With new year, new law will end the 30 day “hard time” wait for DUI driving permits

As the Chicago Tribune noted over the weekend, as of January 1, 2016, there will no longer be a 30 day “hard time” period before people who are suspended for first time Illinois DUIs can get a driving permit.

The new law ends an anachronism that had kept a 1980’s era law on the books despite recent changes in Illinois drunk driving laws that made the hard time period unnecessary and counter-productive.

In Illinois, first time DUI offenders receive a license suspension if they either fail or refuse a breath, blood or urine test.  The suspension is six months for failing the test and twelve months for refusing.

This suspension law has been around in one form or another since the 1980s. The idea was to get drunk drivers off the road without having to wait for their DUI case to be resolved.

Since 2009, these first offenders have been eligible for a Monitored Device Driving Permit (“MDDP”) which allows the person to drive their car 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so long as their vehicle is equipped with a breath alcohol ignition interlock device (“BAIID”).

However, as a holdover to the old law, there was still a 30 day “hard time” rule, which was designed to keep drunk drivers off the road.  Since now there is a BAIID requirement, there is enough of a safeguard that the person won’t drive drunk, so there was no longer any need for the wait.  In light of that, Congress removed the 30 day hard time provision that was a condition of Federal Highway appropriations back in 2012, with the blessing of MADD.

It took Illinois another three years to act on this and remove the 30 day wait time.

You may ask, “why should we do anything that helps drunk drivers?”

And here are the reasons:

  • They can’t drive drunk with a BAIID installed on their car.
  • If they do somehow drive drunk (or stoned), they will be charged with felony and face one to three years in prison, if not more depending on his or her background.
  • This will discourage people from driving while suspended during that 30 day time period, as well as skipping out on the BAIID restricted permit altogether since it wasn’t helping them during the hard time period.
  • It will also give prosecutors more reason not to agree to rescissions of the license suspension for people who have a hardship with the 30 day hard time provision (although it is still a useful tool for prosecutors as a carrot to dangle to encourage guilty pleas).

 

30 day hard time rule coming to an end?

Since 1986, Illinois has had an “implied consent” or “statutory summary suspension” for motorists who are arrested for DUI and either refuse or fail breath, blood or urine tests.  As part of this law, Illinois has allowed “first offenders” to receive a driving permit during their suspension.  However, these permits could not begin until 31rst day after the suspension began.   This 30 day period is called “hard time” and it was mandated by the Federal government through a highway funds bill.

The purpose of the 30 day “hard time” was to get intoxicated motorists off the road for at least some period of time, before allowing them to get back on the roadways with a limited use permit.  For years, Illinois only allowed Judicial Driving Permits to be issued, after a judge agreed after a hearing in which the judge reviewed the motorist’s alcohol and drug use evaluation, heard about the (alleged) facts of the case and the defendant’s driving history, and then they could only be issued for limited purposes such as for work or school.

A sea change occurred a few years ago, when Illinois scrapped the “Judicial Driving Permit” and replaced it with a “Monitored Device Driving Permit” (“MDDP”).  As it currently works, a first offender is automatically enrolled to get a MDDP and must choose to opt out.  The MDDP allows driving, after the 30 day hard time period, for any purpose, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so long as the person has a breath ignition interlock device (“BAIID”) installed on his vehicle (however, there is a limited “work vehicle exception to allow someone to drive a work vehicle without a BAIID).  At the time, Illinois was one of the first states to make this switch, requiring interlocks for first offenders.

Since this law was introduced, it puzzled me as to why the 30 day hard time remained in place.  Once the BAIID is installed, a person can only drive legally if he or she has a BAC of under 0.025.  The BAIID ensures that if the person is going to drive, he or she will do so sober.  So why not let that person drive immediately?  Giving that person a permit right away would encourage people to get the MDDP with the breath interlock, instead of making them wait 30 days, a timeframe where a person might feel the need to drive illegally, just to keep their job or get their children to school.

The problem in scrapping the hard time requirement was that the State would lose Federal money under the transportation bill unless the 30 day rule remained on the books.

So this has been a point of frustration for me (one of many, when it comes to our DUI laws).

But now it looks like things may change.

Since Illinois adopted the new law requiring BAIIDs for first offenders, other states have jumped on the bandwagon, and ignition interlocks for first time offenders are increasingly becoming standard.  A new Federal transportation bill, pushed by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) provides money to states that adopt breath interlocks for states, and, as part of the bill, removes the requirement that states have mandatory 30 day hard time.

According to my contacts at the Secretary of State and the Illinois Bar Association, our legislature is looking into scrapping the 30 day hard time rule. Local state’s attorneys and police departments have been contacted for feedback, and apparently everyone is on board with removing this outdated rule.  So all that is needed is our representatives to pass the legislation.  Hopefully, they will see the benefits to this law and feel that with the approval of MADD, prosecutors and police departments, they have the political cover to support this common-sense change.