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New DUI bill replaces JDPs with "monitoring device driving permits": a major overhaul of DUI law doubles the summary-suspension period and requires offenders to submit to alcohol monitoring devices in return for driving permits. Critics charge that it will produce unintended consequences, including fewer guilty pleas.

Senate Bill 300 has passed both houses of the state legislature and has been sent to governor Blagojevich for signature. The bill is a major revamp of Illinois's DUI provisions as they relate to first-time offenders.

MDDPs replace JDPs

First, a cautionary note: It's essential to read SB 300 together with SB 607. The latter bill makes corrections to the former. Practitioners reading only SB 300's changes may find some of the language perplexing to the point of seemingly nullifying portions of the statute's intent. SB 607 fixes the drafting errors that almost inevitably must have occurred in this sweeping legislation.

Under current law, a first-time DUI offender who either refuses a blood, breath, or urine test or consents to the test and is found to have a blood alcohol level of .08 or higher is subject to a statutory summary suspension of his or her drivers license. The suspension begins on the 46th day after the date of service of the suspension notice, which is usually the date of arrest. 625 ILCS 5/11-501.1(g). The suspension lasts for three months if the offender has taken the test and six months if the offender has refused.

Current law also permits the first time offender, or an offender who has not been arrested for DUI in five years, to apply for a judicial driving permit (JDP) so that he or she may drive to work or school. 625 ILCS 5/6-206.1. The offender is not to drive for other purposes under the JDP. A repeat offender is not eligible for a JDP.

The legislation will make JDPs things of the past, replacing them with "Monitoring Device Driving Permits." The new MDDP will permit its holder to drive at any time and for any purpose, unlike the JDP.

However, the permit will require its holder either to have installed in his or her vehicle a breath alcohol ignition interlock device (BAIID), a sophisticated gadget that administers a blood alcohol test to the driver every time he or she gets into the vehicle, or an alcohol ankle monitoring bracelet that continuously monitors for alcohol excreted in the wearer's perspiration and uploads its findings to a central computer database. (See Donald J. Ramsell's article, Alcohol monitoring ankle bracelets in DUI cases (SCRAM), in the March 2007 issue of ISBA's Traffic Laws and Courts Section newsletter for further explanation of these devices.) If the BAAID's test reveals that the driver has an unacceptable level of alcohol in his or her system, the car will not start.

The bill will also double the length of the statutory suspension, making it 12 months instead of six where a first-time offender has refused to take a blood, breath, or urine test for chemicals, and six instead of three for first offenders who have taken the test and failed.

Hitting the middle class?

Wheaton practitioner and Traffic Law Section Council member Donald Ramsell questions the effectiveness of the legislation's provisions for first-time offenders. Ramsell predicts that law enforcement authorities will see some unintended consequences of the legislation, including many fewer guilty pleas. He also foresees that the legislation will result in no diminishment in the number of actual DUI incidents.

Ramsell believes that the financial effect of the legislation will hit the middle class hard. He notes that the monitoring devices are not cheap, saying that the cost to rent a device may be as high as $450 per month. Though the legislation provides that indigents are entitled to free installation of the devices, it offers no financial relief for those otherwise struggling to make ends meet.

"Under the old law, the only cost to the offender was the $250 fee for reinstatement of the drivers' license. Now, that cost has increased to as high as $4950 (to rent a device) plus $250."

"The practical side effect of the new law will be that a person who might have been willing to accept the statutory suspension under the old law is now far more likely to pay a lawyer to fight the summary suspension hearing," Ramsell says. Under current law, he says, fewer than 10 percent of first-time offenders would fight the summary suspension.

Because of the devices' steep cost and increased length of the suspension imposed under the new legislation, Ramsell guesses that 50 percent or more of first-time offenders will fight their suspensions. "The downside of the suspension will be so severe that it will be worth paying an attorney to challenge."

The "sympathy factor"

Ramsell also predicts a "sympathy factor" on the part of the courts and even prosecutors and municipal enforcement authorities for first offenders that will result in more suspensions being rescinded by agreement.

"Salesmen will plead that they can't have the monitoring device on their cars, because they'll get fired. Villages will see this as an opportunity to negotiate higher fines in criminal cases in exchange for rescinding the suspension for first-time violators."

Ramsell says that the concept behind requiring the monitoring device is to prevent the first offender from driving while under the influence during the six to 12 months of the statutory summary suspension. But, he says, first-time offenders were already unlikely to do so.

He backs his argument with statistics from his own practice, observing that his law firm has handled over 14,000 DUI cases since it opened its doors in 1986. Of those cases, he says, fewer than 1.5 percent of first-time offenders have had a repeat offense within the six-to-12-month period after their initial offense.

Instead of altering people's behavior, the legislation will fill the coffers of the private companies that manufacture the monitoring devices, Ramsell says. And, while lawyers will benefit from having more clients willing to pay for their defense services in connection with DUI arrests, the courts may end up with more cases than they can handle efficiently. In sum, says Ramsell, the legislation is in his view "Draconian, silly, and statistically unsupportable."

Traffic Law Section Council newsletter co-editor Edward J. Maloney's article, New law abolishes judicial driving permits, also appears in the March 2007 issue of the section's newsletter. In it, Maloney provides additional explanation and background for the legislation. Ramsell's website, http://www. dui-illinois-attorney.com/, also provides informative articles for potential clients and attorneys on DUI law.

SB 300 and SB 607 were sent to the governor for signature on June 27 and July 5, respectively. The legislation's effective date is January 1, 2009.

Helen W. Gunnarsson is an attorney and writer in Highland Park. She can be reached at <gunnarssonhg@comcast.net>.
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Title Annotation:driving under the influence, judicial driving permits; Illinois
Author:Gunnarsson, Helen W.
Publication:Illinois Bar Journal
Date:Aug 1, 2007
Words:1095
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