Cagle Law Firm
Attorney Zane Cagle

Posted on December 20th, 2014,
by Zane Cagle

Do We Need Tougher DUI Enforcement in Illinois?

Posted on December 20th, 2014 by Zane Cagle

drunk drivingIn a recent article,  the Chicago Tribune examined the Illinois’ tough DUI statutes and an analysis of the high number of plea deals in a particular Chicago suburb.

According to tough Illinois’ DUI statutes– If you are arrested for drunken driving, you are almost guaranteed to lose your license for a time.

However, a Tribune analysis of data found in the suburbs of Chicago found a plea deal that allows those arrested get around tough laws and remain behind the wheel.  According to the data, in Bloomingdale about half of those arrested in 2011 didn’t miss a day of driving, and an additional one-fourth got the deal in ways that only briefly kept them off the roads.  This is a drastic contrast to laws that proclaim that anyone arrested for drunken driving will not be able to drive for at least a month, typically followed by months of intensive supervision that include a breath-monitoring device in their vehicles.

According to the Tribune, some defense attorneys say the “Tribune’s findings reflect a common-sense response by the courts to an overly harsh law, while advocates for tougher enforcement say the special deals reflect longtime concerns that some towns seem more interested in collecting fines than rehabilitating offenders”.

“I don’t know what can be done, ” said Rita Kreslin, executive director of the Schaumburg-based Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists.” We all know this is moneymaker.”

According to the Tribune, when the Secretary of State Jesse White was informed of the findings, he said he would seek recommendations from his traffic safety advisory panel on how to better enforce the law.

The Tribune Analysis:

The analysis showed the plea-deal does occur across the state of Illinois but the data suggests that in metro Chicago, the drivers of DuPage County are most likely to be offered the deal.  According to data, the “county ground zero” for the deal has been middle-class area in the heart of suburbia: Bloomingdale. The analysis found that the plea deal was cut on a regular basis in Bloomingdale for repeat offenders as well as first time offenders.

DUI Law- Loss of License

The main strength of the DUI law is the automatic loss of license even if the driver is only arrested and not convicted.  To many, the threat of losing a driver’s license provides incentive for many drivers to drive sober.

“I believe a driver’s license is a precious commodity”, said Cathy Stanley, an anti-DUI advocate whose daughter was killed in 2001 by a repeat drunken driver. “If they are not hit right away with a consequence, it’s so old it becomes meaningless, ” added Stanley, who monitors the courts for the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorist. “We all need consequences, and it’s not fines. It’s in losing that driver’s license”.

Critics of the Get-Tough Law

Critics, including many defense attorneys argue that those arrested have a hard time rehabilitating if they lose their license they need to keep their jobs, drive to counseling and pay off fines. They indicate that the get-tough laws are often geared for politicians’ re-elections brochures, not problem solving.  “It became overly harsh, and not everybody fits that cookie-cutter mold”, said longtime Wheaton DUI attorney who said his office has handled over 14,000 DUI cases.

Dodging Suspensions

Unlike any other crime, DUI arrest initiate two tracks of justice with two ways to automatically lose a driver’s license.

If a driver tests over the legal alcohol limit or refuses testing, he or she can have his/her license suspended by the secretary of state. This “statutory summary suspension” is supposed to occur 46 days after an arrest, regardless of what is going on in the criminal case.  Separately, if the criminal case ends with a DUI conviction, that also initiates a license revocation. This revocation requires more effort for the driver to undo.

The suspension and the revocation are supposed to work together to keep drivers off the road for at least a month and then let them resume driving privileges with restrictions before having their license back in full.

But, there are ways to avoid suspension and stay on the road. For the statutory suspension, the defendant can ask a judge to void the suspension but has to prove at a hearing that police somehow mishandled the arrest such as police lacking good reason to stop the driver or not offering the chance to take a test to prove sobriety.  The prosecutor usually tries to show how the arrest was legitimate but then it is up to the judge.  “But when the plea deal is cut, the prosecutor, in essence, lets the driver win the suspension hearing and keep his or her license. The law offers a limited number of ways that can happen–a plea deal is not one of them. And yet the Tribune found that on many court forms someone justified letting the driver win by scribbling some version of the phrase ‘plea deal'”.

If You’ve Been Injured in a DUI Car Crash

As a personal injury attorney and fellow driver, I applaud efforts to keep drunk drivers off of the roadways. I support consequences that reduce the number of drunk drivers because of the dangerous circumstances they create. I don’t believe we need to do away with the plea-deal as applying one rule/law to all situations can be unfair. But, is the plea deal being over-used? The article points out the discrepancies in various communities around the state.

The continued high numbers of drunk drivers is a somewhat complicated problem, though it often has very clear- life/death consequences. Almost every one of us has been  impacted by drunk driving.  It is tragic because it is avoidable. If you have been the victim of alcohol related car crash, you have a right to compensation. The DUI criminal process is one of consequences for the driver convicted of driving under the influence but generally, has very little to do with compensation for the injured.  If you are injured in a car crash where a driver was drinking, you will need a personal injury attorney to pursue a third party claim/suit on your behalf in order receive the compensation that you deserve.  At The Cagle Law Firm, we offer consultations free of charge seven days a week. Call locally (314) 276-1681 or toll free (314) 276-1681.
Mahr, J & Gregory, T. DUI plea deals sidestep mandatory license loss. Chicago Tribune 9/6/14

DUI arrests don’t always lead to loss of license (data) Graphics  9/4/14