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updated: 8/7/2015 3:14 PM

DUI law change inspired by suburban student's death

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  • Barbara Wheeler

    Barbara Wheeler

  • Caitlin Weese

    Caitlin Weese

 
 

Some punishments for driving drunk in Illinois are getting harsher, but some people with more than four DUI convictions will be allowed to drive again under legislation signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner.

A proposal from state Rep. Barbara Wheeler, a Crystal Lake Republican, was inspired by the 2003 traffic death of Caitlin Weese, a student at Larkin High School in Elgin.

The new law will require anyone convicted of DUI to have a breathalyzer device in his or her car for five years that keeps the car from starting if a driver has been drinking.

"Everyone makes mistakes in life, but when a person places themselves and others at risk by repeatedly driving under the influence, we need to make every effort to keep them from doing so again," Wheeler said.

Weese is the stepdaughter of Wheeler's 2014 election opponent, Democrat Joel Mains.

The 17-year-old was killed when a drunk driver came around a curve into her lane and struck her on Route 72 near Gilberts. The driver, James Stitt of Palatine, had a suspended license at that time, served five years in prison for Weese's death and was sentenced in May to two years for another DUI.

Rauner signed Wheeler's plan into law, as well as one from state Rep. Elaine Nekritz, a Northbrook Democrat, that would allow multiple-DUI offenders limited driving privileges if they can prove they've been sober for more than three years.

Those who are qualified can apply for the restricted driving permit five years after their drivers license revocation or release from prison. Those who obtain a permit must operate a vehicle equipped with a

breath analyzer that checks for alcohol before a car can be started.

If the person is subsequently convicted of DUI, the permit is revoked and the person is permanently barred from acquiring a restricted permit.

"Driving and operating a car is a privilege, and this package of bills provides these individuals a pathway to regaining that privilege while ensuring the safety of all drivers and their passengers." Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly said.

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