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Illinois Looking to Strengthen Penalties of Move-Over LawIllinois lawmakers have introduced new legislation that would increase the punishment for drivers who violate the “move-over” law, also known as Scott’s Law. The existing law states that drivers must use caution when approaching a stationary emergency vehicle on the side of the road. Scott’s Law is a traffic violation that requires a fine, though it can also be an aggravating factor for charges such as driving under the influence. The changes to the law would expand the punishments for incidents involving property damage or personal injury.

Scott’s Law

The state created the move-over law to protect emergency responders after several had been injured or killed when motorists struck them by the side of the road. The law was named after Chicago Fire Department Lt. Scott Gillen, who died after being hit by an intoxicated driver while responding to a crash. The law states that drivers who are approaching a stationary emergency vehicle must:

  • Proceed with caution;
  • Reduce speed; and
  • Change lanes in order to give the vehicle room, if possible.

The law defines a stationary emergency vehicle as any vehicle that is authorized to be equipped with flashing lights, including the red and blue lights and yellow lights. A conviction is a business offense, punishable by a fine of $100 to $10,000. For incidents involving vehicle damage or personal injury, the offender’s driver’s license can be suspended for 90 to 180 days.

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Illinois ACLU Study Claims Racial Profiling in Traffic StopsBlack and Latino drivers in Illinois are statistically more likely to be pulled over for a traffic stop and subjected to a search, according to a report recently released by the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois. The ACLU looked at results from nearly 6.5 million traffic stops from 2015 to 2017. Illinois law enforcement agencies collect the data as required by the Illinois Traffic and Pedestrian Stop Statistical Study Act, which the state created in 2003 because of concerns about racial profiling. The ACLU said that law enforcement must end its practice of conducting excessive traffic stops and searches in hopes of finding criminal activity.

Statistics

The study cites several pieces of data in claiming that local and state police agencies disproportionately target minority drivers:

  • Police stopped minority drivers at a higher rate than white drivers, and the disparity increased each year from 2015 to 2017;
  • In 2017, minority drivers were 1.5 times more likely to be stopped than white drivers;
  • Black drivers were subjected to consent searches 1.7 times more often than white drivers, and Latino drivers were 1.3 times more likely;
  • Police officers were 1.3 times more likely to find contraband when searching a white driver’s vehicle than when searching the vehicle of a black or Latino driver.

Stops

The ACLU claims that law enforcement agencies have encouraged officers to be aggressive in conducting traffic stops and subsequent searches. The Illinois State Police supposedly instructed troopers to pull drivers over for all traffic violations because it would increase the chance of encountering someone conducting criminal activity. This instruction put into practice means that the troopers may be predisposed to believe that the drivers they pull over are committing other crimes.

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Stricter Distracted Driving Law Could Cause More License SuspensionsIllinois lawmakers are trying to further crack down on distracted driving by changing the state's traffic laws. Starting July 1, 2019, using an electronic communication device while driving will be a moving violation for first-time offenders. Under the current law, this offense is not a moving violation until the second time a driver commits it. This minor change to the traffic law could add up to Illinois more frequently suspending drivers’ licenses because of multiple moving violations.

Consequences

The fines remain the same for using an electronic communications device while driving. The only difference is that they will apply after the first violation instead of the second. They include:

  • $75 for a first offense;
  • $100 for a second offense;
  • $125 for a third offense; and
  • $150 for a fourth or subsequent offense.

You face consequences that are more severe than fines if you commit this violation multiple times. Illinois will suspend your driver’s license if you are ticketed for three moving violations within a year’s time. The change to the law means that your first electronic device offense will count towards that moving violation total instead of being a warning. Illinois assigns points to each moving violation, which it adds up to determine how long your suspension will last. The electronic device violation is 20 points, and committing that same violation three times within a year could result in a three-month license suspension.

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Reckless Driving Charge Needs Proof of IntentReckless driving is one of the more serious traffic offenses that you can be charged with. Illinois law defines reckless driving as a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of yourself and others. Examples of reckless driving include:

  • Traveling 35 miles per hour or more over the speed limit;
  • Swerving between lanes without signaling; and
  • Using an incline to become airborne.

A reckless driving conviction is a class A misdemeanor, punishable by as long as one year in jail and a fine of as much as $2,500. The charge becomes aggravated reckless driving — a class 4 felony — if someone is injured as a result of your reckless driving. Defending yourself against a reckless driving charge requires forcing prosecutors to provide evidence of your alleged driving behavior.

Pushing for Specifics

When you contest your reckless driving charge, prosecutors must explain what you did that constituted reckless driving and present proof of their accusations. There are typically three forms of evidence in a reckless driving case:

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Zero Tolerance Causes Automatic License Suspensions for Underage DrinkersIllinois has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to underage drinking, which makes the state's driving under the influence of alcohol laws particularly stringent for teens and young adults. Drivers age 21 and older commit a DUI offense when their blood alcohol concentration is at 0.08 or higher. However, drivers who are younger than 21 have committed an offense under the zero-tolerance policy when there is any trace of alcohol in their systems. Drivers who are underage may be guilty of DUI if they have a BAC of 0.08 or greater or a BAC of 0.05 with other evidence that proves impairment.

Zero Tolerance Penalties

DUI penalties for an underage drinker apply if the suspect is convicted, but zero tolerance penalties apply upon citation for having a BAC that is greater than 0.00. Penalties under the zero-tolerance policy include:

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Illinois State Bar Association State Bar of Wisconsin Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerce Illinois Trial Lawyers Association McHenry County Bar Association
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