New Illinois DUI Funding Law Creates Incentive for Police Departments to Up Conviction Rates
By: Mike Stetzer
Under Illinois law, police agencies have long been awarded a "bounty" for each DUI conviction obtained: $100 for a first conviction and $200 for a second conviction. Until recently, though, use of those funds was limited to the purchase of alcohol-enforcement related equipment.
As of late June, departments can now use those DUI-generated funds for a much wider range of purposes, including "enforcement and prevention of impaired driving, including training, education, salaries, checkpoints, saturation patrols and sting operations." The law change isn't expected to make a significant difference to small police agencies that see fairly low volumes of DUI arrests and convictions each year. For instance, the St. Louis Post Dispatch reported that the East Alton police department logged 63 DUI arrests in 2005. Even if each of those drivers was a second offender and each was convicted, the department would net only $12,600-an unlikely outcome, and yet one that wouldn't fund even a single officer's salary.
The Post Dispatch also reported that the St. Claire County Sheriff's Department typically sees about $2500 annually from DUI convictions, and anticipates that those funds will continue to be used for dash-mounted cameras and portable breathalyzer machines.
For large police agencies, though, the impact of this newfound freedom to spend DUI funds may be significant. The Illinois State Police, for instance, currently collect more than half a million dollars in DUI fines annually. While these funds may be put to good use in training and education-areas that weren't previously eligible for such expenditures-the new flexibility also increases the incentive of large police agencies to focus on DUI enforcement over other areas where enforcement will not generate revenues.
Illinois State Police Director Larry Trent pointed out that someone dies every day in Illinois because of an impaired driver. It's a sad truth: in 2004, there were 604 deaths in the state of Illinois tied to alcohol-related automobile accidents. During the same year, there were 776 murders in Illinois - cases much more costly to investigate, solve, and prove in court. Let's hope that Illinois law enforcement agencies remember that they're not profit-making concerns, and that the ability to rack up quick and easy budgetary increases through DUI enforcement doesn't divert resources that should be applied to the investigation and prosecution of violent crimes that require a greater investment with a smaller proportional return.