Your Chicago DUI Case: The Basics
Chicagoland has come a long way from its bootlegging peak during prohibition. The drinks are legal now, but not in excess, and especially not for people intending to drive. Everyone knows it's hard to hold back from having a good time, and people make mistakes. This article will help you clean up after the mistake of driving under the influence.
Drivers are not allowed to drive under the influence of alcohol or any other substance if that substance makes a driver unsafe. With alcohol, the law says that any time a driver has a blood-alcohol concentration ("BAC") of 0.08 or higher, the driver is unlawfully driving under the influence (DUI). This same law covers driving under the influence of marijuana. Even if a driver is allowed to use cannabis for medicinal purposes, that driver can still be found guilty of DUI after using marijuana.
Arrest and Chemical Test
Regardless of whether the situation is a traffic stop or a sobriety checkpoint, when a law enforcement officer suspects that a driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the officer will likely request a field sobriety test. If the officer is still concerned after the field test, he/she will place the driver under arrest. At the police station, the officer will request a chemical test of the driver's blood, breath, or urine. At this point, the inquiry can go one of four ways:
- BAC Below 0.05: If a driver's BAC is below 0.05, the driver has passed the chemical test. The driver will generally be released from custody with no charges filed.
- BAC at or above 0.05: If the chemical test shows that a driver has a BAC above 0.05, the driver may or may not be charged with driving under the influence. If the arresting officer has further evidence of the driver's impairment, that evidence can be combined with the chemical test to build a case against the driver. The driver's license will not be suspended, however, until he/she is found guilty.
- BAC at or above 0.08: If a driver has a BAC at or above 0.08 or his/her blood, breath or urine contains traces of drugs, an officer will issue the driver a notice of a summary suspension. The driver's license will be suspended, but not until 45 days have passed. In that time, the driver may still drive while sorting out his/her affairs (including finding a lawyer). The summary suspension is in addition to the criminal penalties (including license revocation) that a court may impose.
- Test Refusal: If a driver refuses to submit to the chemical test, that driver will also receive notice of a summary suspension, just as if he/she had failed the test.
- Underage Drivers: Illinois is a zero tolerance state as far as underage drinking and driving goes. Underage drivers who test anywhere above .00% BAC will be subject to penalties depending on the BAC level. For a trace BAC registering below .08, fines and a license suspension will result. For a BAC of .08 or above, they will be subject to the standard DUI law's penalties.
If you failed or refused a chemical test, you have 90 days to request a judicial hearing to challenge the validity of the arrest and subsequent test. According to the state's DUI Fact Book, drivers have successfully challenged their suspensions in a relatively low percentage of the cases each year. The hearings consider only a narrow set of issues. Because of the low success rate, and the restricted set of issues, drivers may want to consider retaining a lawyer before requesting the hearing.
Terms of a Summary Suspension
First time offenders have their driving privileges suspended for six months. After 30 days, drivers may be eligible for a Monitoring Device Driving Permit (see below). If the first suspension comes after a test refusal, the suspension period is twelve months. Suspension periods are longer for second and subsequent failures and refusals, with refusals being punished more severely.
Other Penalties for a DUI Conviction
A first-time conviction for a DUI offense is a Class A misdemeanor. The state statutes do not impose a minimum jail term and fine amount, but the maximum jail time and fine are one year and $2,500 respectively. A conviction also means that the driver will lose his/her driving privileges for at least a year. As mentioned above, the summary suspension period may be only six months after a sobriety test; however, if the driver is actually convicted, the suspension will be even longer.
Second time offenders also are charged with a misdemeanor, and must serve either 5 days in jail or 240 hours of community service. After the second conviction, DUI offenses are felonies. With any offense, the punishments are enhanced if the driver had a BAC at or above 0.16, or if the driver was transporting a child under age 16.
Regaining Driving Privileges
- Monitoring Device Driving Permit: After a DUI arrest, you will receive a notice that you may be eligible for a Monitoring Device Driving Permit (MDDP). This permit allows you to drive during the summary suspension period. The notice will include all of the information you need for having a breath alcohol ignition interlock device (BAIID) installed on your vehicle.
- Restricted Driving Permit: If you have two or three DUI arrests and/or convictions, you may be eligible for a Restricted Driving Permit (RDP). This permit also requires you to install a BAIID. It is only available for drivers that suffer a hardship due to the loss of driving privileges.
The Secretary of State puts out lots of information for drivers with a DUI arrest or conviction. Visit the BAIID website for more information on DUIs, driving permits, and fees. The Driver Services page also features helpful information for drivers who have lost privileges or need to contact someone about their driving record. Be sure to review The Road to Reinstatement.
Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney
Contact a qualified attorney.