Manar says new standards will save lives, prevent heartache

CARLINVILLE – Police in Illinois would have to make a reasonable attempt to find a responsible adult to take custody of anyone under the age of 21 who has been arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs under a new law that was prompted by the 2015 death of a Staunton man.

The law, signed Tuesday afternoon at Blackburn College in Carlinville, is called Conor’s Law after Conor Vesper, a 20-year-old Blackburn student from Staunton who died May 23, 2015, following a series of tragic events including his arrest for DUI, followed by his release from the police station alone after he paid a fine, a subsequent car chase with police from multiple agencies and a fatal self-inflicted gunshot.

Vesper’s family has said he was still intoxicated and his judgement impaired when he was released from police custody. They sought help from Senator Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, in passing a law to prevent something similar from happening to other families and their loved ones. Senate Bill 2185, Conor’s Law, passed in the General Assembly earlier this year with bipartisan support after negotiation with police organizations.

“I appreciate that Gov. Rauner saw the merit of this bipartisan legislation and chose to make it the law in Illinois,” said Manar, the Senate sponsor of the measure. “Well over a year of work went into Conor's Law and my only hope is that it prevents other families from experiencing the same heartbreak and anguish the Vespers experienced when they tragically lost their son, Conor. The Vesper family should be commended for their determination.”

Conor’s Law becomes effective June 1, 2018. It requires the Illinois Police Training Board and the Illinois State Police to create model policies for training officers statewide to respond to a person who is arrested while under the influence of alcohol or drugs and for handling the eventual release of that person from custody. In addition, the law provides that if the intoxicated individual is younger than 21, the arresting officer must make a reasonable attempt to contact a responsible adult who is willing to take custody of that person.

Alice Vesper, Conor’s mother, thanked Manar, other elected officials, Blackburn College, friends and others for their support.

“Although we know this will never bring Conor back, we know we are honoring him by working diligently for the passage of Conor’s Law,” she said. “We know that Conor always made sure that others who needed his help were cared for. We pray that we are continuing his work.”

Vesper said she and her family believe that with the signing of Conor’s Law, they are doing their part to keep other families from experiencing the horrific pain they have gone through.

“As adults, we probably all look back on things we did in our younger years with regret. We have grown and matured and use those experiences to propel us forward,” she said.

“We want every young person that makes a bad choice to drink and drive to have the opportunity to grow from that experience. We want our law enforcement agents to have the ability to keep someone from being able to get back out on the road and endanger their lives and the lives of other citizens of the state. This is a victory for the entire state of Illinois.”

In the news: Rauner signs Conor’s Law at Blackburn College | Macoupin County Enquirer-Democrat

In the news: Rauner signs Conor’s Law | The State Journal-Register

In the news: New law aims to protect young people arrested for drinking | WCIA-TV Champaign

In the news: Gov. Rauner signs Conor’s Law | WAND-TV Decatur

In the news: New DUI law signed: ‘We pray that we are continuing Conor’s work’ | WICS-TV Springfield

In the news: Rauner signs Conor’s Law at Blackburn College ceremony | The (Alton) Telegraph

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