Illinois drunk driving penalties

Effective January 1, 2015, Illinois updated some of its laws governing drunk driving charges to enable criminal penalties in certain situations.

Chicago residents should be aware of the state's laws governing drunk driving or boating while under the influence of alcohol. Both types of charges are treated harshly and convicted persons can face extremely serious penalties. Some DUI arrests are handled as misdemeanors while others can result in felony charges.

Boating DUI

Boating DUI is itself grounds for suspension of one's driver's license, and has caused lengthy penitentiary sentences when serious injuries or death has resulted.

Basic DUI laws in Illinois

A charge of driving under the influence can result for anyone driving a school bus or any driver under 21 years old with even a trace of alcohol in the blood. For drivers operating commercial vehicles, the blood alcohol content threshold is .04 percent. For school bus drivers it is less. For all other drivers, a BAC of .08 percent is complete proof the driver is intoxicated, even absent any visible effects on the driver's control of the car. While marijuana can be legally used for medicinal purposes in Illinois, people are prohibited from operating motor vehicles while under the influence of the drug. Presently, the law is still based upon the assumption that no use of marijuana is legal. Here, then, is the problem: The detection of any amount, no matter how miniscule, of marijuana in the blood is a per se violation of the DUI-drug laws. There is no need under the laws to show any effect on the driving skills of the accused. Marijuana is detectible for a month after it has been smoked.

Penalties for DUI arrests

Even a first DUI conviction can result in the loss of driving privileges, jail time and high fines. Basic penalties include the statutory summary suspension, supervision and conviction:

  • For a first offense of failing to take a breath test, driving privileges can be lost for a year. You can get a breath alcohol interface device put in your car, and drive after the first 30 days of your suspension.
  • For a second offense of failing to take a breath test, driving privileges will be lost for three years.
  • Supervision, available only once in a lifetime for DUI, allows you to keep your license. Fines and costs will be approximately $1500, not including the costs of various mandatory programs.
  • Convictions all involve a revocation of license. For a first offense, a jail sentence up to a year in length is authorized by law; the revocation is two years. A second offense revocation is for five years. Third and fourth drunk driving offenses constitute felonies in Illinois. On a third conviction, a penitentiary sentence will be requested by the prosecution, and the revocation is for 10 years. On a fourth conviction, a jail sentence of at least three years is mandatory and the license is revoked for the driver's entire lifetime. The actual jail time is 85 percent, not 50 percent of the sentence length.
  • There are also fines and costs to be imposed, and enhanced penalties for various factors such as fleeing and eluding, driving while the license is suspended or without insurance, and causing serious injuries.

Getting help is important

Anyone who is charged with a drunk driving offense should seek legal help immediately. The right to a criminal defense extends to all persons, including those facing DUI charges.

If you or a friend or family member is at risk of a DUI charge, it is an excellent idea to discuss the personal situation with a DUI attorney.

Barry Lewis has been handling DUI cases since 1975 and is highly experienced and well trained in all aspects of DUI cases: statutory summary suspensions, misdemeanor, felony, and petitions to reinstate driving privileges after a revocation.

Keywords: DUI, drunk driving, arrest, penalties