Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A change is in the wind . . . er, breath.

Illinois law regarding permits for those suspended based on an accusation of DUI has undergone it's first overhaul since inception in 2009. Illinois Governor Pat Quinn today signed Public Act 96-1526 into law.

Until now, a motorist facing DUI charges in Illinois courts was able to apply to the Court for an MDDP, or Monitoring Device Driving Permit. This MDDP enables motorists suspended for either 6 months (if they submitted to chemical testing such as a breath test) or 12 months (if they refused breath, blood or urine testing) to drive for all but the first month with one significant restriction - that of a BAIID installed in their vehicle. BAIID is alphabet soup for a Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device, and the idea is that the motorist provide a breath sample by blowing into the BAIID, which, assuming no significant amount of alcohol is detected, would allow the vehicle to start.

Illinois law specifies (as it has for over decades in a comparable scheme previously employed called a JDP) that only first offenders as defined by suspension law qualify for the permit. Based on that statute, as well as case law addressing the issue clearly, for purposes of DUI-based suspensions of the sort we're talking about here, a first offender basically means someone who has not had a DUI within the previous 5 years.

The problem was simple - a small group of Judges did not want the responsibility of being the gatekeepers issuing these DUI permits for those motorists who had any kind of DUI history, no matter when, no matter what the law said. If a motorist ever had a DUI, they refused to agree that the application was accepted. Some went further and refused to issue the MDDP for certain types of cases, higher breath tests for example. Never mind that the BAIID would prevent those motorists from driving with any significant amount of alcohol at all, they simply didn't want their names on those MDDP permit applications anywhere.

The solution required by these very few Judges was PA 96-1526. This law eliminates the Judge from the screening process, and requires the motorist to deal with the Secretary of State directly. There is an argument that having one more gatekeeper in the process was a desirable thing, so whether this is a good idea for Illinois DUI law remains to be seen.

It should be noted that these restrictions on a person's freedoms occur without any determination of guilt whatsoever. Before doing anything, anyone merely accused of committing the offense of DUI in Illinois should consult an experienced Illinois DUI lawyer, and that includes consulting an attorney before applying for an MDDP and addressing a summary suspension.

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