Illinois Anti-DUI Program Under Scrutiny
By: Mary Ann Pekara
In Kane County, Illinois, an anti-DUI pilot program has
raised abuse-of-power questions significant enough to cause several departments
to drop out of the program. According to
State’s Attorney John Barsanti, two police agencies have declined to
participate following initial operations. The Chicago Tribune’s Clifford Ward provides the particulars:
Kane County began its "no-refusal" program this year. It's intended to target drivers suspected of
intoxication who are unwilling to blow into a Breathalyzer. Three weekends have been used as test cases
for the new policy, in which prosecutors and a judge are always on call to
authorize search warrants intended to compel suspected drunken drivers into
providing a breath or blood sample.
Declining to provide a sample results in an automatic
suspension of driving privileges in Illinois, but for repeat DUI offenders
about to face another arrest, this suspension is better than the automatic
revocation of their license, which would occur if they were found to be over
the limit again. In addition,
prosecuting such a case is much more difficult without a sample.
Still, the idea of "compulsion" does not sit well with many
in law enforcement.
"The bottom line is
we’re reaching out to all these various departments and if they're not
interested, it's not going to happen again," says Barsanti, who plans to meet
with the concerned agencies and determine their specific concerns. Barsanti sums up the conventional concerns
over the program:
"There are some people who think that if I have a glass of
wine with my steak dinner, then some Gestapo police officer will pull me over
and stick a needle in my arm."
The State's Attorney's office contends that the "no-refusal"
policy has resulted in many convictions. In many cases, those convicted were repeat offenders and those with
blood alcohol levels beyond the legal limit of .08%.
No driver is physically forced to provide a sample under "no-refusal," and the standard for an arrest has not changed. Drivers are still targeted because of erratic
driving or other probable cause, and are still charged if they display initial
signs of intoxication.
So far, just two drivers have refused to give a sample, and
their fates show a court system still working things out. The first was charged with contempt of court
and later cleared, and the second was charged with obstruction of justice and
is still in court contesting the charge.
In suburban St. Charles, Mayor Donald DeWitte has not heard any
negative feedback from his constituency, and Jim Lamkin, his Chief of Police,
feels that the policy has had a real impact. Over a recent St. Patrick’s Day operation, only 3 arrests were made,
showing what Lamkin says is the success of the publicity surrounding the "no
According to Lamkin, State's Attorney Barsanti has "done a
good job of letting the public know in advance—that helps people think twice."
Still, several police agencies appear to have concerns that
even though the program appears to be effective, it may not be ethical. Until their concerns are heard, the future of
the program remains in doubt.