Thursday, November 27, 2008

Illinois DUI gets a hatchet-job from the press again . . .

The AP reports that some 45,000 drivers have at some point been found guilty of a DUI violation in Illinois.  They make quite a lot of this, and then comes this: that is out of 8.5 million drivers.  One half of a percent.  

One obviously very emotional person quoted said "If you choose to drink and drive, you shouldn't get latitude . . . do you get latitude if you pick up a gun and shoot someone in the head? No, you don't."  Let's separate the truth from the sensationalism.  
  1. It is not illegal to "drink and drive" period.  It is illegal to drink to the point of impairment and drive. 
  2. Latitude? The latitude she's talking about is that some Illinois motorists with a first DUI do not lose their licenses beyond a temporary suspension of three months up to three years. Others lose their licenses for 1, 5 or 10 years based on their history, and then get the opprotunity to prove to the Secretary of State of Illniois that they deserve another chance. Maybe they get that chance, maybe not.
  3. Many of those 45,000 had one Illinois DUI, a single misjudgement, maybe many years past.  
  4. One important reason DUI is problematic is that alcohol in sufficient amounts impairs one's judgement.  Most people driving while under the influence have no intention of doing so - they are merely exhibiting poor judgement.  
  5. Most collisions involving DUI occur at levels of 0.16 or above, double the legal limit.  Many of those which involve motorists are not necessarily caused by the impaired motorist. In 2006 in Illinois, there were 1,254 traffic-related deaths total.  Of those 594 were "alcohol related".  Not caused by an impaired motorist, just "alcohol related," which might include any motorist, at fault or not, who had any detectable amount of alcohol in their system.  
  6. The Secretary of State estimates the average cost of a DUI conviction at $15,000.00. Sound like latitude?
  7. Want less DUI in Illinois? One way is to undo the arbitrary and baseless change from a 0.10 per se DUI law to 0.08.  0.08 simply widens the net by loosening the definition of what a crime.  This change was based on absolutely no scientific data.  One effect is that officers are spread ever more thinly.  While busy arresting people who may not exhibit any significant impairment or be any danger to others on the road for fear their jobs are at risk, Illinois law enforcement officers have less time to spend watching for more serious violators.
The fact is, this kind of sensasionalism does nothing for public safety.  Sane, rational study would be welcome, but phony hack-job publicity is easier.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Attorneys facing DUI in Illinois

Several recent disciplinary actions taken by the Illinois Attorney Registration Disciplinary Commission (ARDC) serve as a poignant reminder to just one of the ways that a DUI arrest can affect those of us who maintain professional licensing.

Illinois Supreme Court Supreme Rule 761(a) requires an attorney admitted to practice in Illinois who is convicted in any court of any felony or misdemeanor to notify the ARDC Administrator of the conviction in writing within thirty days of the entry of the judgment of conviction. In at least one recent case, an Illinois attorney's failure to do so after a DUI arrest in Illinois ultimately resulting in a conviction for Reckless Driving resulted in his disbarment.

While this isn't a typical result of a failure to report, and the attorney's actions in dealing with the ARDC regarding his failure to report certainly contributed to his downfall, most professional regulatory boards have some similar requirement.

Those with any professional licensing facing DUI or other misdemeanor or felony charges in Illinois should take heed.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

One Field Sobriety Test Making a Comeback in Illinois DUI Courts

The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test, or HGN, has had a tough time this year, and rightfully so. In a landmark case, People vs. McKown, the Supreme Court ruled that this mystical test had to be subjected to a rigorous legal analysis known as the Frye standard. The HGN test is used in Illinios as part of a battery of Standardized Field Sobreity tests, and is used by police officers throughout the state of Illinois to develp probable cause to arrest people.
However, the test is very, very limited. In fact, there are more than a hundred distinct causes on gaze nystagmus, and it would be a rare officer indeed who was trained to distinguish when alcohol is the only factor causing the telltale signs they are trained to examine.
After the ruling by the Supreme Court of the State of Illinois, the circuit court below determined that the test meets the standard, but imposed limitations on the general requirements for admissibility in evidence, and for its interpretation under the law. The decision was returned to the Illinois Supreme Court for futher review.
Because of those limitations, make sure your DUI attorney understands the Illinois law and protocols required for even the most limited degree of reliability of the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test.