Drunk driving takes a terrible toll on American roads and highways throughout the year. Also known as Driving Under the Influence (DUI) or Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), up to 31 percent of motor vehicle fatalities were the result of alcohol-impaired driving in 2014. Laws regarding DUI (Driving under the influence) or DWI (driving while intoxicated) offenses are particularly strict in the state of Illinois, and cover all forms of impaired driving, whether the intoxication of the driver is a result of alcohol, prescription drugs, abuse of prescription drugs or illegal drugs.
Almost all over the United States, driving with a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher constitutes a person as legally drunk, which makes it illegal for that person to operate a motor vehicle. In some cases, driving with a BAC between 0.05% and 0.08% can also result in a citation for a DUI if the person’s behavior suggests he or she is impaired. However, this is up to the discretion of the officer handling the citation and does not trigger a statutory summary suspension which can be triggered if the driver has a BAC of 0.08% or higher.
If you are in the habit of getting behind the wheel after drinking or are currently preparing to defend yourself against a DUI conviction in Illinois, then you should know that driving under the influence is a highly politicized offense in the state of Illinois. Prosecutors can often get fired for giving the defendants what are perceived to be “lenient deals.” More often than not, Assistant State Attorneys are wary of how they will be perceived if a defendant is given an offer for a negotiated plea. Judges are also wary of the perception surrounding DUI cases because each offender represents a risk of getting intoxicated and getting behind the wheel again and killing or maiming someone on the roads. In short, the Illinois court system comes down very hard on DUI offenders.
Penalties for DUI/DWI in Illinois
Penalties for DUI in the state of Illinois can vary depending on a number of variables surrounding the arrest and conviction. These include the driver’s age, the drivers BAC level, the presence of a child under the age of 16, or lack thereof, and whether the driver has any previous DUI convictions (these include out of state convictions for DUI).
A first time DUI offense counts as a misdemeanor in Illinois. A misdemeanor offense is distinct from a felony offense in that the maximum penalty for a misdemeanor is up to one year in jail whereas the minimum penalty for a felony offense is one year or more. In Illinois, the maximum jail sentence for a DUI offense is 364 days in jail. The court is also authorized to impose a fine of up to $2500 on the defendant. This doesn’t include court costs. Illinois law dictates that the circuit clerk has to collect a DUI statutory assessment of $500 on the first offense along with a $750 DUI technology fee.
Although a first time DUI in Illinois can result in the loss of the defendant’s driving license, this isn’t always the case. The driver’s license can be suspended or it can be revoked. A suspended license is only lost temporarily and the driver is entitled to have their license reinstated after the suspension has been served and the reinstatement fee has been paid. A revoked license can constitute a permanent deprivation of driving privileges. The owner of a revoked license is not entitled to have their license revoked indefinitely.
Supervision as a substitute for conviction
In certain cases, if a person is found guilty of DUI, the court can use a procedure known as “supervision” to postpone or defer proceedings to spare the defendant from a conviction. Supervision is neither a conviction nor is it a sentence. In cases where the defendant pleads guilty and the court determines that supervision is appropriate, the case is continued instead of being closed. During the continuation, the court supervises the defendant and sets a number of conditions that the defendant will have to abide by. These can include the completion of any treatments recommended by a substance abuse evaluation. Most importantly, the defendant has to agree not to do anything that violates the law. Once the terms and conditions of the court have been fulfilled, the court will dismiss any proceedings against that person. Since there is no conviction, the defendant will not have their license revoked either.
Failure to complete chemical testing and summary suspension
In cases where the defendant refuses or fails to complete chemical testing related to a DUI offense (for example a breathalyzer test), the arresting officer can initiate summary suspension of the defendants driving license by notifying the Secretary of State that the defendant refused or failed to complete the required chemical test. Summary suspension is an administrative penalty imposed by the Secretary of State that has nothing to do with the proceedings in court. A person can be found not guilty of a DUI and still be suspended for not cooperating with the arresting officer’s order to take and complete the relevant chemical test. Similarly, a person can be found guilty of DUI while having their summary suspension rescinded by the judge at the same time.
The involvement of the court in summary suspension occurs when the judge holds a hearing about the summary suspension, whether it should be rescinded. To initiate this, the defendant has to file a petition to rescind the suspension with the court. The grounds for rescinding the summary suspension can be:
- There was no probable cause to arrest
- The police officer didn’t have reasonable grounds to request the test
- The driver was not properly warned about the suspension
- The driver did not refuse the test, or if he submitted, did not fail the test
The driver is entitled to a hearing on the suspension within 30 days.
Hiring an attorney
Due to the political nature of DUI offenses in the state of Illinois, DUI convictions are especially hard to avoid. If a person finds themselves accused of DUI in Illinois, then their first step should be to find a defense lawyer with extensive experience defending DUI cases in Illinois.
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