There are a number of long overdue changes to Illinois DUI law coming, and the Chicago Tribune has at least picked up on one important change proposed - letting people arrested for DUI get a driving permit with a breath detection device as soon as their suspension begins.
A person arrested for DUI in Illinois suffers a Statutory Summary Suspension loss of their driver's license by default. The driver's license is suspended regardless of
whether they are ever found guilty of DUI and much of the time, before they ever see a courtroom. The Illinois Supreme Court decided, against all evidence, that this is not a punishment. Its purpose, they said, is to ensure the safety of the public.
More recently, Illinois lawmakers created the MDDP or Monitoring Device Driving Program. This allowed motorists arrested for DUI to drive using a breath detection device to prevent any driving while intoxicated by alcohol. Now we're talking public safety, right? And those people can go to work while the Court figures out if they really should lose their licenses, right?
Not so fast. Two important problems remain.
- First, motorists who have a qualifying offense within 5 years can't get the MDDP at all. That works if we're talking punishment (which would be illegal, because we don't punish people unless they've been found guilty - thus the Illinois Supreme Court's mental gymnastics so long ago), but not so much if we're calling a Statutory Summary Suspension a safety issue. See how long you can feed your family if you can't drive under any circumstances for up to 3 years, regardless of whether you're ever found guilty.
- Second, motorists facing a Statutory Summary Suspension are barred from getting an MDDP before they've say out a 30-day "hard suspension" period. Again, is 30 days long enough for you to lose your pizza delivery job? How about if you just need to get from where you live in Bucktown to your job in Villa Park?
The proposed law reported by the Trib makes sense to everyone involved, from MADD and AAIM to the Illinois State Bar Association. If public safety is the issue, and a Statutory Summary Suspension isn't just a backdoor punishment, this is a good and just change that needs to happen as soon as possible.