Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Not enough DUI defendants paying for a BAIID? There's a fix for that . . .

Apparently, far, far fewer defendants than expected opted in to a special permit to drive called an MDDP. Those accused of DUI in Illinois for the first time within the preceding five years have the option to apply for an MDDP or "Monitoring Device Driving Permit" and install a BAIID or "Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device" in their car. The cost of doing so is often prohibitive.

Nevertheless, legislators and BAIID providers were looking for about 40,000 motorists to participate state-wide last year. They got about 6500, and they are not happy.

Some of the problem comes from a strange holdover provision from previous legislation that appeared to serve no purpose other than to add a layer of bureaucracy. The application process as it now stands requires a Judge to approve a DUI defendant's application for an MDDP. This is typically done by asking the exact same questions the motorist would fill out on their application. And the same information the Secretary of State has already at their fingertips. In response to this waste of time and resources, some Judges have far overstepped their admittedly custodial function in this process and actually taken to denying MDDP applications under circumstances the law would otherwise allow. The law as written does not grant the Court any such discretion.

Another issue standing in the way of more MDDP issuance is the fact that those Defendants represented by the office of the Public Defender are not getting a fair shake. The law defining the role of the Public Defender actually prohibits these lawyers from advising their clients on matters relating to their suspension or from representing their clients in regards to any matter regarding their suspension before the Court. Essentially, the Public Defender must stand there and not help their client. Not surprisingly, many indigent defendants who might otherwise request an MDDP don't even really understand the option.

A recent bill introduced in the State Senate, SB3775, seeks to address these impediments by trimming the added layer of the Court and streamlining the process. The idea is that once the Secretary of State confirms a suspension will begin, they'll send the MDDP application along to the motorist, who can then fill out and return the application directly to the Secretary of State.

Sounds great, right?

Apparently not to BAIID manufacturers. They've come to Springfield with their own ideas, proposing that motorists who opt out of the MDDP program pay a higher reinstatement fee than those who opt in. Illinois' legislators should be bright enough to see this strongarm tactic for what it is, and also that such a change to the law would not withstand scrutiny in light of the Equal Protection clause of the Constitution.