Tribune story about driving while revoked neglects to emphasize overly tough laws already on the books

In a story which was posted Saturday on the Chicago Tribune’s website, behind their paywall, presumably to appear in print on Sunday, there is yet another misguided attempt, egged on by west suburban police chiefs, to up the penalties on revoked drivers.

I say yet again, because this has been going on for the last 15 years that I can remember. Every once in a while, there are stories written, designed to scare readers, increase newspaper sales and get clicks, about the allegedly soft penalties on people who drive while revoked.

As a result, our legislature, which continually acts like frightened sheep whenever the news media writes about revoked or drunk drivers, keep on enacting tougher and tougher penalties, to the point where gangbangers and drug pushers face a lesser likelihood of going to prison than revoked drivers.

Here is a quote from the article:

“It seems to be a big joke,” said Riverside Police Chief Thomas Weitzel, who is pushing for wider support from law enforcement and legislators to reduce the problem. “It’s, get a ticket, go in to the station, bond out, get your car and drive away. I think we’re lenient. There’s no deterrent there at all. Zero.”

So lets see if there is no deterrent to driving while revoked.

Lets say that you were recently charged with DUI, and your license was suspended. If you drive during that suspension, you are facing a felony charge, with a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 days and a maximum of three years. Yes, even if you get probation, you will do 30 days in jail. And that is a full 30 days. No day for day credit.

Now, imagine that you are a professional person, lets say areal estate broker. That felony conviction will probably mean loss of your job, your career, your broker’s license, possibly your home. It might mean the cancellation of health insurance for you and your family.

But I guess these penalties are a joke, right?

Now lets talk about the person who repeatedly drives while revoked.

A fourth driving while revoked for a DUI is facing a minimum 180 days in jail, up to three years in prison. A ninth offense is a minimum 2 years, up to five years. The penalties are even greater if the underlying DUI resulted in serious injury or death.

You may say, anyone who drives that many times after being revoked deserves to get the book thrown at him.

Well, did you know that you don’t even have to be driving to get charged with driving while revoked? All that is required is that the person be “in control” of a motor vehicle, so sitting in a car, without the engine running, to have a private cell phone conversation, is “driving.”

And you have situations like one client of mine. His license was revoked for a DUI in the 1980s. He drove three times on his revoked license around that time, back when the penalties were truly a slap on the wrist. Twenty years later, without having ever gone to reinstate his license, he took a chance and drove. He was pulled over for a minor moving violation and learned to his horror that driving while revoked wasn’t a “slap on the wrist” anymore; it was a felony with a minimum sentence of 180 days. Goodbye job, goodbye life.

A few years ago, the Secretary of State proposed a law which would allow revoked drivers to get driving privileges, so long as they drove with a BAIID device.  The law was shelved.

Perhaps we should work on ways to get revoked drivers to become better and safer drivers, rather than just locking them up for sitting in a car.