Julie’s Law takes aim at excessive speeding

Marty Dolan, principal at Dolan Law, and his associate Karen Munoz represent victims of wrongful death and personal-injury. His column “Law and Wellness” appears in the Chicago Lawyer and her column appears regularly in the Law Bulletin. This week’s blog is written by Karen Munoz.

Gov. Patrick J. Quinn recently signed into law a bill that aims to curb excessive speeding in the state. Senate Bill 2888, also known as “Julie’s Law,” is the latest piece of legislation in a series of measures intended to clamp down on the problem of speeding on our roads. On the same day, Quinn also signed three other pieces of traffic safety legislation into law. Among them are provisions expanding the definition of construction and maintenance work zones, restricting cell phone use in certain areas and imposing further cell phone use restrictions on drivers of commercial motor vehicles.

Julie’s Law prevents judges from granting court supervision, a type of probation which results in the dismissal of the speeding charge without a conviction if the defendant complies with the terms of the sentence to excessive speeders. “Excessive speeding” is defined as driving more than 25 mph over the speed limit in an urban district, or more than 30 mph over the limit on highways. The law changes the current statutory scheme, which denies court supervision only to drivers caught going 40 mph over the limit.

The bill was drafted partially in response to the death of 17-year-old Julie Gorczysnki, who was killed by a driver going 76 mph in a 40 mph zone. Gorczysnki was riding in a friend’s Jeep after finishing her shift at a local movie theater in Orland Park in June of last year. The driver who hit and killed Gorczysnki had previously been placed on court supervision seven times. The law will take effect in July 2013.

What the law does not do is take away the power of the state to amend these types of charges.  In practice, a prosecutor could charge a person caught speeding more than 30 mph over the limit on a highway with speeding less than 30 mph over the limit, in which case the driver would still be eligible for court supervision. However, this is unlikely to happen in most cases.

Julie’s Law is a commonsense proportionate response to a genuine problem. Unlike “Megan’s Law” or “Jessica’s Law” in Florida, which impose mandatory minimum sentences and lifetime electronic monitoring on certain sexual offenders, among other restrictions, Julie’s Law is not a radical alteration of the existing law. Rather, it is a narrow, incremental change to the threshold for the offense of excessive speeding, a problem which, sadly, is all too common on our roads.

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