As of January 1, 2016, first-time DUI offenders in Illinois will have the option to install a breathalyzer in their car, allowing for limited driving within the designated 30 day suspension period. The device, which acts in very much the same way as handheld breathalyzers used by the police, would require measurement of the driver’s blood alcohol content before the car will start, ensuring that drivers have not been drinking prior to operating their motor vehicle. With a breathalyzer installed the new law permits first time DUI offenders to drive during limited hours, removing some of the hardship that license suspension causes on employment, education, and familial responsibilities.
Although the technology has been available for several years, before the new law took effect drivers had to request a special permit from a judge allowing them to drive to work or school during certain times, and under restrictions such as the car-installed breathalyzer. The new law streamlines the process and makes continuation of driving during approved hours more accessible to first time offenders.
Tracy Williams, of the Evanston, Illinois Police Department, commented on the new law, stating the law is “going to affect someone like the mother of three who got a DUI and is now able to not have a suspended license and continue with normal activities.” She added: “Drunk driving is reckless, 100 percent preventable crime, and one that leads to disaster.”
Some people believe the new law is good because it will keep our streets safer by keeping more drunk drivers off the road. Others think punishing the wrongdoers, even first offenders, is more important.
Whatever one’s opinion on that issue, technology tying the ability to start a car or truck with proof the driver is fit to get behind the wheel presents interesting questions for our future. For example, will such devices become options (or even mandatory equipment) on new or even used vehicles? What about semi-tractors? Trains? Airplanes? Will knowing one’s blood alcohol level encourage driving close to the limit, making things even worse? Regardless, I agree with Williams that drunk driving is a reckless, preventable crime, and one that is absolutely inexcusable. Whatever happens with technology, I am glad that the law still requires drunk drivers to pay for the harm they cause and leaves them exposed to financial ruin through punitive damages; the civil justice system also has an important role to play in keeping our streets safe.
What do you think? Is this a step in the right direction?
Or is the lessening of punishment simply going to encourage more reckless action?
Let me know your thoughts below
David Rapoport is the founding and managing partner of Rapoport Law Offices. In his over 31 years as a full time trial attorney, he has won numerous multi-million dollar jury verdicts and settlements in personal injury and wrongful death cases. Mr. Rapoport is a member of the invitation only American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA), an association of premier trial attorneys who are dedicated to preserving the right to trial by jury. ABOTA's general mission is "to foster improvement in the ethical and technical standards of practice in the field of advocacy to the end that individual litigants may receive more effective representation and the general public be benefited by more efficient administration of justice consistent with time-tested and traditional principles of litigation." For over 20 years Martindale-Hubbell, through its Peer Review RatingsTM program, has consistently ranked David Rapoport as AV® PreeminentTM, its highest professional rating. This is a testament to Mr. Rapoport's abilities as an attorney and commitment to maintaining the highest ethical standards. Mr. Rapoport has also been selected by Thompson Reuters, another prominent legal publisher, as an Illinois “Super Lawyer” every year since the inception of the Super Lawyer program. Super Lawyer designation is limited to the top 5 percent of lawyers in a state in any given year. Since 1990, David Rapoport has been board certified* in Civil Trial Advocacy by the National Board of Trial Advocacy ("NBTA"), the oldest and largest not-for-profit American Bar Association accredited trial attorney certification program. Attorneys with NBTA certification have proven ability in their field through specialized written examinations and meeting rigorous criteria for trial experience and ethical ratings. Mr. Rapoport has proven his currency and substantial trial experience through NBTA recertification in 1995, 2000, 2005 and 2010. David Rapoport has served as a leader of the movement to encourage board certification for trial lawyers for more than twenty years. Currently he is the President of the National Board of Trial Advocacy and its parent organization the National Board of Legal Specialty Certification. He recently explained: "In this era of Wild West style minimally regulated lawyer advertising, it has never been more important for the public to have easy and reliable means of identifying members of the small fraction of practicing attorneys who truly have substantial experience trying cases. Board certification programs help consumers of legal services make more informed choices. Too many lawyers are out there claiming to have substantial trial experience when in truth they have never tried a case. Board certified trial lawyers have proven their substantial trial experience in ways the public can trust." Mr. Rapoport is a member of the President's Club and Leader's Forum of the American Association for Justice and the state trial lawyer associations in Illinois, Wisconsin and Kentucky. He is also a member of the Economic Club of Chicago. * Board certification is not required to practice law in Illinois and the Illinois Supreme Court does not recognize specialties in the practice of law.