Illinois DUI laws are among the toughest in the country.
The state of Illinois has some of the toughest Driving Under the Influence (DUI) laws in the country. In fact, Illinois has been a leader in progressively enacting stricter DUI laws that can make even a first-time DUI offense a life-changing event.
If you’ve been arrested for a DUI charge in Illinois, it’s critical to inform yourself.
Many people who are arrested for a DUI have no previous criminal history. A DUI arrest is typically unexpected, and the ensuing legal process may be intimidating for someone who has never been in court before. All residents of Illinois should understand how the DUI arrest process and aftermath works before ever getting behind the wheel while intoxicated.
What Constitutes a DUI Offense in Illinois?
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. 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 concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher
● 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 0.08% if the driver has been drinking and it is impacting his/her ability to operate a motor vehicle.
What Happens During a DUI Arrest in Illinois?
The DUI process in Illinois starts the minute a police officer suspects that a driver is driving under the influence, generally after observing a traffic violation or responding to a traffic accident. The officer will request the driver’s license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance as standard procedure. But the officer is also trained to observe specific characteristics of the driver’s demeanor, behavior, and physical appearance, leading to a suspicion of impairment.
If the police officer suspects that the driver is impaired, he/she will ask the driver to perform various standard field sobriety tests. If the officer has probable cause based on the results of the field sobriety tests, the driver will be placed under arrest for DUI and taken to the police station. At the police station, the driver will be asked to take a breathalyzer test, which measures his or her blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Provided the officer follows proper procedures, the results of this chemical test are admissible in court. If the driver’s BAC is found to be 0.08% or higher, the driver will be issued a law enforcement sworn report notifying the driver of a statutory summary suspension. 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. The offender is required to post bond and may be detained until bond is posted. Meanwhile, their vehicle may be towed, impounded, or seized.
Penalties for a DUI Conviction in Illinois
Penalties for DUI in Illinois will vary depending on the circumstances of the arrest and conviction, which may include the driver’s age, BAC level, whether a child under the age of 16 was in the vehicle, whether the driver was driving the wrong way on a one-way roadway and whether the driver has previous DUI convictions. Any DUI offense resulting in felony charges is classified as an Aggravated DUI.
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 0.08% 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.
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
If you’ve been arrested for a DUI in Illinois, it’s important to contact an experienced DUI attorney immediately. It’s a misconception to believe that there is nothing that can be done until your first court date. Every case is unique. 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.