Local officials say they have “serious concerns” about a proposed Illinois bill that would prevent officers from stopping cars for traffic infractions, with one official saying it is “hard to overstate how bad this bill is.”
Illinois State Rep. Justin Slaughter (D-Chicago) filed House Bill 4603 on Monday.
The bill amends the Illinois Vehicle Code and prohibits all law enforcement officers from conducting traffic stops on vehicles throughout the state for a variety of offenses.
Those offenses include speeding up to 25 mph over the posted speed limit.
The bill says officers can only stop drivers who commit felony or misdemeanor speeding offenses.
In Illinois, speeding 26 mph or more over the limit is a Class B misdemeanor, while speeding 35 mph or more over the limit is a Class A misdemeanor.
The bill says officers who do stop speeders traveling more than 25 mph over the limit cannot use any evidence obtained on the stop at trial, even if the evidence was obtained with the consent of the driver.
The bill additionally restricts officers from stopping vehicles that fail to display license plates or stickers or operate with an expired registration sticker.
Slaughter’s bill says that officers also cannot stop drivers who commit improper lane usage or fail to comply with requirements relating to vehicle lamps or have excessive tint or defective mirrors.
Lake County Sheriff John Idleburg told Lake and McHenry County Scanner he has serious concerns about the bill.
“If passed, this would significantly decrease our ability to keep drivers safe on the roadway, which is in complete contrast to what the community expects from their law enforcement,” Idleburg said.
The sheriff said that oftentimes a traffic stop for improper lane usage results in deputies being able to take a drunk driver off the road.
Deputies stopping a car without license plates has led to recovering stolen vehicles.
“Not to mention, driving above the speed limit is dangerous, and is the number one traffic complaint we receive from the community,” Idleburg said.
“The list goes on and on. Limiting our ability to enforce traffic laws will undoubtedly increase injuries and deaths on our roadways,” he added.
The bill says vehicles that have obstructed windshields, defective windshield wipers, defective bumpers and excessive exhaust would not be allowed to be stopped.
Drivers who do not wear a seatbelt are also safe from being stopped under the proposed bill.
Slaughter was one of the lead sponsors of the controversial SAFE-T Act, which went into effect in September and ended cash bail in Illinois.
McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally said improper lane usage and speeding are precursors to a vast amount of driving under the influence investigations and arrests.
Speeding and driving a vehicle without a seatbelt is the cause of countless deaths on Illinois highways each year, Kenneally said.
“How exactly are we supposed to prove who committed the traffic offense if police cannot definitively identify the defendant through a traffic stop?” Kenneally said.
The state’s attorney also said that if no evidence “discovered or obtained” as a result of a traffic stop is admissible, then many crimes would not be able to be prosecuted.
“… if police find a kidnapped child in the trunk of an offender’s car after pulling the defendant over for speeding as he was attempting to flee the area, we would not be able to prosecute the driver for child abduction or worse. It is hard to overstate how bad this bill is,” Kenneally said.
Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart said he does not support the bill in its current form.
“It is important that motorists are safe and that law enforcement has the tools they need to enforce DUI laws and to make sure that vehicles are safe on the road,” Rinehart said.
“While it is appropriate to consider whether we are over-policing certain communities, we cannot allow unsafe drivers to speed down the road, to swerve from lane to lane, or to have faulty equipment,” Rinehart said.
Rinehart said that there can still be “safe roads and constitutional policing” and that he would continue to ask the prosecutor’s association and the local legal community to address racial profiling and other unfair practices.
“Our office has increased training and accountability around the iron-clad principle that we must protect everyone’s constitutional rights,” Rinehart said.
McHenry County Sheriff Robb Tadelman said the proposed bill provides several challenges to the law enforcement community and “our mission on protecting our respective communities.”
“Traffic enforcement is one of many important functions law enforcement is tasked with. This proposed bill limits Illinois Law Enforcement Deputy’s and Officer’s ability to provide safe roads for the motoring public and safety for the community as a whole,” Tadelman said.
“I will continue to work with McHenry County local leaders in working with our legislators on this among the other proposed bills in this upcoming legislative session,” he added.