a person with a revoked driver’s license, who is ineligible for restoration of the license because of certain prior violations including a 4th or subsequent DUI, may apply for a restricted driving permit 5 years after revocation or release from imprisonment, whichever is later. To be eligible for the restricted driving permit the person, must at a minimum, show by clear and convincing evidence at least 3 years of abstinence from alcohol and illegal drugs and successful completion of rehabilitative treatment. Any restricted driving permit issued to such a person must require operation of a vehicle equipped with an ignition interlock device. Provides the person shall not be eligible for a restricted driving permit if convicted of more than one violation of driving under the influence of drugs or an intoxicating compound. If the person issued a restricted driving permit is subsequently convicted of driving under the influence, the permit is revoked and he or she is permanently barred from acquiring a restricted driving permit. Allows a nonresident, who is ineligible for restoration of a license because of certain prior violations, to seek restoration of the license 10 years from the date of revocation. Makes it a Class 4 felony for a person with a restricted driving permit that requires operation of a vehicle with an ignition interlock device to operate a vehicle without one.

Bill requiring breath interlocks for five years for second DUI passes Illinois legislature, sent for Gov’s signature

House Bill 3533 has passed both houses of the Illinois legislature.  It would require that any person whose driver’s license has been revoked for a DUI and seeks either reinstatement or a driving permit would be required to drive with a breath ignition interlock device (BAIID) for five years.

The bill states in part:

The Secretary of State shall require the use of ignition interlock devices for a period not less than 5 years on all vehicles owned by a person who has been convicted of a    second or subsequent offense under Section 11-501 of this Code or a similar provision of a local ordinance.

Bill to change law that requires lifetime license revocation for anyone with 4 DUI convictions passes Illinois House and Senate, awaits Governor’s signature

An important proposed law that would end the lifetime driver’s license revocation for anyone with 4 or more DUI convictions has passed both houses of the Illinois legislature.  If signed by Governor Rauner, the bill will become a law.

I have written about this law before.  Here is a quote from one of my earlier posts:

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?

Here is the synopsis of HB 1446:

Amends the Illinois Vehicle Code. Provides a person with a revoked driver’s license, who is ineligible for restoration of the license because of certain prior violations including a 4th or subsequent DUI, may apply for a restricted driving permit 5 years after revocation or release from imprisonment, whichever is later. To be eligible for the restricted driving permit the person, must at a minimum, show by clear and convincing evidence at least 3 years of abstinence from alcohol and illegal drugs and successful completion of rehabilitative treatment. Any restricted driving permit issued to such a person must require operation of a vehicle equipped with an ignition interlock device. Provides the person shall not be eligible for a restricted driving permit if convicted of more than one violation of driving under the influence of drugs or an intoxicating compound. If the person issued a restricted driving permit is subsequently convicted of driving under the influence, the permit is revoked and he or she is permanently barred from acquiring a restricted driving permit. Allows a nonresident, who is ineligible for restoration of a license because of certain prior violations, to seek restoration of the license 10 years from the date of revocation. Makes it a Class 4 felony for a person with a restricted driving permit that requires operation of a vehicle with an ignition interlock device to operate a vehicle without one.

I will put up a new post when the Governor either signs or vetoes the bill.

Proposed Illinois bill would require 2d offense drunk drivers to have a BAIID for five years

There is a pending bill in the Illinois House (HB 3533) which would require persons who have been granted a driving permit or license reinstatement after having been convicted of a second offense DUI to drive for five years with a BAIID, instead of one year as is currently required.

Here is a link to the bill’s status:

Synopsis As Introduced
Amends the Illinois Vehicle Code. Provides that the Secretary of State shall require the use of ignition interlock devices for a period not less than 5 years on all vehicles owned by a person who has been convicted of a second or subsequent offense of driving under the influence of alcohol, other drugs, intoxicating compounds, or any combination. Provides that a person convicted of a second or subsequent violation of driving under the influence of alcohol, other drugs, intoxicating compounds, or any combination, or where the use of alcohol or other drugs is recited as an element of an offense, may not make application for a driver’s license until he or she has first been issued a restricted driving permit by the Secretary, and the expiration of a continuous period of not less than 5 years following the issuance of the restricted driving permit without suspension, cancellation, or revocation of the permit, or violation of a regulation requiring use of an ignition interlock device.

Is this a good change to the law?  I think it is extreme.  In order to obtain a restricted driving permit or reinstatement after a second DUI, the petitioner must prove that he or she has completed alcohol treatment and is not a danger to the public.  The Secretary of State scrutinizes these cases and do not reinstate as a matter of course.

Five years is a long to time to have to have a BAIID in your vehicle.  They are expensive, and it is embarrassing to have to use one.  Plus, the BAIID is not easily removed (for good reason), so every one in the family who uses that vehicle has to go through the same embarrassment and humiliation as the repeat drunk driver.

For the story behind the bill, here is an article from by Kevin Craver of the Northwest Herald:

Joel Mains got a call last November from the Palatine Police Department that would make any father’s blood boil.

The drunk driver who killed his stepdaughter a decade earlier in a head-on crash was picked up Nov. 15 – yet again – for driving under the influence.

