Interlock Devices Now Equipped with Cameras in Illinois

CC image ignition_interlock by VCU CNS and US DoT on FlickrLaw enforcement officials have taken another step in the fight against drunk driving by adding mandatory cameras on all Blood-Alcohol Ignition Interlock Devices (BAIID), which are required for any offender convicted of a DUI.

Although some people might frown upon the idea that “Big Brother” is watching you while you drive, of the 11,000 motorists in Illinois who have a BAIID in their vehicle, more than 3,000 are caught each year trying to drive after they’ve had too much to drink. When asked to explain why they got behind the wheel with an elevated BAC, many claim that a friend or family member was actually driving the car. The addition of mandatory cameras will take the guesswork out of determining who was driving.

“We get an inordinate amount of people telling us it wasn’t them (blowing into the Breathalyzer),” said Susan McKinney, administer of the state’s program. “They say it was anybody but me. Now, the technology will allow us not to have to make a judgment call.”

How it Works

Motorists who are required to use a BAIID will not notice much of a change to the new system. They’ll continue to be required to blow into the machine when starting the car and three times per hour while driving, but the device will snap a picture each time a person blows.

If a person registers a 0.05 or above, the device will send the reading to the Illinois secretary of state for review. The secretary’s office will then send a letter to the motorist, asking for more information about the situation in order to determine if a violation occurred.

Some people believe the mandatory cameras are a privacy infringement, but others, like Susan McKeigue, Illinois Executive Director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, believe you lose some privacy rights when you’re convicted of a DUI.

“Driving is a privilege,” said McKeigue. “ It’s not a right, and if you have abused your privilege by being arrested, tried and convicted of drunk driving, then the right to privacy argument is babble.”

The End of Social Drinking

Privacy concerns aside, most will agree that installing cameras onto BAIIDs will help deter drivers from getting behind the wheel when they’ve had too many. Reducing traffic fatalities is a goal everyone can work towards, but some feel the device could negatively impact responsible social drinkers.

Because the device sends information to the Secretary of State if a person blows above a 0.05, a person could be reprimanded even if they weren’t legally drunk. In addition, the NTSB has already recommended the legal limit be dropped from 0.08 to 0.05, which means a person could be over the limit with just one or two drinks.

People on both sides of the fence are trying to figure out a reasonable solution; some say information should only be sent if a person registers over a 0.08, while others say the legal limit should be 0.05 across the board. Sarah Longwell, managing director for the American Beverage Institute, said lowering the legal limit could bring an end to social drinking.

“It decimates the restaurant and hospitality industry,” said Longwell. “A wiser approach would be to extend greatly the length of time a motorist arrested for drunken driving must operate his or her vehicle with an ignition interlock device.”

Longwell concluded by saying responsible drinkers could be hurt most if the legal limit was dropped.

“Then it’s moved from an anti-drunken-driving mentality to an anti-drinking agenda.”

Attorney Brett Appelman comments

These in-car breathalyzers were first mandated in Illinois in 2009, and the technology of alcohol detection is advancing very quickly. With the addition of a camera, the hope of the Secretary of State and MAAD is that less people will be tempted to try to fool the breath device.

If you have been arrested for a DUI, you must have one of these devices installed in your vehicle in order to legally drive. Up until now there was no way for the device to determine who was blowing into the device; the driver, or someone else. While the penalties for attempting to fool the device are severe (felony charges for both the driver and whoever blew into the device on their behalf), prosecutions are extremely rare.

The cameras will take the guesswork out of the process of deciding if the driver was trying to fool the device or not. Aside from losing their permit to drive with the device, the driver, and their friend, will now more likely face criminal charges. The hope is that with these severe penalties in place, there will be less attempts to fool the device, and therefore less intoxicated drivers on the road.

On the other side, the privacy concerns are a legitimate complaint. No one wants the government constantly filming their actions, or listening in on their conversations. Are these cameras just the beginning of a slippery slope that ends with cameras in ALL cars, regardless of the owner’s criminal history? Will the customers even be told that there are cameras in the cars? There is a very valid argument to be made that cameras will infringe on people’s constitutional protections against unlawful searches.

