According to the National Transportation Safety Administration, Illinois has one of the “best” DUI laws in the nation. There is little doubt that Illinois has one of the “toughest” DUI laws in the nation. There is no doubt that Illinois has one of the “most complex” DUI laws in the nation. In 2006, over 50,000 citizens had their licenses suspended or revoked based upon the State’s DUI laws. Many provisions of the laws are skewed against the driver and in favor of the prosecution of citizens for driving under the influence. As a result, it is essential that citizens be informed of their fundamental rights while driving.
Driving after consuming alcohol is a perfectly lawful act – unless you are impaired – or have blood alcohol content above a relatively precise legally defined limit.
You may have questions if you are stopped by law enforcement after you have consumed alcohol and are driving a vehicle – Why are you being stopped? Did you violate the law by drinking a bit too much? Are you going to be able to continue driving, or are you going to be taken to jail? What is going to happen to your car? Is there a way to get out of this? If you are cooperative with the officer, will he let you go? What do you say to the officer? Do you have to answer all of the officer’s questions? Do you have to perform field sobriety tests? Will your statements and field sobriety test performance be used only by the officer or will they be used against you in court? All of these and other questions will confront you very quickly. In order not to be confused, you need to know and remember your basic rights.
The Illinois Vehicle Code makes it a crime for anyone to operate any vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or anything else that can make a person intoxicated. About alcohol, the bright-line rule of the law is that anyone whose blood alcohol level or breath alcohol level is 0.08 or above is prohibited from driving.
Under this rule, a vehicle is any device that transports people or things from one place to another, with the exception of devices moved entirely by human power, and snowmobiles, which have their own specific Safety Code. As a result, this code includes all-terrain vehicles, motorcycles, cars, all other highway vehicles that utilize a motor, and, through association of the Illinois Boat Registration and Safety Act, boats.
The methods of testing for blood alcohol level are blood, urine, and, most commonly, breath. A blood test must be administered by a doctor, nurse, paramedic, or other qualified medical personnel. A breath test must be operated by a person that is licensed to do so, though police are generally authorized to conduct such an analysis.
A person convicted of Driving Under the Influence for the first time is generally guilty of a Class A misdemeanor, which could result in a sentence of up to __ days in prison, though less than this is the usually administered punishment. A person committing the crime a second time must, in addition to the misdemeanor penalties, spend at least five days in prison or must perform at least 240 hours of community service.
Penalties for the crime can increase if the person has a blood-alcohol level of over .16, which is two times the legal limit. A first time offender with a .16 alcohol concentration faces a minimum 100 hours community service and a $500 fine, which is in addition to any punishment for the Class A misdemeanor. A second-time offender whose blood content is over .16 on the second offense must, in addition to the Class A misdemeanor penalties, face at least two days in prison and a minimum $1,250 fine.
Drunk Drivers with child passengers face stricter penalties. A driver transporting children under the age of 16 can face six months in prison, must pay an additional $1000 fine, and must serve 25 hours community service in programs that benefit youths.
Any driver convicted of the crime for the third time or more faces a charge of aggravated driving under the influence. Aggravated driving under the influence is a felony, making the punishment for such offenses more drastic. Other examples of aggravated driving under the influence are when the driver, in addition to driving under the influence, is operating a school bus, speeding in a school zone, involved in an accident causing significant injury to someone or driving without a license.
Although an arresting officer can request someone to take a test to determine whether they are driving under the influence of alcohol or other substances, the person is allowed to refuse such a test. If a person refuses such a test, the officer is entitled to report the refusal, which will be submitted and can lead to the suspension of driving privileges for six months.