Chicago State's Attorney's Office to Stop Prosecuting Certain Traffic Offenses Due to Overwhelming Caseloads

The Cook County (Ill.) state's attorney's office has announced that it will stop prosecuting certain traffic offenses by the end of the year. The county, which includes the cities of Chicago, Evanston, Schaumburg, Oak Park, and Rosemont, among others, and has a population of 5.246 million residents, will stop prosecuting people for driving on licenses that have been suspended for failure or inability to pay obligations such as child support, parking tickets, and tolls. The new policy will leave the decision on whether to prosecute such offenses to the individual cities in its jurisdiction. The state's attorney's office will also change other policies about how certain charges are prosecuted. The policy changes are due to caseloads for prosecutors that dramatically exceed the number of cases they should have per year--by approximately twelve times the recommended limit. You can read more about the changes in policy in an article from the Chicago Tribune here. This announcement comes within two months of another recent report by the Chicago Tribune which revealed that the city of Chicago has virtually abandoned ticketing drivers for distracted driving.

Massachusetts Case Leads to New Legislation Affecting Bail for 3rd OUI Offenders

In Commonwealth v. Dayton (2017 WL 2384101), decided on June 1, 2017, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts held that the Commonwealth's law giving judges the option to hold third-time OUI offenders without bail was ambiguous, leading to new legislative efforts by Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker. In the case, the Commonwealth moved for a hearing to deny bail for the defendant, who had two previous OUIs and was being charged with a third. Bail was ultimately denied, but on appeal, the Supreme Judicial Court held that the ambiguity of the statute's language required a third conviction to hold a dangerousness hearing to deny bail, whereas the defendant in this case only had two prior convictions. Governor Baker believed that the intent of the bill was to allow judges to decide whether people charged with a third offense, not just people with three previous convictions, should be held without bail on public safety grounds. As a result, the governor has announced his intention to introduce a bill in the Massachusetts Legislature which would strike the obfuscatory language from the law and clarify its intent to apply to third-time offenders. You can read more about the case and the court's ruling here, and you can read more about Governor Baker's bill in an article in the Boston Herald.

NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts 2015 Report

NHTSA recently released its comprehensive Traffic Safety Facts report for the year 2015, which analyzes Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) data and identifies trends about traffic crashes in the report year. Among its findings are that twenty-nine percent of all fatal crashes in 2015 involved alcohol-impaired driving and that fifty-eight percent of all fatal crashes that took place between midnight and 3 A.M. involved alcohol impaired driving. You can read or download the entire report here.

Charlotte Observer Piece Explores Impaired Driving Sentencing

A recent article from the Charlotte Observer explored how a South Carolina driver with three previous drunk driving charges and two previous convictions still had an active driver's license when she caused a fatal accident on August 20, 2016. The article discusses challenges in prosecuting DUI cases in South Carolina, the effects of being able to plead to a lesser charge for one's first DUI offense, and the obstacles prosecutors face to learning about prior out-of-state impaired driving convictions. You can read the article here.

California Grappling With Marijuana Laws and Drugged Driving Prevention

Since the passage of Proposition 64 in November 2016, which legalized the recreational use of marijuana, California's politicians, law enforcement, and regulatory agencies have been trying how to safely and effectively govern the sale and use of recreational marijuana in California. A recent article from the Sacramento Bee details provisions of the soon-to-be-passed bill, including an explainer of the bill's "open container" provisions and how drivers are tested for drugged driving in California. California law enforcement also recently demonstrated a field test of a portable device that detects the presence of six drugs, including marijuana, by using a mouth swab, part of Proposition 64's anti-drugged driving efforts. The machine, the Alere DDS2, was field-tested across the state of California in 2012 and tested in Sacramento in 2013. The results of the 2012 statewide test are available here. Though the Sacramento Police Department did not adopt the device in 2013 for legal reasons, the Department and other California law enforcement agencies are currently considering its adoption.

Liquor Lobby Runs Ad Campaign in Utah Decrying New Law

In the wake of Utah's new law which reduces the impaired driving BAC threshold from 0.08 to 0.05 (explained here; similar coverage also appeared in the April newsletter), a liquor lobbying group has begun an extensive ad campaign attacking the state's marketability to tourists. The American Beverage Institute has launched several full-page ad campaigns in Utah and neighboring states with the caption "Utah: Come for vacation, leave on probation." You can read more about the ad campaign and potential changes the law may undergo before it takes effect at the end of 2018 in this Los Angeles Times article. The Salt Lake Tribune also recently published an article detailing how the law's expansion of restrictions on "novice drivers" may impose a virtual zero-alcohol-tolerance policy before driving for immigrants for up to two years after they get their licenses.

NCSC Traffic Resources

If you have not seen the redesign of the Traffic Resource Center for Judges yet, we invite you to take a few minutes to browse the website here. We also still have physical copies of our recently released issue brief compendium, which may be acquired by emailing Greg Hurley at

DWI Court Foundational Training - Application Deadline Soon!

The National Center for DWI Courts is holding four sessions of its 3.5 day DWI Court Foundational Training later this year. The training is designed for courts not yet operating a DWI court program, teams that had significant staff changes or teams that have never attended a NCDC training before, and uses the 10 Guiding Principles for DWI Courts and the National Association of Drug Court Professionals' Best Practice Standards to design an effective program for treating repeat DWI offenders. The four locations for the training are: Billings, Montana (Aug. 28-31), Duluth, Minnesota (Sept. 12-15), El Paso, Texas (Oct. 16-19), and Athens, Georgia (Dec. 4-7). The application deadline for the program is June 23 -- apply here.

Upcoming Courses at the National Judicial College

The following courses are offered by the National Judicial College in Reno, Nevada, in the coming months. A limited number of scholarships are available through generous funding from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Please contact Katheryn Yetter at or (775) 327-8269 for more information.

Behind the Wheel: Today’s Traffic Offender (October 23-26; Reno, NV) The arena of traffic-related offenses is constantly evolving. Statistically, driving while under the influence of drugs as well as alcohol will be an issue that will appear with more frequency in traffic courts around the country. This course will delve into several issues that judges who hear traffic cases will experience this year, as well as offer insight into case issues and strategies from the prospective of the prosecutor, the defense attorney, the law enforcement officer, and the treatment provider. The course will also offer in- depth insight on how roadside drug detection is done as well as how the 12-step DRE protocol is conducted. Additionally, the course will offer a demonstration on the various types of drug and alcohol detection equipment that is available and the reliability of the instruments.

Properly and Effectively Adjudicating Drugged Drivers (October 30 - December 8; online; free) Unlike alcohol-impaired driving, drugged driving has fewer tools in the field to detect impairment and concentration levels in the body. Drugged driving cases require a judge to utilize a variety of judicial tools to effectively adjudicate these cases. In addition to the ability to determine which kinds of drugs an individual may be using, it is important to know how these drugs affect the individual and their ability to operate a vehicle. It is also imperative that a judge knows how to effectively craft sentences, which include treatment options, in order to provide a participant with the most beneficial mode of recovery.

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