December 2021 (Chicago, IL)

You’re driving home after having a couple of after-work drinks with coworkers at a local Chicago area pub. You’ve done this several other times in the past, but this time something different happens…suddenly you see flashing lights in your rearview mirror.

Although many of us know someone who has been arrested for drinking and driving, few of us fully understand the repercussions of a first time driving under the influence (DUI) offense in Illinois.

Drinking and driving is a criminal offense and is treated seriously under Illinois law. This is because of the danger this behavior poses to yourself, your passengers, and other drivers sharing the road with you. First-time DUI offenses are no exception. Under Illinois law, anyone who drives or is in physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is guilty of a DUI.

Across the country, state legislatures have passed round after round of legislation increasing the penalties for DUI convictions intended to deter people from drinking and driving. Illinois has been a leader in enacting progressively stricter DUI laws that can make even a first-time DUI offense a life-changing event.

What Constitutes a DUI Offense in Illinois?

An individual can be convicted of a DUI in Illinois for driving or being in “actual physical control” of a vehicle:

  • with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or more
  • while under the influence of alcohol
  • while under the influence of any intoxicating compound, drug, or a combination of alcohol, drugs, or intoxicating compounds that makes the individual incapable of driving safely
  • while there’s any amount of a controlled substance in the person’s blood, urine, or other bodily substance, or
  • with a tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration of 5 nanograms or more in the blood or 10 nanograms or more in another bodily substance within 2 hours of driving or being in actual physical control of a vehicle

It’s important to note that a driver can be charged with a DUI conviction even with a BAC of less than .08% in the event that the driver has been drinking and it is impacting his/her ability to operate a motor vehicle.

Consequences for First-Time DUI Convictions in Illinois

If a law enforcement officer suspects you of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, they may pull you over and request that you submit to a field sobriety or BAC test.

Keep in mind that the state of Illinois has a zero-tolerance policy for drivers under the age of 21. This means that if a driver younger than 21 is caught driving with any alcohol in their system, they will be arrested for a DUI.

Additionally, there are additional penalties under Illinois law for drivers whose BAC is well above the legal limit. Specifically, if the driver’s BAC is .16% or above, he/she faces additional penalties. This also applies to impaired drivers who were caught driving with a child under the age of 16 in the vehicle at the time of arrest.

If you’ve been arrested for a DUI, you can generally expect administrative penalties (license-related) as well as criminal penalties if you’re later convicted of DUI in court.

Administrative Penalties

License Suspension. Under Illinois’s implied consent law, all drivers are considered to have given consent to a chemical test if probable cause exists that they are under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or intoxicating compounds (or any combination of substances).  Generally, the test will involve an evaluation of the driver’s blood, breath, or urine.

The Secretary of State will automatically suspend the license of any driver arrested for a DUI who fails, refuses, or does not complete chemical testing.

The driver will fail the chemical test if it discloses:

  • a BAC of .08% or more
  • the presence of 5 nanograms or more of THC per milliliter of blood or 10 nanograms or more per milliliter of another bodily substance, or
  • any amount of a controlled substance in the person’s blood, urine, or other bodily substance

An offender without a prior DUI conviction and who hasn’t had a statutory summary suspension within the last 5 years is subject to the following license suspension periods:

  • six (6) months for a failed test, and
  • one (1) year for refusing or failing to complete a test

Monitoring Device Driving Permit. A monitoring device driving permit (MDDP) allows an individual to drive for any purpose and at any time during the statutory summary suspension, provided that the vehicle is equipped with a breath alcohol ignition interlock device (BAIID). In most cases, a first offender whose driving privileges have been summarily suspended will be issued an MDDP. However, drivers who refused chemical testing aren’t eligible for the permit.

Criminal Penalties

A first offense is classified as a Misdemeanor offense. In most cases, first offenders will not serve any jail time. However, the penalties will vary based upon the offender’s BAC level and the circumstances of the case.

 Jail. A first DUI conviction is a Class A Misdemeanor in Illinois. A conviction carries:

  • a maximum sentence of 364 days in jail, and
  • six (6) months in jail if the driver had a passenger under the age of 16 years old in the vehicle 

 Fines. The financial penalties imposed for a first DUI conviction are:

  • the maximum fine is $2,500
  • the minimum fine is $500 if the defendant’s BAC was .16% or more, and
  • the minimum fine is $1,000 if the defendant was transporting a passenger under 16 years of age

Community Service. Community service is imposed for first-time DUI convictions in the following circumstances:

  • a first offender whose BAC was .16% or more is required to complete a minimum of 100 hours of community service, and
  • a defendant with a passenger under the age of 16 years must complete 25 days of community service in a program that benefits children

 License Suspension. An individual convicted of a first offense DUI will face a license suspension of one year. The offender may apply for a restricted driving permit (RDP) to drive to work, school, medical appointments, and alcohol/drug treatment. Under some (limited) circumstances, an individual with an RDP can drive children, the elderly, and disabled persons. To obtain an RDP, the offender must demonstrate that a hardship exists and that they pose no danger to public safety.

Alcohol/Drug Evaluation and Treatment. All DUI offenders must complete an evaluation to determine if they have a substance abuse problem. If a substance abuse problem is determined to exist, the individual is required to undergo recommended substance abuse treatment. Offenders may also be required to attend a victim impact panel (VIP). DUI offenders are generally responsible for any costs involved with the evaluation, substance abuse treatment, and the VIP.

What To Do If You’ve Been Arrested for a DUI in Illinois

Illinois DUI laws are among the toughest in the country. If you’ve been arrested for a DUI in Illinois, it’s critical to contact an experienced DUI attorney immediately. Many first-time DUI offenders can avoid being charged to the full extent of the possible penalties with the help of an experienced attorney.

The Herbert Law Firm offers free, no-obligation case reviews and consultations to Chicagoans in need of experienced legal representation for their DUI convictions. For a free confidential phone consultation, call us at 312-655-7660 or fill out our online form at