In the case of these cameras, the privacy argument will likely lose out to the safety argument. These cameras should, in theory, reduce the likelihood of drunken driving by people with the devices in their cars. Since driving is a privilege, not a right, the State can realistically demand that if you have a prior DUI, and you want to drive, then you must install a breath device and a camera in your car.

Related source: Chicago Tribune

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DUIs Down, Speeding Citations Up During 4th of July Weekend

CC image Wikipedia.orgThe Illinois State Police Department said DUI citations were down over the 4th of July weekend, but speeding citations were up from 2012.

The DUI numbers are encouraging, especially since recent data revealed the 4th of July is statistically one of the most deadly holidays for alcohol-related fatalities. According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the five most deadly holiday weekends for alcohol-related crashes are:

  • Independence Day
  • Labor Day
  • Memorial Day
  • New Year’s Eve
  • Thanksgiving

The Illinois State Police said they responded to 14 crashes during the holiday weekend, which was up five from last year, but only one accident involved an impaired driver.

Speeding Citations Rise

Everyone knows traffic in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs can be a pain, especially during weekends of heavy travel. When you finally get an open strip of road, it can be tough to resist the urge to hit the gas.

Sometimes a State Trooper like Dustin Pierce will give you the benefit of the doubt if you’re a couple miles over the speed limit, but an officer isn’t going to be as lenient if you’re speeding a construction zone, which is one of the main reasons Pierce believes so many people were cited for speeding last weekend.

“You know, it is a big project,” said Pierce. “It’s going to be going on for a long time. We’re having a lot of problems with people speeding through there. We’re putting a lot of troopers in that construction zone to help cut down on the problems.”

Pierce added that officers will be ramping up patrols in construction zones along Interstate 74, so use caution if you’ll be traveling on I-74 in the near future. If you mind the posted speed limits, you won’t need to use our five tips to get out of a speeding ticket.

Related sources: WMBD/WYZZ-TV, CBS 31

Feds Seeking to Lower Legal Driving Limit to .05

DUIThe National Transportation Safety Board has issued a recommendation that the legal BAC for drivers should be lowered from .08 percent to .05 percent.

Not surprisingly, the move is being met with skepticism across the national, especially in Illinois.

“I believe it works, and it’s been proven for several years now. We should keep that in place,” said Illinois state Representative Mike Smiddy. “Where I live, we don’t have public transportation. So, yeah, it would be a major issue.”

In defending their claim to lower the legal driving limit, the NTSB cited over 100 countries that have adopted the .05 legal limit.  They also said numerous European countries have seen a reduction in traffic fatalities within ten years of lowering the legal limit to .05 percent.

“Our goal is to get to zero deaths because each alcohol-impaired death is preventable,” said National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman said. “Alcohol-impaired deaths are not accidents, they are crimes. They can and should be prevented. The tools exist. What is needed is the will.”

While the NTSB hopes officials at the state level will take the recommendation seriously, the change would have the potential to greatly impact social norms.  Some people may refrain from consuming alcohol while out at dinner or at sporting events, because studies have shown some people can surpass the .05 level after only one drink.

The legal limit isn’t likely to change in the immediate future, but if federal subsidies are tied to lowering the legal limit, (like they were the last time the legal limit was dropped) some state mays decide to acquiesce to the NTSB’s request.

Related source:  NWI.com, Fox News

Chicago Limo Driver Charged With DUI While Driving Teens to Prom

CC image Wikipedia.orgA Chicago limousine driver who was over the legal limit was arrested for DUI earlier this week when he drunkenly shuttled more than 20 area teenagers to their prom.

Richard L. Madison, 54, was charged with driving under the influence and reckless driving after students reported that he was driving erratically while chauffeuring the students to prom.

According to the police report, Madison allegedly backed into a ditch and slammed on the brakes numerous times during the ride.  Kelly Dano, who was aboard the limo, said Madison’s driving put everyone in danger.

