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History of DUI in Illinois, part one

Posted by Steven H. Fagan | Dec 08, 2013 | 0 Comments

Did you know that the legal limit in Illinois used to be 0.15? It's true. Or that the original criminal law for DUI made a minimum 10 day stint in jail mandatory? How about the fact that in accordance with accepted scientific standards, Illinois used to require multiple breath tests (but doesn't now, because it's inconvenient)?

Here's part of our series on the history of DUI in Illinois. We welcome your comments.

Prior to 1933, there was no law in the state of Illinois governing the legal age for alcohol consumption. Males, in 1933, had to be 21 years of age to consume alcoholic beverages and females had to be 18 years-old. The law was changed in 1963 to establish the legal drinking age at 21 years. Once again, in 1973, the law changed allowing 19 year-old individuals the right to purchase and consume beer and wine. Hard liquor could only be sold and consumed by individuals 21 years old and older. The current legal drinking age of 21 years for all consumption, purchase and possession of alcoholic beverages was established in 1980.

In 1935, Illinois law made driving while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or narcotic drugs illegal. The law stated that the Illinois Secretary of State shall revoke the chauffeur's license of anyone found guilty of driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol. The Illinois Secretary of State had the authority to issue chauffeur's licenses in 1919, but did not have the authority to revoke licenses.

In 1937, the courts in Illinois were given the authority to revoke driver's licenses.The 1938 law added the authority for the Illinois Secretary of State to revoke licenses to the motor vehicle law. An operator's license was revoked for not less than 30 days nor more than one year.

In 1949, penalties for a DUI first offender included imprisonment of not less than 10 days nor more than one year and/or a fine of not less than $100 nor more than $1,000.

In 1953, the first DUI offender's minimum term of imprisonment was reduced from 10 days to two days.

During 1958, a minimum blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was established at 0.15 percent. Also, the chemical analysis of breath, blood, urine and saliva or other bodily functions was deemed to be admissible as evidence.

In 1961, a second DUI offender was defined as being arrested a second time within a five-year period.

The 1967 law stated that anyone who was driving or in physical control of a vehicle and was intoxicated was punishable under law. Previously, the law referred to persons who were driving the vehicle only.

Effective Jan. 1, 1967:

  • The law was changed to driving while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, narcotic drugs or other drugs for a driving while intoxicated (DWI) charge.The BAC limit was lowered from 0.15 percent to 0.10 percent.

Effective in 1970:

  • The driving while intoxicated law was codified in the Illinois Vehicle Code as Chapter 95½, Article V, Section 11-501.

Effective July 1, 1972:

  • The implied consent provision of the DUI statutes was approved by the Illinois General Assembly. The effective date of the law was later delayed to Oct. 1, 1972 due to the unavailability of proper equipment.
  • Under implied consent, any person driving a motor vehicle automatically consented to submit to and complete a chemical analysis of their breath sample in order to determine BAC at the time of their arrest. Two tests were required to be administered not less than 15 minutes apart.
  • The DUI suspect was given 90 minutes to decide to submit to the tests and all tests were required to be completed within a 150-minute period of time.
  • If the DUI suspect refused to submit to the tests or failed to complete either test within a 90-minute period of time, a three-month suspension of their driver's license would be imposed for a first-time offender and six months for a second-time offender within a five-year period unless the court rescinded the suspension.

Effective Jan. 1, 1980:

  • The Illinois General Assembly established the age of 21 as the minimum age for the consumption of alcoholic beverages in the state.
  • In 1981, Illinois had a DUI law that provided for a Class A misdemeanor on conviction and revocation of driving privileges. It was the Illinois Secretary of State's opinion guilty drinking drivers should lose driving privileges.

Effective Jan 1, 1982:

  • The Illinois Secretary of State's first legislative success, including:   
    • Establishment if a new DUI/implied consent law.
    • The deletion of the 90-minute period for a driver to decide whether or not to submit to a chemical test.
    • Eliminating the two chemical tests so that only one would be allowed and law enforcement officers were given the option of determining the type of test or tests to be administered, breath, blood or urine.
    • Doubling of the penalty for refusal to submit to a test from a six-month driver's license suspension to 12-months for repeat offenses.
    • Law enforcement officers are allowed to require blood or urine tests, if necessary.
    • Establishing the illegal per se charge for driving with an alcohol concentration of 0.10 percent or greater.
    • A report is required to be filed with the Illinois Secretary of State's office for entry to the driving record the fact a person was referred to a remedial program.

Effective in 1984:

  • Courts in the state of Illinois were required to report the awarding of court supervision for DUI, leaving the scene of an accident involving personal injury or fatal crash, driving while suspended or revoked and reckless driving to the Illinois Secretary of State's office for entry to the central driver record. The information could be released for court purposes only.
  • A provision was added disallowing the granting of court supervision within five years following the granting of a previous supervision or a conviction for DUI.
  • Legislation was enacted to distinguish between the driver and the passenger convicted for illegal transportation of alcoholic beverages.
  • Repeat DUI offenders with two or more convictions within a period of five years are required to serve mandatory 48 consecutive hours imprisonment or 10 days community service.
  • Those convicted of driving while suspended or revoked when the original cause of the revocation was DUI, leaving the scene of a personal injury or fatal crash, or reckless homicide faced a mandatory seven days imprisonment or 30 days community service.
  • Expanded the Crime Victims Compensation Act to include DUI victims.Required courts to notify the Illinois Secretary of State's office of DUI case dispositions, court supervisions and other serious offenses.