Seventeen-year-old Caitlin Weese was driving back to her Wonder Lake home on May 22, 2003, when James Stitt, then 23, swerved into the oncoming lane on Route 72 near Gilberts and struck her head-on. Weese died two days later, just weeks before her 18th birthday and her graduation from Larkin High School in Elgin. She was to be the maid of honor in her sister’s wedding.

Stitt was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison, was released in 2009 and got his driver’s license back in January 2013, according to records. He had been convicted of DUI twice before he killed Weese, and was driving with a suspended license that night.

Drunk-driving offenders who are eligible to regain driving privileges under Illinois law must have their cars equipped with an ignition interlock device, which will not start a car if the driver blows more than .025. But that device comes off with the end of a driver’s suspension, and even repeat offenders under state law can get it removed after 12 consecutive months of driving without the device ever detecting alcohol.

A law now sailing through the General Assembly will increase the time and the steps that repeat DUI offenders must take to get their driver’s licenses back. And it started when Mains and his family reached out to their state lawmakers – including the one Mains had unsuccessfully tried to unseat in the election weeks prior.

With the initial aggravation, the kids and I talked about it, and we were all pretty upset and wanted to do something,” Mains said.

State Rep. Barbara Wheeler, R-Crystal Lake, wanted to do something as well when she received the email from Mains, who was her Democratic opponent for the 64th House District she has represented since 2012. They worked together to craft House Bill 3533, which is before the Illinois House for a vote.

“Something is severely wrong with the law when somebody who has multiple DUI convictions, and murders someone, is driving [without monitoring] when they have a problem with alcohol,” Wheeler said.

House Bill 3533 prevents a repeat DUI offender from applying to the secretary of state’s office for driver’s license reinstatement until the person has gone for five years on a restricted driving permit – which limits car usage to work, grocery shopping, school and emergencies – without incident. It also increases to five years the amount of time that a repeat DUI offender has to drive with an ignition interlock. Such devices are installed at the driver’s expense, come with monthly monitoring and rental fees, and are regularly checked by state authorities for compliance.

The bill passed the House Transportation: Vehicles and Safety Committee on a 9-0 vote March 18. Mains, a firefighter paramedic with Downers Grove, had a large contingent of his fellow firefighters sitting in the audience in a show of solidarity when he testified on its behalf. Besides being touching, Wheeler said, it made an impression – three of the committee’s members have signed on as co-sponsors of the legislation.

When it passes the House, the bill will go to the Senate, where Mains’ state Senator, Republican Pam Althoff, R-McHenry, will carry it.

“This is a nonpartisan issue. Families of all makeups get affected by the thousands, and people of all types cause this,” Mains said. “We didn’t want this to happen to any other family.”

Weese was the first DUI victim in Illinois honored with a memorial sign from the Illinois Department of Transportation.

Mains and his wife Diane became actively involved in the group Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists, and Joel Mains now sits on its board. Diane, Weese’s biological mother, died in 2006.

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.

A real life example of why lifetime license revocations for four DUIs should be abolished

As I have mentioned before, our state legislators are considering a bill which would allow for restricted driving permits for persons who have four DUI convictions (which is currently a lifetime license revocation).  Today’s Chicago Tribune highlights one of the people that this law may (but may not) help out:

Lawmakers heard a personal plea from Mike Geever, a 52-year-old from Glendale Heights who wants his driving privileges restored so he can do his job as a plumbing parts salesman.

His long record of driving infractions includes five DUI arrests, with four convictions. He lost his license from 1985 to 1995. He lost it again, permanently, in February. Oddly enough, the permanent revocation was tied to his last conviction, which was in 2003.

A nearly decadelong computer glitch at the Kane County circuit court clerk’s office meant 2,345 DUI convictions were not reported to the secretary of state’s office, said Tom Hartwell, the current clerk, who inherited the issue from his predecessor. Most of the backlog was reported to the state last year, Hartwell said.

The secretary of state’s office issued Geever a license in 2007, and he kept the driving privileges until the record mix-up caught up with him a few months ago — about a decade late and after Geever said he already had cleaned up his life.

For Geever, the change in life started with going to church, getting mentored by his pastor and working through the 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous, something he said he still practices each day. He met his wife at a Bible study, and they’ve been married for more than three years. He’s a deacon at Lamplighter Bible Church in Streamwood.

“Now I go to bed at 9 and wake up to go to the gym at 5 a.m.” he said Friday. “I don’t party anymore. I have a family. I have learned from my mistakes.”

While Geever testified in favor of the bill, there’s no guarantee he would qualify to get a license if the measure becomes law. No more than one of the four DUI convictions could be related to drugs, and a state prisons official said Geever was behind bars twice for drug-related DUIs.

(Story by Maura Zurick for the Tribune)

Can I personally guarantee that if Mike Geever gets a driving permit that he won’t get another DUI?  No, I can’t.  And neither can Mike Geever.  Alcoholics and drug addicts are always at risk to relapse.

But I do believe that any person who is able to go 10 years without incident, who has totally changed his life and is working every day with his sponsor to remain abstinent deserves a chance to have a restricted driving permit, requiring him to drive with a breath interlock device, so that he can support his family.

I hope our Illinois legislators listen to people like Mike and vote for this reasonable and compassionate bill.