DUI - Illinois
DUIDriving Under the Influence of Alcohol (and/or other drugs)
DUI is a serious charge that can have serious consequences. A conviction can damage a person's reputation and threaten his job or career. A conviction will also revoke his driver's license. The financial consequences can also place a great deal of strain on most households. With the assistance of an experienced attorney, however, drivers will gain peace of mind and survive the court system.
THE BASICSDUI usually means one of two things: (i) driving a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or (ii) a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or greater. These are separate offenses, and most people are charged with both.
Criminal ConsequencesThe possible penalties for DUI vary depending upon the circumstances of each case. A typical first offense, without aggravating circumstances, is a Class A misdemeanor. Under Illinois law, a Class A misdemeanor is punishable by a fine of up to $2,500.00 and up to 365 days in jail. Additionally, the Court can order drivers to undergo an alcohol evaluation and to complete remedial alcohol education, counseling, and treatment. Often, the Court will order drivers to attend a Victim Impact Panel.
Civil ConsequencesIn addition to criminal penalties, the Secretary of State will use its civil authority to suspend or revoke driving privileges. A typical suspension is either 6 or 12 months, depending on whether the driver completed a breath test. If, however, the accused is not a "first offender," the driver's license will likely be revoked, and he or she will lose driving privileges for at least one year.
CAN I FIGHT A CHARGE?Of course. Every person is innocent until proven guilty. Unfortunately, police and prosecutors often forget about our Constitutional presumption of innocence. Under our system of justice, the State has the burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. To convict, prosecutors must prove either (i) the driver's BAC level was 0.08 or higher, or (ii) the accused was in actual physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of substances.
SHOULD I BLOW?Probably Not. The State's single most important piece of evidence is the driver's actual blood alcohol concentration (BAC). If a driver blows above 0.08, it becomes more difficult to defend the case. An Intoxylizer result is powerful evidence and could be difficult to beat in court. A high BAC is also strong evidence that the accused was actually "under the influence."
In some cases, the law provides for enhanced penalties if the BAC is 0.16 or higher. If, however, the driver does not blow, the prosecution is missing a key element of its case. Prosecutors then must use other, less reliable evidence to prove the accused was "under the influence" (i.e., slurred speech, odor of alcohol, inability to walk a straight line).If you are certain your BAC is less than .08, you should probably blow. Most people, however, have no idea when their BAC is greater or less than .08. In some instances, even if the driver blows under .08, he can still be charged with DUI.
FIELD SOBRIETY TESTS: SHOULD I "WALK THE STRAIGHT LINE?"Probably Not. Most people do not realize they can refuse an officer's request to step out of the car and, among other things, "walk a straight line." Usually, by refusing an officer's request to perform these field sobriety tests, people help their cases and hinder the State's ability to prosecute them. The purpose of a field sobriety test is simple: to collect evidence against the driver. If he refuses the tests, the State will have less evidence.
Often people believe that, if they cooperate with the police, they will be issued a warning and let go. Nonsense! Once an officer suspects DUI, he will not let the driver go! The officer will do only one thing: attempt to get as much evidence as possible before escorting the driver to jail. Unlike a refusal to blow, drivers cannot be penalized for refusing to perform these field sobriety tests.
WILL MY LICENSE BE SUSPENDED/REVOKED?Yes. Under Illinois' Implied Consent laws, the Secretary of State imposes a penalty on people who refuse to blow or who blow over .08. A "first offender," as defined by the statute, who refuses to blow, will be suspended for twelve months. If, however, a first offender blows .08 or greater, his license will usually be suspended for only six months. Drivers who are not a "first offenders" will face a three-year suspension upon refusal to blow; blowing over .08 will result in a one-year suspension.
In some cases, the Court can remove the suspension, if the officer did not follow proper procedures. Moreover, as of January 1, 2009, a first-time offender is eligible for a Monitoring Device Driving Permit (MDDP) after serving 30 days of the suspension, but must first have an ignition interlock device (BAIID) installed to receive the permit. Unlike the former "Judicial Driving Permit," which limited drivers to specific routes during certain hours of the day, the MDDP allows drivers unlimited access to the road at all hours. Unfortunately, the MDDP is more expensive, because the driver must pay a monthly fee for the ignition interlock device.
For more information regarding the MDDP and BAIID, pleas visit the Illinois Secretary of State.The Secretary of State will revoke driving privileges only if the driver is convicted of DUI. A conviction can be avoided if (i) the charges are dismissed, (ii) the accused is found not guilty after a trial, or (iii) the driver receives - and successfully completes - a sentence of court supervision.
CAN I GET COURT SUPERVISION?Maybe. For a first offense, drivers may be able to get court supervision. Court supervision is a supervisory period (typically 12 to 18 months), during which drivers follow various terms and conditions set by the Court. By successfully completing the period of supervision, drivers can avoid a DUI conviction. Instead, the case will be adjudicated without conviction. As a result, the Secretary of State will not revoke the driver's license.
To maximize the chances of getting court supervision, drivers should retain an experienced attorney who concentrates in criminal, traffic, and DUI cases. Only first-time offenders are eligible for court supervision. All other offenders will face license revocation upon conviction for a DUI.
CAN I GET MY LICENSE BACK?Yes, eventually. After revocation, drivers can eventually apply for reinstatement. Usually, they will be required to attend a formal hearing in Springfield. To prevail at the hearing, however, drivers will need to convince the Hearing Officer that they are not a threat to public safety.
Once again, drivers should retain an experienced attorney to prepare and represent them at the hearing. People rarely, if ever, succeed in a formal hearing without the advice of an attorney who regularly handles reinstatement hearings.