New Illinois law allows first-time DUI offenders to drive during 30-day suspension period


Daily file photo by Zack Laurence

The Evanston Police Department just finished its annual 16-day Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign, during which they only issued two DUI tickets. As of Jan. 1, DUI offenders will now have the option of having a breathalyzer installed in their vehicles in lieu of a 30-day driving suspension.

Elena Sucharetza, Assistant City Editor

First-time Illinois DUI offenders will now be eligible for limited driving privileges within the designated 30-day suspension time if they register to have a breathalyzer device installed in their vehicles.

The devices measure an individual’s blood alcohol content and act as monitors to ensure drivers have not been drinking before a car can be started. The new law came into effect Jan. 1.

Once a driver registers and has the device installed, the offender is able to drive with their suspended license at specific times.

“We have 80,000 people (in Evanston), so the odds of stopping a car with this technology installed is pretty rare,” Williams said. “It’s 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.”

Evanston attorney Dolores Leone said the recent DUI law is a better way of regulating drunk driving and ensuring traffic safety. She said the law replaces “draconian” practices that penalized individuals heavily reliant on transportation for their jobs and families.

Before 2009, in order to obtain restricted driving privileges during the 30-day “hard” suspension, drivers had to appeal to a judge to receive a restricted permit, said attorney Jeremy Pfeifer of Evanston firm Pfeifer & Pfeifer.

“This technology has been around for several years, but people were not able to get that device because your license was automatically suspended,” Pfeifer said. “You had to ask a judge for a special permit just to be able to drive to work or school only during certain times.”

For the past few years, the Evanston Police Department has emphasized safe driving practices, particularly in regards to drunk driving. During the holiday season, EPD, in conjunction, with state police and the Illinois Department of Transportation ran a local campaign to address drunk driving and other traffic safety violations. The Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over initiative, which ran from Dec. 18 to Jan. 3, resulted in two DUI arrests and 38 seatbelt citations among other activity, EPD said in a news release.

“Drunk driving is a reckless, 100 percent preventable crime, and one that leads to disaster,” Williams said in the release. “We worked really hard and stepped up to the challenge. To us, if we saved one life, the campaign was worthwhile.”

The new law’s effect on the city is yet to be seen. Williams said finding the breathalyzer devices in offenders’ cars was “hit or miss” and they are not present in noticeably high numbers in Evanston.

“It won’t affect the community because whether someone is driving prior to 30 days or had to serve the suspension, it is not going to affect the average person,” Williams said. “It will most likely impact the Secretary of State office which handles the processing of these permit applications.”

Correction: A previous version of this story misrepresented the law that went into effect Jan. 1. Under this law, first-time DUI offenders’ licenses are still suspended even if they register to have a breathalyzer device installed in their vehicle. The Daily regrets the error.

Clarification: A previous version of this story has been updated to clarify when an outdated law was overturned. It was overturned in 2009.

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