Geneva rewrites DUI policy

Revised policy addresses handling of drunken-driving arrests that will "generate news media coverage

Eric Schelkopf

GENEVA - Geneva Police Department has rewritten its controversial drunken driving policy following claims by an Aurora woman that it violated the U.S. Constitution.

Brenda J. Spicer fought a DUI arrest in Geneva, claiming the department's policy was unconstitutional because it gave special treatment to prominent individuals stopped for DUI. As part of a plea bargain, she pleaded guilty Thursday to driving under the influence of alcohol.

The new policy, which took effect Thursday, states that "it will be the policy of the Geneva Police Department to have the duty shift supervisor notify the on-call command designate pursuant to any case or event which is likely to generate news media coverage. This policy is intended to insure that the administration is prepared to handle the resultant news media coverage."

This was Spicer's first DUI offense, which normally carries a $780.00 fine. Instead, she only will have to pay $185.00 in court costs, said David Camic, Spicer's attorney.

Spicer also will have a year of court supervision, but that can be terminated as soon as she completes her alcohol training, Camic said. In addition, she will be able to keep her driver's license.

Camic had filed a motion stating "as a result of said regulation, the defendant suffered and arrest when other persons would not have been arrested under the same facts." Following Spicer's plea, Camic withdrew his motion.

The previous policy, put in effect by Geneva Police Department Chief William Kidwell in December 1988, had stated Geneva police officers should notify their shift supervisor immediately when a prominent individual suspected of drunken driving is stopped - something that is not required when an average citizen is pulled over for suspected DUI.

Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the political group United We Stand America assailed the policy, saying it opened up the possibility of cooperation. A former Geneva police officer has said prominent individuals stopped for DUI are routinely given a break. Kidwell denies the allegation.

Kidwell said the original policy was put in place so department officials know about prominent individuals being stopped because they often spur media questions. He said the new policy "better captures the intent of the original policy." The Kane County state's attorney's office has reviewed the new policy, Kidwell added.

He said it was his intention to rewrite the policy even before it was contested by Spicer. "The public perception was a concern of mine," Kidwell said.

Camic said in a press release he is "satisfied that it was the intent of the administration of the Geneva Police Department to be prepared to handle potential news media coverage which may be associated with the arrest of a prominent person as opposed to in any way affecting the course of the arrest of any individual in a DUI situation."

He said the revised policy "far better captures that intent and we believe it is best for all concerned that the prior written policy has been rewritten."