DUI: Government’s Cash Cow

Posted by Lawrence Taylor on October 17th, 2005

I’ve written about the increasing trend of cash-strapped local governments to treat drunk driving cases as a revenue-producing machine. The danger, of course, is that more pressure is put on law enforcement to make more DUI arrests — valid or not. This recent news story from Illinois is another clear example:

Drinking, Driving Could Cost More

With major capital projects on the horizon, Hoffman Estates may turn to drunken drivers for additional revenue, following the lead of communities such as Arlington Heights, Buffalo Grove, Hanover Park and Rolling Meadows.

Beginning next year, drunken drivers may have to cough up an additional $500 if they get pinched on village streets. With DUI arrests in Hoffman Estates fluctuating between 300 and 500 annually over the last four years, the village could garner an extra $150,000 to $250,000. That’s on top of a $100 per DUI arrest fee that the state remits annually to local arresting agencies across Illinois.In Arlington Heights, Buffalo Grove and other communities, the DUI surcharge is tacked on as an impound fee. Following a DUI arrest, the driver must first hand over $500 before getting the vehicle back.

But because of the numerous fees faced by those charged with DUI, the law has its critics. Donald Ramsell, a Wheaton attorney who specializes in defending DUI cases, said the new law is not only unfair, but also illegal. "The whole thing is a joke. First off, they hold the car hostage for $500," he said. "Secondly, if the person who is arrested, in many cases, challenges the fee, the police chief is the one who conducts an independent review of whether or not the arrest was lawful. How independent is that?"

"After legal fees of anywhere between $5,000 and $10,000, court-mandated counseling fees of $1,000 to $2,000, other miscellaneous fees of $2,500, a state DUI technology surcharge and court costs and fees of $3,500, a first-time offender can easily pay $15,000 to $20,000 after getting being arrested for DUI", Ramsell said.

"It’s an unfair hardship," Ramsell said. "But people arrested for DUIs aren’t too popular in the eyes of the public. I think more and more communities are going to be paying the bills with DUI arrests."Citing it as a possible source of general fund revenues, Hoffman Estates Village Manager Jim Norris introduced the DUI surcharge last week. The Village Board will likely discuss it next month. The village, which is currently reviewing its 2006 budget, is seeking new revenue streams as officials consider a growing list of capital expenses including neglected road improvements, a new police station and the relocation of at least one fire station. The tab for all three is about $32 million. (Emphasis added.)

Need more money? Make more arrests….Drunk driving: The "new revenue stream".

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