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Activists push for ending automatic 30-day “hard” driving suspension for DUI arrestees

On Behalf of | Mar 10, 2015 | Firm News |

I wonder if this crosses someone’s minds….most folks get a “30 day hard suspension” or driving ban before they have been convicted. A driver will still suffer the ban even if a case later gets dismissed for mistake, police misconduct, etc.

In many San Diego DUIs the drivers cannot afford an attorney and retain the services of a public defender.  The public defenders do not begin assisting the person until their first court date.  It had to be the driver who understood San Diego DUI laws and instructions on the slip to contact the DMV within 10 days and schedule a hearing.  Many times people let the 10 days pass and their license gets suspended.

In our world of suburb communities people drive to and from their job.  A 30 day “hard suspension” is usually the biggest issue a San Diego DUI driver incurs.  Many would say “good”.  However, with any misdmemeanor should someone lose their job because of it?  More importantly, should the “hard suspension” occur without due process and before you are actually convicted of a San Diego DUI beyond a reasonable doubt?

I hope this change comes to San Diego. There usually is not a voice for people from the outside but from those that have experienced the harsh punishment that come with San Diego DUI convictions.

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In the often caustic debate over how to punish drunken drivers, both sides are pushing through a concept to eliminate a core punishment: so-called “hard time” of a license suspension.

At a Friday hearing to a state task force, the Illinois State Bar Association proposed ending a mandate that those arrested for DUI must be taken off the roads for at least 30 days. They instead would be allowed to continue driving during a suspension if they used ignition interlock devices that test for alcohol on their breath.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving supports the concept. A local advocacy group, Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists, said it’s open to the idea as well.

“It does look like the tide is turning,” said the alliance’s executive director, Rita Kreslin.

Secretary of State Jesse White called the hearing of his traffic safety task force to address key findings of Tribune investigations last year that showed how some suburbs in DuPage County regularly let DUI defendants out of supposedly mandatory license suspensions, often in exchange for hefty fines. Proponents of the latest proposal say it could limit the incentive to cut such deals while making the roads safer.

State law mandates a summary suspension of at least six months for anyone arrested for a DUI. For at least the first month, the person cannot drive at all. After that, the person can drive with limits, including an interlock ignition device that requires the driver blow into it to ensure sobriety. The suspension is separate of any punishment that happens in the criminal case, and the only way a suspension is supposed to be rescinded is if police mishandled the arrest.

But the Tribune found rescissions are common among lawyers hired by some suburbs to prosecute their DUIs. The towns typically charge far more in fines and fees than county prosecutors – particularly in cases in which the special deal is cut. The Tribune found one suburb let a repeat offender keep his license in exchange for more than $5,500 in fines and fees.

Defense attorneys have told the Tribune that the plea deals are commonly done for defendants who need to keep driving to get to work or ferry kids. Critics complain the deals, in essence, ensure defendants don’t miss a day behind the wheel – with no restrictions on how they drive or requirement to get an ignition interlock device.

Kreslin’s group said at the hearing that some towns have used the supposedly mandatory provision as leverage to squeeze cash out of DUI defendants while doing little to boost traffic safety. Her group wants county prosecutors to at least OK such deals, if not take over all DUI prosecutions.

“There is just nobody doing checks and balances on why it is happening,” she said.

Northfield lawyer Larry Davis, speaking on behalf of the state bar association, said another way to reduce the controversial plea deals is to eliminate the incentive for the deal in the first place.


  • Davis pitched a plan that would allow anyone under suspension or revocation for DUI to get the chance to drive legally. It’s aimed not only at first-time offenders – who face a month off the streets – but also at repeat offenders, who can face one to three years off the streets, as well as those convicted of DUI and facing separate license revocations. He said many of the controversial plea deals can be traced to defendants desperate to find a way to drive legally – even if it means paying hefty fines.

Even for those who end up losing their licenses, Davis told the task force, many continue to drive. They may rack up new charges for driving on suspended or revoked licenses while also not having ignition interlock devices to ensure they stay sober.

“Of those who would like to follow the law, they’re put in a position where they’re told: ‘You either can’t support your family and follow the law. Or you break the law and take your chances, ‘” Davis told the task force.

DUI paperwork mistakes allow thousands of drivers back on Illinois roads

DUI activists had previously championed the so-called “hard time” on suspensions as perhaps the only significant punishment DUI defendants got in what they termed overly lenient courts. But Mothers Against Drunk Driving, also known as MADD, said in a letter to the task force that too few defendants obey the suspensions and revocations, and states that have abandoned hard-time suspensions and revocations have seen greater drops in DUI deaths than Illinois.

“Illinois’ current policy of depending on license revocation and suspension to keep drunk drivers off the road is dangerous,” wrote Colleen Sheehey-Church, MADD’s national president.

Kreslin’s Schaumburg-based group has not yet taken a formal position, but Kreslin said she agrees that it makes little sense to keep hard time, particularly when many defendants continue to drive – and many suburbs continue to cut deals that do an end-run around the hard-time suspension. At least with an ignition interlock device, she said, drivers can be monitored and, hopefully, avoid driving drunk again.

“The bigger picture is to change behavior,” she said.

There remains debate about just what limits should replace the hard time. Kreslin wants to keep the limits under current Illinois law for those who get to drive with ignition interlock devices, which typically restrict driving to geographic areas based on work and school. But MADD wants no limits on driving – so long as an ignition interlock is used.

And both sides acknowledge that the ignition interlocks won’t stop someone from driving under the influence of drugs – a growing portion of DUI arrests.

White’s task force, which includes lawmakers, has historically sparked reforms adopted by the General Assembly. The task force did not take a position on any of Friday’s proposals. Members said that could come this spring when the task force meets again to discuss them.

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