And far more importantly to everyone else around them, holding them accountable to our laws has also been nigh unto impossible.
What do I mean?
Hold that thought a moment. For now, we must mention some very big news here in Illinois. Trust me, it all fits in. Illinois has just passed a law that goes into effect later in 2013 which will provide the opportunity for undocumented or illegal immigrants to obtain valid driving privileges in Illinois. This is going to have a significant effect, in some very interesting ways. Regarding Illinois DUI law, an arrest for DUI while unlicensed is a felony. Not because the driver did something particularly nefarious or had greater criminal intent (no one seems to care about intent when it comes to DUI, do they?) but simply because the driver, for whatever reason, does not have the State's imprimatur via a piece of plastic saying they can drive. Whether a person just never bothered to get a license (yes, we've seen that over here in our law office, recently in fact) or because they were legally unable to obtain a license, it is a crime to drive without a driver's license.
Now there are different reasons one might not be able to obtain a license. If your name is Dick Whitman, but you're posing as Don Draper, that might've worked in 1962, but nowadays, that's a tough sell. Maybe your license was taken away for a good reason by the State. Or, maybe there just was no way you could legally get one.
Rather than seeking out friends of a certain former Governor and Secretary of State of Illinois for help, you can now direct undocumented friends and family to an actual, honest to goodness legal way to get a license.
And it's good for all of us I say, no matter your political persuasion, that we'll have these "Temporary Visitor's Licenses".
- A valid driver's license creates a vested interest in keeping that license valid. Think about this - aside from safety, what stops you from speeding? You want to keep that license, right? Yes you do, and so will "they".
- Getting a valid driver's license is going to require familiarity with the rules of the road, just like every other licensed driver.
- Vision tests. That's right, you can be undocumented or illegal. Just not blind, okay?
- Included in those rules of the road is a requirement that we all maintain valid liability insurance.
- Valid liability insurance means if we get into an accident, those we get into an accident with are not left on the roadside with empty hands (I really wanted to get more colorful there, but my kids might read this blog, you know?).
- A valid driver's license has an address and identifying information on it, and this kind will be electronically tied to facial recognition software to prevent fraud. Know what that means? Accountability - "they" can be sued and more importantly, served. And if necessary, more easily tracked down by police if laws are violated.
- Insurance companies are going to be very happy about those premiums, aren't they?
- Greater accountability can only lead to one of those things we all want in our society in general - more stability and greater responsibility.
- These silly (yes, silly I say) enhancements of DUI offenses to felony status simply because someone finds themselves in an impossible situation ends.
Does it feel sort of like rewarding bad judgement or poor behavior or simply a sop to a sad story? Yes. It does a bit. That said, there's a lot to like about this one, espescially if we want a way to make "them" just as accountable to the law and to their neighbors as all the rest of "us".
And then "they" are actually in many important ways, a great deal more "us", aren't they?
Yes, driving is a privilege. But a driver's license is a government document which creates a government record. It's an albatross around all our necks - a yoke we all willingly wear for the benefit of our community.
I welcome your comments.