KANKAKEE — A state grant awarded to the Kankakee County State’s Attorney’s office will help improve and expand DUI prevention, investigation and prosecution.
According to State’s Attorney Jim Rowe, the Illinois Department of Transportation has awarded $19,164 in funding.
The money will be used for training of the office’s two DUI prosecutors, Valerie Gunderson and Erica Parsons. That includes a forensic DUI course and National Joint Law Enforcement & Prosecutor DUI Training.
Gunderson and Parsons in turn will train local police officers.
Funds also will be used to update and expand the office’s DUI e-warrant infrastructure.
The No Refusal program for obtaining a warrant to get a blood sample of a suspected drunk driver who refuses to provide a breath sample started during the 2018 Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
Bradley, Bourbonnais, Manteno. Momence and Kankakee County sheriff’s police are participating in the program.
If a suspected drunk driver refuses to give a breath alcohol sample, officers can obtain an electronic warrant from a judge ordering a blood sample to be drawn at the hospital.
A suspect who resists medical staff’s efforts to draw blood could face a felony charge for obstructing justice.
“I think this grant has a lot of great aspects and will be truly beneficial for our office and all of our local police agencies by keeping us educated as to changes in statutory and case law regarding DUI and all traffic cases,” Gunderson told the Daily Journal.
“We can also make sure our technology is current to keep our electronic search warrant program flourishing.”
Gunderson said there have been 255 DUI cases filed this year with dispositions in 120.
Successful implementation of Mothers Against Drunk Driving Victim Impact Panels in 2017 and a No Refusal initiative, a number of recent successful prosecutions of DUI-death crimes, and the investment of significant resources in prosecuting drunk drivers helped secure the funding.
The office’s efforts have been noticed statewide. Gunderson was awarded the Illinois Heroes Award in August 2018; Rowe was awarded the Murphy Leadership Award in August 2019.
“Alongside Assistant State’s Attorney Valerie Gunderson, Assistant State’s Attorney Erica Parsons, Criminal Division Chief Marlow Jones and local law enforcement agencies, we have implemented an e-warrant No Refusal program and built an award winning DUI prevention and prosecution model that is earning statewide recognition,” Rowe said in a statement.
“And we aren’t done yet; this grant will help us improve the approach and outcome of these most-preventable and especially dangerous crimes. I am thankful to add the Illinois Department of Transportation to our list of partners in this most important work, and I am proud of our State’s Attorney’s Office for bringing these grant dollars to Kankakee County.”