Friday, June 25, 2010

Illinois Supreme Court OK's taking driver's license for underage drinking

People v. Boeckmann

Direct appeal from the circuit court of Clinton County.

JUSTICE KILBRIDE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.
Chief Justice Fitzgerald concurred in the judgment and opinion.
Justice Garman specially concurred, with opinion, joined by Justice
Justice Freeman dissented, with opinion, joined by Justice Burke.
Justice Karmeier took no part in the decision.

These consolidated appeals involve individuals charged with underage drinking who pled guilty to that offense. No vehicles were involved. The trial court placed each on court supervision for 90 days and then entered an order declaring unconstitutional as applied the statute requiring suspension of a driver’s license on receipt of court supervision for underage drinking, even where no vehicle is involved. It found a due process violation. The Secretary of State brought this direct from the finding of statutory unconstitutionality.

In 1989, the Illinois Supreme Court had held unconstitutional a statutory provision calling for revocation of a driver’s license on conviction of certain sex offenses. There, as here, there was no use of a vehicle. In this decision, the supreme court distinguished its earlier ruling, noting that, here, the legislature may have believed that a young person who consumes alcohol illegally may take the additional step of driving after consuming alcohol, and it is reasonable to believe that a young person disobeying the law against underage consumption may also lack the judgment to decline to drive after drinking. Preventing young people from driving after consuming alcohol is unquestionably in the public interest.

The supreme court also held that the obligation imposed here on the Secretary of State to suspend a driver’s license is mandatory, rather than discretionary.

The circuit court’s holding of statutory unconstitutionality was reversed.

These consolidated cases involved a constitutional challenge to Section 6-206(a)(43) of the Illinois Vehicle Code, the statutory provision which requires suspension of driving privileges for 90 days for any person receiving court supervision for unlawful consumption of alcohol under 21 years of age.

The circuit court held that the statute, as applied, violated due process because a vehicle was not involved in the commission of the offense. The Supreme Court disagreed.

The purpose of 6-206(a)(43) is to “promote the safe and legal operation and ownership of motor vehicles.” Suspension of driving privileges bears a rational relationship to that purpose because “young people who have a driver’s license and consume alcohol illegally may also drive after consuming alcohol regardless of whether a motor vehicle is involved.” And, the suspension of driving privileges is a reasonable method of furthering the public interest in safe and legal operation of motor vehicles, despite the absence of a vehicle or any plan to drive. So, for persons under 21, it doesn’t matter if a vehicle is involved in the commission of the offense of unlawful consumption of alcohol. It doesn’t even matter if a person under 21 who commits the offense of unlawful consumption of alcohol contemplates driving or not. Suspension of driving privileges for anyone receiving supervision for that offense is proper.

Nos. 108289, 108290 cons.

People v. Maschoff

Opinion 108289 (PDF)


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