Effective in 1985:

  • The DUI program had steadily advanced as arrests reported by the Illinois Department of State Police increased 124 percent to 10,958 over a period which started in 1981.
  • DUI convictions increased 129 percent from 4,253 to 9,716 over a period which stared in 1981.
  • Fatalities had decreased 18 percent from 1,850 to 1,522 over a period which started in 1981.
  • The Illinois Secretary of State's office proposed an administrative per se immediate driver's license suspension program, based upon the concept used by Minnesota and 20 other states. The program provided for driver's license suspension for either refusing or failing testing with a BAC over 0.10 percent.
  • The program provided for a driver's license suspension at the end of 15 days.
  • The program provided for an administrative appeals hearing process by the Illinois Secretary of State.
  • Resistance to the Illinois Secretary of State's program came from the Chicago Bar Association, which countered with a proposal under which judges were allowed to determine if suspensions should take place and no real hard time frames were established. The concept which was enacted was labeled the statutory summary suspension program. The following summarizes the program:   
    • Following arrest for DUI, the officer requests chemical testing.
    • The suspect is warned that if they fail the test there is a three-month driver's license suspension. If they refuse to submit, there is a six-month driver's license suspension. If the person is a second DUI offender, it is a 12-month suspension in either case.
    • The officer takes the driver's license, if it is valid and issues a receipt, which allows the driver to drive for 45 days.
    • The law enforcement officer's agency sends a copy of his sworn report indicating the notice of suspension was served on the driver to the Illinois Secretary of State and the court.
    • The Illinois Secretary of State's office enters a suspension effective 45 days from the notice given by the officer, which is usually the same date as arrest or it may be later if a blood test is involved.
    • The driver may request a judicial hearing to appeal the suspension, however, the appeal does not delay the effective date of the suspension. During the hearing, specific issues are considered:   
      • Whether the officer had probable cause for arrest.
      • Whether the arrest was made.
      • Whether the violator was warned.
      • Whether the violator did refuse to submit to the test or failed a test.
  • The first-time DUI offender may request a Judicial Driving Permit (JDP) from the court, which is limited to time and purpose for work or obtaining medical care or alcohol treatment and cannot be issued until after 30 days of hard suspension. A judge must require a professional evaluation. The second-time or subsequent DUI offender may apply for a RDP from the Illinois Secretary of State, but it cannot be issued until at least 90 days hard suspension. The summary suspension follows a separate track from any criminal charges. In addition to other criminal penalties, there is also a driver's license revocation upon conviction.
  • Victim rights legislation was developed and passed to increase the rights of those individuals impacted by DUI crashes.
  • For all causes of action involving persons injured, killed or incurring property damage after Sept. 12, 1985, in no event shall the judgment or recovery for injury to the person or property of any person exceed $30,000 for each person incurring damages and recovery under this act for loss of means of support resulting from the death or injury of any person shall not exceed $40,000.

Effective in 1986:

  • Nearly 47,000 Illinois drivers lost driving privileges as a result of DUI, nearly four times the number in 1985. Also, for the first time, there was a record of virtually all DUI arrests due to the receipt of the officer's sworn report in response to refusal or failure of chemical tests. There may have been an additional 5 percent who submitted to testing and had a BAC of less than 0.10 percent.
  • Only about 8 percent of the statutory summary suspensions were rescinded at the judicial hearing.
  • About 28 percent of those first DUI offenders qualifying were issued JDPs.
  • Convictions represented 32 percent of DUI dispositions.
  • Other 1986 legislation:   
    • Underage DUI offenders faced a minimum two-years driver's license revocation for a first DUI conviction. No driving privileges, such as a restricted driving permit, were available for the first year.
    • A second DUI conviction resulted in a minimum license revocation of two years or until age 21, whichever was longer.
    • Color coded driver's licenses and identification cards for those under the age of 21 with a red photo background and the words "Under 21" plainly printed on both sides of the license.
    • The penalty for providing alcohol to a person under the age of 21 increased from a Class B misdemeanor to a Class A misdemeanor. It was a Class B misdemeanor punishable with a $500 fine to knowingly allow gatherings of two or more persons at a residence when the persons were under the age of 18 and were drinking. It was a Class A misdemeanor to knowingly allow another person to operate a vehicle under the influence.
    • Hotels and motels were subject to a Class C misdemeanor if they knowingly rented a room to persons under the age of 21 and alcoholic beverages were consumed. Any person 21 years-old or over who paid for a hotel room or facility knowing the room would be used by any person under the age of 21 for the consumption of alcoholic beverages was liable for any damage to property or person caused by the person under the age of 21. It was also a Class C misdemeanor.
    • The penalties for those individuals who tried to obtain or assist others in obtaining a falsified driver's license were increased from a six-month to a 12-month suspension. In addition to the suspension, offenders were also subject to criminal misdemeanor charges, with a fine up to $500 or up to 30 days in jail.

