Driving under the influence of alcohol is a very serious offense in the state of Illinois. You can be convicted of a first time DUI for driving or being in physical control of a vehicle if you meet the following criteria:
If you have crossed any of the above red lines, then you will be arrested and charged with DUI. Criminal penalties, even for a first-time DUI conviction, can be serious. They may include:
Illinois operates under an implied consent law. When you receive your driver’s license from state authorities, you also give your consent to a DUI test by an officer with probable cause to believe you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Your license will automatically be suspended if you fail a DUI test or refuse to take one. Such a statutory summary suspension goes into effect in the following circumstances:
If you are a first time DUI offender and you have not had a statutory summary suspension in the last five years, your license will be suspended for 6 months for a failed test. If you refuse to complete the test, it will be suspended for one year.
If you are a DUI offender, your sentence may apply for a monitoring device driving permit. An MDDP will allow you to drive for any purpose at any time during your suspension. However, you must equip your vehicle with a breath alcohol ignition interlock device (BAIID). You will not be eligible for this permit if you refuse chemical testing.
If convicted for a DUI offense, you will also be subject to criminal penalties. A first time DUI conviction is a Class A misdemeanor that carries a maximum of 364 days in jail and an additional 6 months if you had a passenger in your care under the age of 16. The conviction carries a maximum $2,500 fine. Other fines include:
Your sentence can also include community service. You will be required to complete a maximum of 100 hours of community service if your BAC was above .16%. You will be required to complete 25 days of community service in a program that benefits children if you were transporting a passenger under 16.
You may apply for a restricted driving permit (RDP). This will allow you to drive to work, school, doctor’s appointments, and alcohol and drug treatment meetings. You can also drive your children to and from school and provide transport to elderly and disabled persons under your care. To qualify for this permit, you must demonstrate that a hardship exists—that no one else can carry out the driving obligations you are asking to fulfill—and that there is no danger to public safety. If you are a first time DUI offender and have received a statutory summary suspension, then you must install an ignition interlock device while driving with the RDP.
As a first time DUI offender, you will also need to undergo an evaluation to determine whether you have a substance abuse problem. If the professional who evaluates you believes a problem exists, then the court will order you to receive treatment. You may also be required to attend a victim impact panel.
Not every DUI is charged as a misdemeanor. There are circumstances that will push prosecutors to charge you with a DUI felony. Even if you are a first time DUI offender, you can be charged and convicted of a felony. If your DUI driving offense led to the bodily harm of another person or their death, then you will face this charge. You can also be charged with a DUI felony if you were driving without a license or insurance or in a school zone.
There are also serious consequences for being charged and convicted of underage DUI. If even a trace of alcohol is detected when driving as a minor—that is, under the age of 21—then you can lose your driving privileges for 2 years. The conviction will become part of your permanent record, which can affect future employment opportunities and your application for government-sponsored student loans.
If you are arrested for a first time DUI offense, you may think that is not necessary to hire a lawyer. Although, it is always in your best interest to hire a trusted DUI attorney that specializes in these types of cases.
If the prosecutor has overwhelming evidence that you are guilty of an aggravated DUI offense, they will not take it to trial. They will instead try to pressure you into accepting a severe sentence. An experienced DUI lawyer will know how to negotiate with the prosecution. Such a lawyer may already know the prosecutor and may be able to use that relationship to get you a much lighter or much more appropriate sentence.
If your DUI led to an accident that caused someone harm, then you should hire a private attorney. You do not want to put your life and your future in the hands of a public defender who may decide that it is better to cut a deal with the prosecutor on terms most favorable to them. You want someone who will bring their energy expertise, knowledge, skill, and the resources to bear on your case.
A private attorney will not simply lay down and take what the district attorney’s office is offering. They will challenge every fact and contention of the case being made against you and get the best possible outcome.
Hiring a private attorney to fight a DUI case will typically cost between $1,000 to $5,000. This will depend on the nature and complications of the case. However, it will be worth it.
A private attorney will go beyond the official police report of what happened. They will launch their own investigation into your DUI and the aggravating circumstances that resulted from it. They will send their in-house investigative team to re-visit the scene, which may lead to the discovery of other factors that may have caused the accident. They will also interview witnesses, some of whom may have refused to speak to the police. This can also lead to new evidence that complicates the accident that caused the other person to be harmed.
Your lawyer will also review police statements and your own statements of your interaction with them. The police are not allowed to handle suspects in any old way. There is a procedure, and the officer who dealt with you should have followed it. If there is any evidence that the officer violated your rights during the arrest or investigation, then your attorney will use it to challenge the prosecution’s case. In cases in which there was a gross violation of your rights, you may get the case thrown out altogether.
Another advantage of hiring a personal DUI attorney is that you may not have to personally appear for all court dates. If you use a public defender or try to handle the case yourself, you will need to show up in person. This can be difficult if you are a busy professional and have daily obligations to meet at work.
In most first time DUI cases, you can reach some kind of plea bargain deal with the prosecutor. However, there are instances in which you may need to go to trial. This may occur if the DUI led to the injury or death of another person and the prosecutor believes they have a solid case against you. If your lawyer has unearthed evidence that the DUI had nothing to do with the accident and the person’s injury, then the case may go to trial.
If this happens, then you will need an experienced DUI lawyer. The attorney you started with may have the case off to another lawyer in the firm—one who has significant experience in trying DUI cases in court.