Could DUIs across state borders lead to leniency?
By: Chris Kramer
Whether you enjoy sitting down and reading the newspaper during your breakfast or morning coffee or surfing the news online during breaks at work, you have seen those ridiculous stories about people that commit crimes that you just can't comprehend.
As you scan the headlines, you read about a woman who was arrested in Florida for drinking and driving for the tenth time in 20 years, or a Washington man that has four DUI convictions in the last 10 years and has been arrested 14 times for driving under the influence in the past 16 years.
How could it be possible that these people can get away with being convicted of a DUI so many times, and yet, still be driving around our towns? It's a chilling thought that might be more common than you think.
Not all DUI convictions show up on driving records
The Illinois Secretary of State recently conducted a check per request of the Belleville News-Democrat revealing that of 17 drivers in Illinois that have been charged with a DUI in Missouri, four people's DUI convictions are not on their driving records.
Since driving under the influence convictions from other states are not showing up on some people's driving records, Illinois prosecutors could have struck a plea bargain for a lesser DUI consequence. If the prosecutor was unaware of previous DUI convictions, they could have let offenders plead guilty to a DUI penalty that should have been more severe with the consideration of an out-of-state DUI conviction or if tried in Missouri.
A DUI charge involving a similar case in Alton, IL is what initiated the investigation. According to the Belleville News-Democrat, the paper sent the Secretary of State's office 20 names of Illinois drivers - three of which were not found to reside in the state. Out of the 17 people, four had been charged with driving under the influence in Missouri that wasn't recorded, but the other 13 people's driving records properly documented DUI convictions in Missouri.
The names of people were selected from a list of Illinois drivers that have been charged in Missouri for driving under the influence. The newspaper obtained the list from the Missouri Department of Revenue Consumer Services Division for a fee. Since the reporters did not have access to the files in the Secretary of State's office, they had to submit a sample list of Illinois drivers to see if DUI convictions in Missouri were not listed on their driving records.
Although the results are alarming, Dave Drucker, spokesman for the office of the Secretary of State, said that further investigating needs to happen before any conclusions can be drawn. The Illinois Secretary of State is beginning its own investigation after interacting with the Madison County State's Attorney William Mudge regarding a DUI case.
Flawed driving record case leads to investigation
The Belleville News-Democrat began an investigation after questions arose about one Alton man's driving record. Frank M. Durr was charged with a misdemeanor DUI in April 2008 and was allowed to strike a plea bargain for a lesser traffic offense and pay a fine.
However, the prosecutors in Madison County were unaware that Durr had a DUI conviction in Missouri from 1999. Durr had been charged and convicted with involuntary manslaughter involving drinking and driving, in which case, the prosecutors would not have been as lenient in their plea bargain.
The judge dismissed Durr's plea bargain after a reporter informed the court of his previous DUI conviction. Now Madison County is charging Durr with a DUI felony because of the involuntary manslaughter conviction in Missouri and an unreported Illinois DUI misdemeanor conviction in 1985. Durr is pleading innocent to the DUI charge.
Secretary of State plans to probe
The Secretary of State has asked for a copy of the News-Democrat's list of Illinois drivers with DUI convictions in Missouri, which covers from January 2003 to June 2008. The public record has been sent to the office. Of the 100 drivers the office has looked into so far, Drucker said "only a few" have had DUI convictions that were not recorded.