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Bill for Illinois DUI devices sent to governor
By Bethany Krajelis
Law Bulletin correspondent
SPRINGFIELD First-time drunken driving offenders may soon have to prove they're sober each time the get behind the wheel.
Legislation sent to the governor Tuesday would require motorists convicted of driving under the influence to install a breath-alcohol monitoring device linked to the vehicle ignition. Senate Bill 300 also would do away with judicial driving permits.
The legislation, an initiative of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, was approved by the Senate on a 57-0 vote and now goes to Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich.
Sen. John J. Cullerton, the sponsor of SB 300, said his proposal would be a national model.
''It is a major change because we have not really made the progress in fighting drunken driving,'' the Chicago Democrat said. ''It seems to have stalled, and we are finding that we need to take advantage of new technology.''
According to the proposal, DUI offenders now eligible for a judicial driving permit, which enable them to drive to work or school, would instead have to put a breath-alcohol ignition interlock device in their vehicles. The monitoring device would require him to pass a breath-alcohol test before the ignition engages. Additional tests would be required at random intervals after the car is started.
Rep. Robert S. Molaro, D-Chicago, called judicial driving permits ''ridiculous'' during House debate earlier this spring. He said there was full support from prosecutors, defense attorneys and judges to replace the permit process because some people, like stay-at-home parents, are not eligible.
Once convicted, a DUI offender would have a choice: install the device or don't drive.
If an offender is caught driving without a monitoring device or driving another person's car, he could be charged with a Class 4 felony and sentenced to a mandatory minimum of 30 days in jail.
''But does the second person, the owner of that vehicle & have any responsibility if that happens?'' Sen. Dale Risinger, R-Peoria, asked Cullerton during Tuesday's debate.
Even though Risinger's question is not addressed in SB 300, Cullerton expressed interest in possibly putting such language in a trailer bill.
The measure also would double the suspension periods for first-time offenders. Currently, a first DUI offense results in a three-month license suspension or, if the offender refuses to take a breath alcohol test, a six-month suspension.
Several states, including Illinois, already require the device for repeat offenders, but if SB 300 becomes law, Illinois would be among the first 10 states that require the device for first-time offenders. The new scheme would take effect on Jan. 1, 2009.
In other legislative action Tuesday, the House voted 76-40 to allow judges to remove juvenile sex offenders from the state registry.
Under SB 121, juvenile sex offenders would be able to petition the court to terminate registration after five years for felony charges or two years for misdemeanors. Last spring, the governor vetoed similar legislation that neither included a waiting period nor differentiated between misdemeanors and felonies.
Across the rotunda, the Senate approved legislation that would allow parties harmed by the unauthorized practice of law to seek damages.
Under Senate Bill 148, a person engaging in the unauthorized practice of law would be subject to a court order that could include equitable relief, a civil penalty of less than $5,000 and actual damages.
The legislation would also create a commission to assist and advise the Illinois Supreme Court with the preservation of historic buildings, objects and documents. It would require the state treasurer to transfer $5 million from the General Revenue Fund into the commission's fund.
The House also approved legislation that would create a juvenile resource unit within the offices of both the State Appellate Defender and the State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor.
Senate Bill 521 would create units that provide training for lawyers and study the juvenile justice system.
All four measures now await action from the governor. The spring legislative session is scheduled to end Thursday, but wrangling over the budget could push lawmakers in an overtime session.
Legislation can be found on the General Assembly's Web site.