What Constitutes DUI?
In Illinois, it is unlawful for a person to drive or be in "actual physical control" of a motor vehicle while:
- with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of at least .08% (.04% for commercial drivers);
- while under the influence of alcohol;
- while under the influence of alcohol, intoxicating compounds, drugs, or a combination to an extent that renders the person incapable of driving safely;
- with 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 ten nanograms or more in another bodily substance within 2 hours of driving or being in actual physical control of a vehicle.
Illinois also imposes strict laws for minors suspected of DUI. The state’s Zero Tolerance Law makes it a criminal offense for anyone under the age of 21 to have a BAC of over 0.00%, except in special circumstances.
Medical Marijuana and Illegal Drugs
Illinois allows the use of medical marijuana if a person is registered with the Illinois Department of Public Health and has medical authorization from a licensed physician. However, a person may not operate a vehicle under the influence of marijuana or any controlled substance for that matter. Drivers also may not transport medical cannabis unless it is in a sealed container that is not accessible while driving (i.e., on the backseat).
If a driver is suspected to be impaired, even if they have a valid medical marijuana card, they will be subject to a field sobriety test. Refusal or failure of the test will result in the automatic suspension of the individual’s license and, if applicable, medical cannabis card.
Penalties and Sentencing for Multiple Offenses
DUI convictions involve criminal penalties and administrative penalties under the state’s implied consent laws. The criminal penalties will depend on how severe the driver’s BAC is and whether they have prior convictions:
- 1st offense – up to 364 days in jail; up to $2,500 in fines; 1 year of license revocation (2 years for drivers under 21 years old)
- 2nd offense – up to 364 days in jail; $2,500 in fines; 5 years of license revocation
- 3rd offense – up to 7 years in jail; $25,000 in fines; 10 years of license revocation
Note that the above penalty ranges may increase in the presence of aggravated circumstances, such as if:
- there was a passenger under the age of 16;
- the driver’s BAC was .16% or more;
- the motorist was driving without a valid license or insurance;
- a person was injured while the driver drove through a school zone;
- the driver was operating a school bus with at least one minor passenger;
- the driver has 3 or more Illinois DUI convictions.
Convicted drivers will also incur administrative penalties if they fail or refuse to submit to chemical testing of their blood, breath, urine, or other bodily substance when given probable cause to believe they are under the influence. The license suspension periods are as follows, issued in addition to the above criminal penalties:
- 1st offense – 6 months (failed test); 1 year (test refusal)
- 2nd offense – 1 year (failed test); 3 years (test refusal)
- 3rd offense – 1 year (failed test); 3 years (test refusal)
What to Do If You’re Pulled Over While Intoxicated
Mistakes happen. If you are pulled over while you are under the influence, it is crucial that you pull your car to the side of the road as quickly and safely as possible. Even if you are driving under the influence, you don’t want to do anything to make the situation worse, such as by fleeing the police.
From there, though, you should not shy away from asserting your rights. Without being confrontational or disrespectful to the police, you can exercise your right not to submit to field sobriety tests or a breathalyzer. Legally, you are only required to provide your identification, insurance, and registration when pulled over. You are also not legally obligated to answer any of the police officer’s questions. The best response to any questions about where you’ve been is, “I’ve been advised not to answer any questions.”
The police may threaten you with arrest for failure to cooperate, but if they arrest you for refusing to give up your constitutional rights, the case is likely to be thrown out of court. If you’ve been arrested, you should contact an experienced DUI attorney to take the reins of your defense as soon as possible.
How to Get Out of a DUI in Illinois
Choosing the right lawyer for a DUI in Illinois can be difficult, especially since time may not be on your side. The best advice is to look for a DUI attorney who is well-recommended and has experience with handling DUI charges. Attorney Andrew Nickel was formerly in charge of the Kendall County DUI division, and he brings unique experience as a former prosecutor. This can prove significantly advantageous to strategizing a defense for you against the prosecution.
With your attorney, you will discuss the details of the incident and your 2 plea options – guilty or not guilty. In the state of Illinois, plea bargains are not accepted under DUI statutes.
It is worth consulting with an attorney, because you may be surprised by the number of criminal defense options available to you. There are many loopholes and strategies that can be used to get out of a DUI charge that a knowledgeable lawyer can explain. Here are a few examples:
- A field sobriety test that is not standard is invalid in court (i.e., touching your finger to your nose or saying the alphabet backward).
- The case can be thrown out if there was a lack of probable cause for arrest.
- The arresting officer failed to provide dispatch tapes, which will weaken the case.
- An individual who was not driving on a public highway cannot be subject to drunk driving penalties.
Of course, the most important thing is to feel comfortable with and trust your attorney. Attorney Nickel has spent his entire legal career dedicated to criminal law. When you work with our firm, you will have direct access to a responsive and qualified attorney who will work directly with you on your case. You won’t be passed to a junior associate or paralegal; you’ll have our attorneys on your case every step of the way. You deserve to have someone in your corner who has done it all before and knows how to win.
Trust The Law Offices of Andrew Nickel with your DUI defense today. Call (630) 553-7111 or contact us online for a free consultation to get started immediately. Time is of the essence for DUIs, so let’s get you back on the road ASAP.
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