Illinois teens do not have to be driving while drinking to lose their driver’s license. That decision has been confirmed with a ruling from the Illinois Supreme Court.
The Illinois Supreme Court has reversed a lower court’s ruling that the law that allows suspension or revocation of a driver’s license, whether or not the teen was driving.
Punishment or Not?
The question is, according to the majority opinion written by Justice Thomas Kilbride, does suspension or revocation of the driver’s license constitute punishment?
The Belleville News Democrat reports that the high court ruled the answer it is not punishment. The majority opinion disagreed with the interpretation of suspension or revocation as punishment, indicating that the provision is actually “intended to provide for safe highways, not to punish licensees for underage consumption of alcohol.” The court believes that someone who is illegally drinking, might also lack the judgment to refrain from getting behind the wheel of a car.
Trial Court Rules Unconstitutional
The case originated in Clinton County in Southern Illinois involving two people, Zachary Boeckmann, 20, and Chelsey Maschoff, 20, both teens at the time of the offense. The two rural Carlyle residents were charged in 2008 with unlawful consumption of alcohol by a minor.
Boeckmann and Maschoff both agreed to court supervision ordered by the Circuit Court Associate Judge William Becker, but challenged action on their driver’s license. They claimed a violation of their rights to due process and equal protection of the law.
Becker agreed with their arguments and ruled the law unconstitutional on that issue. Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White’s office appealed directly to the Illinois Supreme Court. The secretary of state issues drivers licenses and oversees issues relating to driving laws. A spokesman for that office said, “It’s a rational move to think that a young person who has been drinking very possibly is going to get into a car. At that point it becomes a matter of public safety and road safety for the general public and for themselves.”
Supreme Court Reverses
The Supreme Court ruling upholds the law’s constitutionality.
The January 2008 law states that a minor convicted of unlawful consumption or possession of alcohol faces a six-month suspension while a second conviction carries a 12-month suspension, and a third conviction, revocation. A minor charge with one of those offenses and placed under court supervision also faces a three-month suspension.
There could arguably be a substantial impact from the ruling. In 2008, after the law took effect, 4,741 suspensions and revocations were recorded, in 2009, there were 5,449, and as of the issuance of the June 2010 Supreme Court ruling there have been 2,152.
Among supporters of the Illinois Supreme Court ruling are Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
The decision by the Illinois Supreme Court may be read here.
Brian Brueggemann, Illinois Supreme Court Rules in Clinton County Case: Minors Caught Drinking Can Lose License, bnd.com
The People of the State of Illinois v. Zachary Boeckmann, Vs. Chelsey Maschoff, Supreme Court of the State of Illinois