Modifications to DUI License Suspensions Proposed
At a recent hearing of a state traffic safety task force, the Illinois State Bar Association proposed doing away with “hard time” license suspensions for drivers arrested for driving under the influence. The bar association instead pushed for the installation of ignition interlock devices, which test for alcohol on a driver’s breath, in offenders’ cars in place of the mandatory license suspension.
Currently, Illinois law provides for mandatory suspension periods for those convicted of DUIs. For a first offense, a driver who tests at over the legal limit will have his or her license suspended for six months. If a driver refuses chemical testing, a first offense will result in license suspension for 12 months.
If a driver’s license is suspended, the driver is absolutely prohibited from driving for a minimum of 30 days. After that first month is up, drivers may register to use an ignition interlock device (IID). Thereafter, the driver may drive as long as he or she operates only the vehicle with the IID installed.
An IID is a device installed in offenders’ cars that ensures sober driving. To operate a vehicle with an IID installed, the driver must blow into the device before the car will start. However, IIDs cannot prevent driving under the influence of drugs other than alcohol.
Secretary of State Jesse White called the task force hearing because it has come to light that prosecutors have been making plea deals with drunk driving offenders. Some DuPage County suburbs frequently made plea deals in which they let drunk driving defendants out of the license suspension requirement, often in exchange for paying large fines.
License suspensions can be devastating to drunk driving offenders, as a suspension inhibits drivers’ ability to commute to work or transport their children. However, such plea deals do not involve an IID use requirement and allow drunk drivers back on the roads immediately, which presents a risk for traffic safety. Under current law, the only justification for doing away with license suspension is if the DUI arrest was conducted improperly.
The bar association’s proposal would eliminate the license suspensions that keep drivers off the roads for at least 30 days in favor of the installation of IIDs, which would allow offenders to keep driving as long as they were not intoxicated. The proposal is aimed at stopping plea deals by eliminating the reason for them. Offenders are desperate to drive legally, so they accept the plea deals, which can include hefty fines. Substituting IIDs for suspensions would allow them to drive legally, which would cut down on both plea deals and on driving on suspended licenses.
The bar association’s plan would benefit both first time offenders and repeat offenders, who can be prohibited from driving for one to three years. It would also apply to those convicted of DUIs whose licenses have been revoked for other reasons.
Support for Change
Groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists support the Illinois State Bar Association in their proposal. Previously, DUI activist groups preferred “hard time” suspensions because suspension was often the only severe penalty for drunk drivers. However, too many offenders ignore the suspensions and drive anyway. Additionally, other states that have done away with suspending licenses have had drunk driving incidents drop at faster rates than has Illinois.
Groups differ on what exactly the standard should be. Some would like to keep geographical limits on driving that are currently in place for IID users. Others would prefer that there be no limits on driving, as long as the IID is used.
A conviction for driving under the influence can have serious consequences, from a suspended license to fines to jail time. If you have been arrested for or charged with a DUI, please contact the skilled Naperville criminal defense attorneys at Law Office of Glenn M. Sowa, LLC for an initial consultation.