It's good to see St. Clair County's law enforcers outmaneuver drunken drivers for a change. One of the more frustrating aspects of a DUI is that the suspect often gets away with it by refusing to take a Breathalyzer test. No breath test means no clear-cut evidence of legal intoxication, which usually means no DUI conviction.
State lawmakers tried to help with lengthy license suspensions of drivers who refuse to take the test. However, savvy lawyers routinely get that penalty dismissed.
Now the police have the means to collect this crucial evidence. State's Attorney Brendan Kelly has set up a hotline so if a driver refuses a breath test, the police can request a search warrant on the spot to test his blood for alcohol. Kelly said the system resulted in prison time for Timothy Leininger, a repeat DUI offender.
This is a great tool that needs to be used more frequently by the police. The hotline was set up in April 2011, but so far just 12 search warrants have been issued. Kelly said part of that is easing into the new system. Also, some drivers agree to the breath test once they know the police could get a warrant.
The number of DUI cases that result in jail time has increased in St. Clair County as has the size of the average fine. These are welcome strides forward in treating DUI as the serious crime it is.