Lawyers Foresee Problems with New DUI Law

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As Illinois rang in the new year, a new DUI law went into effect. The law requires first-time DUI offenders to have ignition interlock devices installed on their vehicles, or in any vehicle that they wish to drive, during the license suspension period. Any person caught driving while their license is suspended for DUI without an ignition interlock device can be charged with a Class 4 felony.

The State Journal-Register reported that Illinois DUI Lawyers are skeptical about how the law can be implemented. Many believe that it is only a matter of time before the new law is challenged in court.

Budget shortfalls are a major concern. The division within the Illinois Secretary of State's office that is in charge of the ignition interlock program had hoped to have around 30 employees by Jan. 1. However, budget cuts made by Gov. Rod Blagojevich last year took more than $3 million from the program's budget and the division has only six employees.

The division has not run into problems yet, but may by mid-March. Summary license suspensions take effect 45 days after a DUI arrest. Under the new law, there is no driving during the first 30 days of a summary suspension. Therefore, the soonest that anyone arrested for DUI in 2009 could get a permit to drive with an ignition interlock device would be around the middle of March. At that time, the understaffed division may run into problems.

The Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device (BAIID) Program requires drivers to submit a breath sample to be tested for alcohol content. If the breath sample registers a .025 percent or higher blood alcohol level, the car will not start. The ignition interlock device also requires drivers to submit to breath tests at random intervals in order to continue driving.

DUI offenders who participate in the program will be required to pay approximately $100 to have the ignition interlock installed and an $80 per month rental fee. A $30 per month monitoring fee, payable to the secretary of state's office, is also required.

The law requires an indigency fund for offenders who can't afford to pay for the ignition interlock device. This fund is to be created from a surcharge that will be added to paying offenders' installation and rental fees. Indigent offenders will be responsible for paying the $30 per month monitoring fee.

The indigency fund creates another hurdle for the law to overcome. There have not been any indigency guidelines established, so judges will have to make the determination about indigency. Since the ignition interlock devices will be cost-prohibitive for many people, there are likely to be many more indigency requests than can be granted.

There are approximately 40,000 first-time DUI offenders in Illinois each year. Lawyers who are skeptical of the new law say that there are simply not enough workers or funding for the BAIID program to run smoothly.


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