Tuesday, July 29, 2008

“Use It & Lose It” Zero Tolerance Law for Drivers Under 21

Statistics show that underage drinking is on the rise nationally. In 2006, 2,663 Illinois drivers under the age of 21 had their license suspended for having alcohol in their system or for refusing to submit to chemical testing. Additionally, some 4,796 underage drivers in Illinois were arrested for DUI and received suspensions.

Illinois’ “Use It & Lose It” law is targeted at drivers under the age of 21 who have any trace of alcohol in their system, or who refuse to submit to chemical testing. Under the “Use It & Lose It” law, on a first offense, driving privileges will be suspended for 3 months for a Blood Alcohol Level (BAC) of more than .00, or driving privileges will be suspended for 6 months for failure to submit to or complete chemical testing. If the driver holds a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), their CDL privileges will be suspended for one year.

On a second offense under “Use It & Lose It” law, driving privileges for a BAC of over .00 will be suspended for one year, and refusal to submit to or complete chemical testing will result in a suspension of driving privileges for 2 years. A second offense for a driver holding a CDL will result in a lifetime disqualification on CDL privileges.

What Happens if You are Under 21 and Convicted of DUI?
If you are under the age of 21 and are convicted of first-time DUI offense, your driving privileges will be revoked for a minimum of 2 years. You will not be eligible for a Restricted Driving Permit until the second year of your license revocation. Additionally, if you are under the age of 18, remedial education and/or retesting may be required before your driving privileges will be reinstated.

If you are under age 21, the judge may require you to attend a Youthful Intoxicated Driver’s Visitation Program as a condition of your probation or discharge. You will be required to attend a comprehensive counseling session to determine whether or not this program is appropriate for you. This program may send you on a supervised visit to a location where the impact of a DUI crash or alcoholism may be studied or observed.

Accidents Causing Injury or Death
If you are under the age of 18 and are charged with an offense as a result of an accident in which a passenger was seriously injured or killed, you may be denied a driver’s license or driver’s license renewal by the Illinois Secretary of State’s office.

Parental Responsibility
Parents face fines and possible imprisonment for allowing persons under the age of 21 to consume alcohol. It is important to note that the parents face repercussions for failing to supervise minors or knowingly allowing minors to consume alcohol; parents do not have to supply the alcohol. A parent or legal guardian who knowingly allows persons under the age of 21 to consume alcoholic beverages at a private residence is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor, and faces possible imprisonment of 12 months and a $500-2,500 fine.

If a parent or legal guardian knowingly allows persons under 21 to consume alcohol by failing to control access to a private residence or access to alcoholic beverages in the residence, and bodily harm results to someone as a result of this access, the parent/guardian is guilty of a Class 4 felony. If great bodily harm or death results, the parent/guardian faces possible imprisonment of 1-3 years and possible fines of up to $25,000.

Thanks for reading my blog-I hope you have found this information to be interesting and informative. If you have a question or comment, feel free to post it here, but keep in mind your response will not be confidential. If you are under 21 and have been accused of a DUI offense in the State of Illinois, contact me for immediate assistance.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Social Host Liability in the State of Illinois

The Drug or Alcohol Impaired Minor Responsibility Act (“the Act”) became law in the State of Illinois in 2004. The purpose of the law was to discourage social hosts from serving alcohol to minors by imposing legal liability on the host for death or injuries caused by the consumption of alcohol or illegal drugs. The Act is similar to a dram shop liability law that imposes liability on bars or other businesses that serve alcohol for death or injuries to third parties, if the person who was intoxicated was served at the establishment and was visibly intoxicated or a minor. Illinois dram shop laws will hold a business establishment responsible if the following conditions are met:
  • Alcohol was sold to the patron;
  • Proximate cause exists between the sale of alcohol and intoxication;
  • Injuries were sustained; and
  • Intoxication was at least one cause of the injuries.

The Act differs from dram shop laws in that it allows a cause of action for minors under the age of 18 who are injured by an impairment that was caused by the consumption of alcoholic beverages or illegal drugs. According to statistics released by the Illinois’ Department of Human Services’ Division of Community Health and Prevention, underage drinking is on the rise in Illinois.

