Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Chicago Tribune Castigates Lawyers and Judges for Allowing "Dangerous Drivers" to Drive

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A few weeks ago the Chicago Tribune suggested in this article, "Judges don't slow 100 mph speeders" that Illinois judges, and to an extent, defense attorneys, were responsible for excessive leniency toward chronic and dangerous drivers. It is suggested in the article that in some counties, judges tend to give breaks to "dangerous drivers" who appear with attorneys:

Prosecutors in DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will counties insist they rarely accept plea deals calling for supervision for people driving 100 mph or faster. Most blame judges for agreeing to it.

In DuPage County, where 62 percent of triple-digit speeders get the deal, State's Attorney Joe Birkett said those speeders usually impress judges by getting attorneys.

"Unfortunately, the mere fact they step up with a lawyer, the judge will take into consideration that this person is taking this seriously," Birkett said.

Judges in those counties, for their part, say they look at every case individually. They don't want to be overly harsh. Convictions can cost a driver his or her license, which could mean losing a job. And, judges often face a heavy volume of cases, with pressure to move through them quickly and assign fines.

Unfortunately, the the article is based upon incorrect facts and assumptions that call into question the conclusions reached therein. For example:
  • Contrary to the claim in the article, sentences of court supervision do not keep the tickets ‘off’ the drivers’ records--in fact, the Tribune was easily able to locate the records of drivers who received this sentence
  • The article refers to people convicted of speeding as "dangerous drivers," but in the article, the Tribune was unable to locate any evidence that drivers who received a sentence of court supervision had been in an accident after receiving that sentence
Another important omission--the article fails to mention that in 2000, Jesse White and the named prosecutors successfully lobbied to make speeding 40 mph above the limit a crime – a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year in jail. Thus, anyone convicted of this ticket is now a convicted criminal in the eyes of the law, and that conviction follows a person for their lifetime. Such a conviction is a strong barrier toward future employment. At that time, the Illinois State Bar Association opposed making speeding a crime, predicting that it would cause judges to offer court supervision more frequently, due to the harsh consequences of a criminal conviction. And, lo and behold, that's exactly what appears to be happening. Finally, Jesse White’s suggestion that we should be treating speeders as convicted criminals is wrong. The suggestion that a speeding driver with no accidents on his record should be treated more harshly than a person caught stealing, or criminally damaging property, or assaulting or battering another (all also Class A misdemeanors) is simply wrong. We do not punish people for what might or could happen. Speeding should be discouraged--not demonized. **Visit Americas Top DUI and DWI Attorneys at www.1800dialdui.com or call 1-800-DIAL-DUI to find a DUI OUI DWI Attorney Lawyer Now**
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