Route 21 targeted for DUI patrols

Published: 8/25/2008 11:47 AM | Updated: 8/25/2008 4:12 PM

The entire length of Route 21 through Lake County will see a crackdown against drunken drivers, including use of a new legal weapon, during the Labor Day weekend.

Lake County State's Attorney Michael Waller said "Operation Safe Run" will use saturation patrols, roadside safety checks and a new "no refusal" DUI enforcement. Police from a variety of state, county and local departments will participate.

"Labor Day weekend is traditionally one of the deadliest weekends of the year on Illinois highways," Waller said. "We are mounting a concentrated effort to reduce the tragedy wrought by drunken driving."

The weekend will feature Lake County's first test of "no refusal" enforcement, in which drivers suspected of driving drunk will not be allowed to simply refuse a blood-alcohol test. Statistics show up to 40 percent of drivers suspected of DUI refuse a breath test.

Waller said assistant state's attorneys will stand by from 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, and will be notified when a driver refuses a breath test.

Those lawyers will confer with arresting officers, Waller said, and once probable cause has been established will draw up a search warrant for a blood sample from the suspect. The warrants will be taken to a judge, and if approved, will be used to order the suspect to give a blood sample, Waller said.

The process is constitutional because the law gives a motorist the right to refuse a breath test, Waller said, but it also allows for use of search warrants to collect evidence of criminal activity.

The method was used once before in the metropolitan area, in Kane County during Memorial Day weekend.

A spokesman for the Kane County state's attorney's office said there were 14 arrests for DUI that weekend, and six drivers immediately agreed to a breath test.

Of the eight who did not, four changed their minds when informed that prosecutors would seek a search warrant, and four warrants were actually issued. One person refused to submit to a blood test after a warrant was issued, the spokesman said, and that person faces a contempt of court proceeding for disobeying a lawful order.

"As law enforcement leaders, we continue to explore new and innovative ways to maximize our efforts by coordinating multiple agency resources to address this serious problem," said Buffalo Grove police Chief Steve Balinski, an organizer of the Route 21 operation.

There will also be a roadside safety check for northbound traffic on Route 21 at Knights Bridge Parkway in Lincolnshire from 10 p.m. Friday to 3 a.m. Saturday. A second check will be done for southbound traffic on Route 21 at Route 60 in Vernon Hills during the same hours on Saturday night and Sunday morning.