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Proposed bill bans some offenders from buying vehicles

By Dorothy Schneider
The State Journal-Register (Springfield)

Illinois should not let dangerous motorists buy cars if their driver's licenses have been revoked, Secretary of State Jesse White said Wednesday.

"Common sense should dictate that someone whose driving privileges have been taken away should not be out shopping for a car," White said.

He proposed legislation that would prohibit drivers whose licenses have been suspended or revoked for drunken driving or reckless homicide from buying vehicles.

The restriction would apply only to suspensions arising from the most serious offenses: DUI convictions, refusal to take or failing a chemical test when asked to, or a reckless homicide conviction. It would not apply to drivers whose licenses have been reinstated after those offenses.

The bill would make buying a car under such circumstances a Class C misdemeanor punishable by 30 days in jail and up to $1,500 in fines. It also would let the state seize any vehicles bought by people without valid licenses.

White said the bill contains an exception for people who are allowed to drive their cars to work or drug- and alcohol-treatment programs.

There would be a way for car salespeople to use the Internet or telephone to cross-check a buyer's license number or Social Security number against a list of suspended or revoked licenses, he said.

Car dealers who sell cars to people without valid licenses also would be subject to penalties.

Peter McNamara, general counsel for the Illinois Automobile Dealers Association, said he understands the concern, but doesn't want to see dealerships suffer. He said dealers are not in the business of checking the background of buyers.

"Anything that adds another step is going to present more of a burden," McNamara said.

Dealerships are not currently required to see buyers' driver's licenses before selling cars to them.

Gary Matern, managing partner of O'Brien Dodge of Springfield, said the dealership requires a copy of a driver's license to buy a car but cannot check the validity of the license or the driving record of the person because of privacy laws.