“”He hopped over a median and cut off 3 cars and then…he took us to the wrong hotel, he took us to the Hyatt hotel instead of Abbington Place so we had 5 more miles to go,” said Dano.

Some fearful students even called their parents during the ride to inform them of Madison’s behavior.  Students later alerted two off-duty police officers about Madison’s driving once they arrived at Abbington Place.

Madison eventually submitted to a Breathalyzer test.  He blew a 0.22, nearly three times the legal limit of 0.08 percent.

Madison claimed mechanical issues caused the ride to seem erratic.

“I’m not guilty, but it is what it is,” said Madison. “The bus needs wheel alignment and that’s why it was moving the way it did.”

A spokesperson for the limousine company said a full inspection was ordered, and no mechanical issues were revealed.  The company fired Madison earlier this week.

Brett Appelman comments

A limo, taxi, bus or truck is considered a “Commercial Vehicle” in the state of Illinois. To be licensed to drive a commercial vehicle in Illinois, you must test for and receive a Commercial Driver’s License, commonly referred to as a “CDL”.  The standards of driving while licensed with a CDL are much more stringent than with a regular license.  A DUI will get your CDL revoked, and make it very difficult to ever get it back in the future.

Aside from the licensing issues, this driver is facing an Aggravated DUI charge.  Aggravated means that there were special circumstances that make the charges worse; they carry heavier penalties.  Committing a DUI with children in the vehicle is an automatic aggravator.  If any of the prom-goers were 16 or under, this driver is facing mandatory jail time and community service, on top of the usual DUI penalties, such as fines, and alcohol treatment.

He immediately lost his job, and likely will lose his CDL if he is convicted on the DUI charges.  He needs to find a lawyer that is experienced in DUI defense, and with CDL issues, to try to save his livelihood.

Illinois Woman Charged With DUI While Celebrating the Reinstatement of her License from Previous DUI Conviction

CC image Wikipedia.org58-year old Erin James had a little too much fun on Friday when she was out celebrating the reinstatement of her driver’s license, which had been revoked because of a previous drunk driving conviction.  James had a few too many alcoholic beverages, and then decided to get behind the wheel and drive home.

Unfortunately for James, she pressed the pedal to the metal during her drive, and authorities stopped her for speeding.  James consented to a breathalyzer where she blew a .155, nearly twice the legal limit in Illinois.  She was ultimately booked on DUI charges.

In addition to the DUI charge, James was cited for failing to equip her vehicle with a breath alcohol Ignition Interlock Device.  James was required by law to install an IID under the conditions of her initial DUI conviction.

“The fact that she was driving a vehicle not equipped with a BAIID shows that she had every intent of drinking and getting behind the wheel,” Riverside Police Chief Tom Weitzel said in statement.

James originally had her license suspended in 2012 after an arrest for drunk driving in North Riverside.  When she was pulled over Friday, she told the officer on the scene she was out celebrating the imminent return of her license.

Odds are James will need to wait a lot longer until her license is reinstated this time around.

Defense Attorney Miriam Szatrowzski comments

Sadly, many people who get DUIs have serious alcohol problems, and the mandatory treatment for the first DUI is not enough to overcome them. Others just don’t make very good decisions.

Either way, since this is her second DUI, she will face more serious penalties, both in the criminal court and with her driver’s license. In the criminal case, she will not be eligible for supervision, so if found guilty she will get a conviction on her record. If this happens, she will probably get probation, but many judges will also give people jail time for second offenses. She is also facing a mandatory minimum of five days in jail or 240 hours of community service because it is a second DUI. She is lucky that she only blew a .155 and not a .16, because blowing twice the limit adds in extra penalties. In this case, it would add a mandatory two days in jail and $1,250 in fines. As for her driver’s license, if she is convicted, her license will be revoked for a minimum of one year, and she will have to get treatment and have a hearing in order to get her driving privileges restored.

Hopefully, she will never do this a third time, or she will be charged with a felony and may end up with a prison sentence.

Related source: Chicago Tribune

St. Patrick’s Day Means More DUI Patrols in Kane County

If you plan on celebrating St. Patrick’s Day this weekend, you might want to think twice about driving if you’ve had a few beers.

The Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office has announced that they will once again be conducting a “no-refusal system” for suspected drunk drivers this holiday weekend.

Kane County is no stranger to the no-refusal system, as law enforcement officials conducted a similar operation over Thanksgiving last year.  Authorities did not specify which municipalities would take part in the operation.

The no refusal system is basically an expedited DUI procedure that allows officers to have direct contact with a judge that can issue a warrant at any hour of the day.  This ensures that suspected drunk drivers are required to submit to a blood or breath test.  Officers like this approach because most suspects consent to the test when they are told that a judge is standing by to issue a warrant, which in turn saves the officer time.

Joe McMahon, the State’s Attorney for Kane County, said he hopes the announcement will encourage citizens to make wise decisions this weekend.  He also said the program shows that the county is serious about cracking down on drunk driving.

“This office has a responsibility to prosecute DUI offenders, and to educate the public not to drive when they drink,” said McMahon “As has been our practice, I will not say which municipalities will participate. I only will announce when we will have the no-refusal operation.”

This weekend will mark the 12th time that Kane County has implemented the no refusal system.  105 drivers have been charged with DUI over the previous 11 operations.

The Kane County State’s Attorney’s felt that St. Patrick’s Day weekend was a good time to renew the program.  The county conducted the program on the same holiday weekend in 2012, and charged 22 people with driving under the influence.

Brett Appelman comments

Normally, a driver who is arrested for a DUI can refuse to take any and all sobriety tests – the “Field Sobriety Tests” which include standing on one leg, walking a straight line, and a vision test, as well as the two different breathalyzer tests, the PBT at the car and the official breathalyzer at the police station.

Illinois law allows a driver to refuse these tests with no criminal repercussions.  The only real consequence of refusing is that your driver’s license will be suspended for a longer period of time than if you had done the tests.

We normally counsel our clients to refuse all tests.  It is far better to have your license suspended for a longer period than to give the prosecutor direct evidence that you were driving under the influence of alcohol.

These no-refusal weekends force drivers to consent to the tests, or wait to see if the judge on call will grant a warrant to take their blood.  A driver can still refuse to do the breathalyzer test, but the warrant will allow the police to forcefully take blood from the driver.  This can result in the license consequences for refusing the tests, along with the police obtaining the DUI evidence anyway.

Related source:  Huntley Patch

Tipsy Driver Hits Chicago Cop Car

A 47-year old Chicago man literally drove himself into trouble on Saturday when he drunkenly crashed his car into the back of an unmarked police car.

Christopher Slotwinski injured two police officers when he crashed into their squad car at about 8:40 p.m. in the Marquette Park neighborhood.  All three people involved in the incident were taken to the hospital for treatment, but none of the injuries were life threatening.

Slotwinski faces a slew of charges including DUI, reckless driving, driving without insurance, driving with a suspended license and driving too fast for conditions.

Attorney Brett Appelman comments

This gentleman is in a good bit of trouble.

A DUI is a Class A Misdemeanor, which means Slotwinski could potentially spend up to one year in jail.  On top of that, there are certain conditions that can “aggravate” the DUI charge.  This means that these certain conditions can raise the DUI charge up to a felony, where the potential jail sentence can be multiple years in prison.

Driving on a suspended license and driving without insurance are both aggravators that allow for the prosecutor to raise a DUI charge up to a felony.  The Class A Misdemeanor can become a Class 4 Felony, which allows for a three-year sentence in a state prison.  The charge of reckless driving is a separate Class A Misdemeanor, and driving too fast for conditions is a traffic ticket that is only eligible for a fine of up to $1,000.

The prosecutor will normally go after any and all charges in a case like this.  It is not unusual to see eight or nine charges come out of a single traffic stop.  A common bargaining ploy by the prosecutor is to charge a large number of charges in one case, and then offer to drop some of the smaller charges in return for a guilty plea on the larger charges.  Because of the nature of his case, I expect Mr. Slotwinski will jump at the chance to get some of the smaller charges dropped.

Related source:  ABC Chicago