Lawsuit Against Social Hosts
Just one month after the Act went into effect, an accident involving social host liability led to a lawsuit. Four girls were leaving a Halloween party where they had consumed beer from kegs. All four girls were minors. The driver of the vehicle made an illegal turn in front of a semi-tractor trailer, and one of her passengers was seriously injured. The driver submitted to a Breathalyzer test, and her blood alcohol level registered .08. The injured girl’s family filed a lawsuit against the hosts of the party under the Drug or Alcohol Impaired Minor Responsibility Act, alleging negligence on the part of the hosts. Specifically, the family alleged the host was negligent in failing to check IDs or failing to hire someone to check IDs of partygoers. The lawsuit was settled for $1,625,000.

How to Avoid Liability as a Social Host
If you are hosting a party or event, you should be aware of your responsibilities under the Drug or Alcohol Impaired Minor Responsibility Act. The Illinois Department of Transportation offers the following tips for social hosts to ensure the safety of their guests:

  • Appoint a reliable bartender to monitor guests’ drinking. Don’t let your guests mix their own drinks.
  • Do not serve alcohol to anyone under the age of 21. If you aren’t sure if a guest is over the age of 21, request ID.
  • Set up an “alcohol free” bar with juices, flavored waters and punch or “mocktails” as an alternative to alcoholic beverages.
  • Serve plenty of food to keep guests from drinking on an empty stomach
  • Stop serving alcohol 90 minutes before the party ends.
  • Insist that impaired guests stay over or find them a ride home. Keep the numbers of local cab companies handy.

I hope you found this blog posting to be interesting and informative. If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to respond to this posting. If you have been accused of a violation of Illinois’ driving under the influence or traffic laws, contact me for immediate, confidential assistance. Thanks for reading.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Holiday Drivers Warned of Possible Seizure and Forfeiture of Vehicle

This past July 4th holiday weekend, authorities warned of an increased police presence and additional roadside checks over the weekend. Illinois State Police Commander Jeffrey Hedrich is quoted in the Chicago Sun-Times before the weekend as saying some 200 police agencies in the state will be conducting over 100 roadside checks over the weekend.

DuPage County authorities have announced that they will be seizing vehicles from drivers; so far this year, they have seized 417 vehicles, mostly as a result of alcohol-related stops. State Attorney Joseph Birkett reminded the public in a news conference that pursuant to Illinois state law, local law enforcement agencies are authorized to seize and sell vehicles from drivers who are under the influence.

State Attorney Birkett is referring to the seizure of vehicles under 720 ILCS 5/36-1 and the corresponding forfeiture proceedings pursuant to 720 ILCS 5/36-2.1. If you are driving on a suspended license (such as a statutory summary suspension) or a revoked license (based on a previous DUI conviction) and are arrested on suspicion of felony DUI charges, your car is subject to possible seizure and forfeiture.

When a person is arrested, the vehicle is seized by the arresting police department and must be delivered “forthwith” to the sheriff of the county where the seizure occurred. Upon delivery of the vehicle, within 15 days the sheriff must notify everyone listed on the title to the vehicle by certified mail to the address on file with the Secretary of State, and must also notify the State’s Attorney in the county where the seizure occurred. The statute provides that the spouse of the owner of the seized vehicle can file a hardship provision transferring title to the vehicle to the spouse if the vehicle is the family’s sole form of transportation and the hardship to the family outweighs the state’s interest in the vehicle. Hardship relief is only available once per family. If someone in the family subsequently has the same or another vehicle seized, hardship relief will not be available.

Unless there are other mitigating factors warranting remission of the forfeiture, the State Attorney must file a complaint for forfeiture in the circuit court and serve notice on the appropriate parties, who must file a verified answer to the complaint within 20 days from the date the complaint was mailed. If the vehicle is subject to a lien, the lienholder will typically file an answer asserting their interest in the vehicle and stating they had no knowledge the vehicle would be used in the commission of an offense. The lienholder will also file a petition seeking the return of the vehicle under their security interest.

If the vehicle is not released on a hardship provision or on a lienholder’s petition, a hearing is held on the forfeiture. The state must only show by a preponderance of the evidence that the vehicle was used in the commission of a crime. The vehicle owner does not have to be convicted of the underlying offense to uphold a forfeiture proceeding.

If you have been accused of a violation of Illinois’ DUI laws, or if your vehicle has been seized, contact me for immediate assistance. Thanks for reading, and have a safe 4th of July holiday weekend.