State enforces strict drunk driving laws

By Michael Berg

Editor’s Note: This is the second in a three-part series on drunk driving. Today’s story deals with Illinois law.

Laws in Illinois on drunk driving are some of the toughest in the nation, making the risks for getting behind the wheel after a few drinks a potential no-win situation.

Former Illinois Secretary of State Jim Edgar took the state from one of the most lenient against those driving under the influence to one of the best, said Jordan Kagan, treasurer of NIU’s College Students Against Driving Drunk chapter.

Daniel King, a McHenry patrolman, outlined the steps taken when someone is pulled over for a suspected DUI.

A police officer “looks for a probable cause, a reason to pull someone over,” he said. “Improper lane usage, weaving and speeding (including underspeeding) are some examples.”

“When you approach the vehicle, you’re not sure if they’re drunk or not,” King said. “You try to find the odor of an alcoholic beverage.

“If they’re unsure of themselves, their speech is slurred, or they do something unusual … you have enough probable cause for a sobriety test.”

A sobriety test gives people a chance to show that maybe there is another reason they are not driving well, King said.

“Everyone gives different tests,” he said, adding some examples are reciting the alphabet, putting their finger to their nose or walking in a straight line and turning.

If a person fails the test, the officer makes the arrest for DUI, cuffs the individual and transports the person to the police department, King said.

At the station, after the Miranda rights are read, a person charged with DUI is asked questions such as “What have you done in the last hour?” and “What have you ate and drank?” King said.

The person charged has the choice of whether to take a breathalizer test or not, he said. For the first DUI offense, there is a three-month minimum suspension of the driver’s license.

“The person is watched for 20 minutes before the test,” King said. “They are not allowed to put anything in their mouth, eat or smoke until the test is over.”

Two tickets are issued before the test, one for the initial violation that resulted in getting pulled over and one for driving under the influence of an alcoholic beverage, he said. If the breathalizer test comes back with a blood alcohol reading of or over 0.10, a third ticket is issued. One of the DUI tickets is dropped in court, King said.

Bail is 10 percent of $3000, which is $100 and your driver’s license (which counts for $200). The person gets a receipt and a court date and is then free to go, he said.

The first DUI conviction results in a “minimum one year loss of full driving privileges, a possible imprisonment for up to one year and a maximum fine of $1000,” according to the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office. The minimum loss of driving privileges for an under-21 DUI conviction is two years.

“The average DUI arrest costs $5000, including fines, legal fees and the rise in your insurance cost,” Kagan said. “Who has $5000 to waste?”