DUI and summary suspension, and the M/H Court
September 17, 2011
On Thursday I visited McHenry County's Mental Health Court to introduce a friend to how it worked. The court is open to the public, as is almost every other courtroom at 2200 N. Seminary Ave.
His adult son had been charged with several traffic violations, a DUI, and three misdemeanor counts within one Complaint. I had urged him to investigate the Mental Health Court and to refer his son's case to it.
DUI and traffic charges are not handled by the Mental Health Court, but a DUI doesn't automatically rule out the referral for consideration for transfer of the eligible charges to this Court.
What had this man heard about the Mental Health Court?
1. "You can't get into the Mental Health Court, if you are charged with a DUI?"
2. "The Mental Health Court is for people with mental illness, so they can get off.
"Wrong, and wrong!!! Defendants in the Mental Health Court most assuredly do not "get off."
Consider this. What if a driver gets stopped and refuses to submit to roadside sobriety tests or to blow into the breathalyzer? Bingo. The cop is going to charge him with refusing and go for a Summary Suspension. The driver is going to lose his driver's license.
Let's say a forced blood draw takes place. Medical personnel draw the driver's blood. The blood-alcohol content (BAC) is 0.04%. A-ha. The driver wasn't drunk!
How long should it take the attorney to get the DUI dismissed? If I were the driver's attorney, I would immediately deal with the State's Attorney's office to get the DUI dropped and the charge expunged from the court record. AND I would ask for Summary Suspension to be dropped, since the driver wasn't drunk!
Then other traffic charges could be dealt with expeditiously through the normal plea-bargaining that takes place every day in the courthouse. It doesn't have to drag on for months of continuances (and legal fees).
Every attorney in McHenry County should be required to learn exactly what the purpose of the Mental Health Court is and how it operates. If a client is eligible for the Mental Health Court for any non-traffic charges, then he ought to have the option of deciding whether he, the client, could benefit from his case being heard in the Mental Health Court.
Defendants in the Mental Health Court are given every opportunity and assistance for recovery and rehabilitation. Recidivism is low. A goal of the Court is that the defendant changes his ways and doesn't return to court in the future.
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