Effective Jan. 1, 1986:

  • Established the Statutory Summary Suspension Program to allow for the automatic suspension of a person's driving privileges for refusing to submit to or failing a chemical testing following a DUI arrest.
  • Expanded the Crime Victims Bill of Rights to include DUI victims.   
    • Provided that any person who refuses to submit to a chemical testing while operating a vehicle in another state will have their driving privileges suspended.

Effective Sept. 12, 1986:

  • Provided that any driver under the age of 21 who is convicted of a second DUI will have their driving privileges revoked until they turn 21 years-old or for one additional year, whichever is longer.

Effective in 1987:

  • Statistics were published to support the notion that the deterrent effect of the Statutory Summary Suspension Program was effective.   
    • Arrests for DUI decreased 6 percent when comparing 1987 to 1986.
    • Arrests for 1988 dropped 6 percent when compared to the same period in 1987.
    • The social drinker does not feel it is worth the risk to drink and drive.
    • The loss of driving privileges is swift and certain.Police reported there were fewer drunk drivers.
    • Arrests for teens, 19 years-old and under, decreased 18 percent.
    • Judges continued to support the summary suspension concept.
    • 89 percent of DUI offenders lost their driving privileges.
    • Only 32 percent of suspended first DUI offenders received a JDP.
    • Almost 43,000 alcohol-related suspensions and revocations went into effect-over three times greater than those imposed in 1985 before the summary suspension law.
  • The summary suspension law allowed the state of Illinois to develop a general profile of the accused drunk driver:   
    • The average BAC level was 0.18 percent.
    • The average age was 32.6 years-old.
    • 82 percent of those arrested were male and 18 percent of those arrested were female in 1987. The percentage of females appeared to be increasing, and history has shown that to be true.
  • The Illinois Secretary of State's office attempted to predict some trends, as the result of better record keeping on individual drivers, including that:      
    • The average BAC should increase as fewer social drinkers take the chance of drinking and driving and more problem drinkers are being arrested;
    • The number of multiple offenders will increase;
    • Fewer social drinkers will be arrested.
  • The Illinois Secretary of State had their share of court challenges, as six cases were decided in favor of the summary suspension program by the Illinois Supreme Court.

Effective Jan. 1, 1988:

  • Drivers who receive a second conviction for DUI, reckless homicide, leaving the scene of personal injury or fatal crash or any combination of the three within a 20-year period face a minimum three-year revocation of their driving privileges.
  • Drivers convicted three or more times for any combination of the above offenses face a minimum six-year revocation.
  • Three convictions for DUI are a Class 4 felony which is punishable by 1-3 years imprisonment and a fine up to $10,000.
  • Identification card manufacturers are prohibited from copying certain design features of the Illinois driver's license, such as the size, color or placement of the photograph on an official license. The words official, state, Illinois or a copy of the map of Illinois may not appear on any type of identification card. Violation of these provisions is a Class A misdemeanor.
  • Provided that any driver under the age of 21 who is convicted of a second DUI will have their driving privileges revoked for a minimum of three years. If convicted of a third or subsequent DUI, a driver will have their driving privileges revoked for a minimum of six years.

Effective Aug. 31, 1989:

  • A law was enacted to prohibit the holders of liquor licenses from offering or advertising free drinks and certain other conduct. A violation is a Class B misdemeanor and grounds for suspension or revocation of the liquor license.

Effective Sept. 7, 1989:

  • A law was enacted which provides an addict or alcoholic, if the court has reason to believe this to be an accurate assessment of the individual, convicted of DUI or other specified offenses, may not elect treatment as a condition of probation under a department designated program.
  • In addition, it provides no person shall be placed under the supervision of a department designated program before a judgment of conviction is entered.

Effective Sept. 21, 1989:

  • The Unified Code of Corrections and the IVC were amended. Public Act 86-0929 (Senate Bill 0743) provided for the following:   
    • Extends probation period of conditional discharge for misdemeanor offenses from one year to two years.
    • Established measurement of last five years for purposes of determining DUI second offenders.
    • An RDP may be granted by the Illinois Secretary of State to persons who have their driving privileges suspended or revoked to allow for attendance at an educational institution.
    • A JDP may be issued to persons who have their driving privileges suspended under the implied consent provision to allow for attendance at an educational institution.
    • The statutory summary suspension period was extended to two years for persons other than first offenders who refuse or fail to complete a test or tests to determine the alcohol or drug concentration.
    • Reports that are received by the Illinois Secretary of State regarding statutory summary suspensions for first offenders are privileged except during the term of the statutory summary suspension if the person is not convicted and such information can only be released to courts, police officers, prosecuting officials or the Illinois Secretary of State.

About the Author

Steven H. Fagan

Steve Fagan earned his law degree from Chicago-Kent College of Law, is a member of the NCDD, NACDL, ISBA and a founding member of the DUIDLA. He is published and has taught CLE for lawyers on subjects such as sex offenses, DUI and criminal defense, focuses on trial work and Real Estate closings


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