Motorists who are arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs in Illinois often ask a relative, friend or acquaintance who had was previously arrested for DUI what the judicial process was like. How much was the fine? Did they have to go to jail? Did they lose their license? Does it make sense to fight the charge?
The problem is that every person’s DUI arrest is unique. One Illinois driver may get hit with a lengthy license suspension and hefty fines while another person is able to get the charge reduced to reckless driving, thereby keeping their driving record clear of DUI.
The circumstances around your arrest
Most people understand why someone who is arrested for drunk driving following an accident in which another person is seriously injured will face more serious penalties than someone who is not in an accident and is barely over the legal blood alcohol content (BAC) level of .08. Other factors that impact how a DUI is treated are not as obvious.
There were 26,386 motorists arrested in Illinois for drunk driving in 2018. Nearly three-fourths of that total were male. The demographic with the highest rate of arrest for DUI were males between 21 and 24 (about 9 for every 1,000 licensed drivers). Fully 86% of those arrested for drunk driving in 2018 were first-time offenders.
Factors that affect what happens
A number of factors affect how a DUI charge is treated by prosecutors and judges. DUI is normally a Class A misdemeanor under Illinois law, but there are aggravating factors that can cause a DUI to become a more serious charge. These include:
- Prior DUI convictions – If a driver has two prior DUI convictions, a third or subsequent DUI arrests will be charged as a Class 2 felony.
- Driving while license is revoked or suspended – If a driver is arrested while driving with a license that has been suspended or revoked for drunk driving or some other violations, the charge will be aggravated DUI.
- Minor in the vehicle – Under Illinois law, a person who is arrested for drunk driving while transporting a minor will face more severe penalties. This is particularly so if the passenger is under 16.
- Blood alcohol content – A person arrested for drunk driving with a BAC of .16 or above – twice the legal limit – will likely face stiffer fines, more public service and possibly jail time.
The lawyer you hire makes a difference
The factors above that impact how a DUI is prosecuted are just a start. It is critical to enlist the help of a DUI defense lawyer who has extensive experience with every aspect of DUI sentencing.
There are circumstances that may result in evidence in a DUI arrest being inadmissible and charges being dropped, but an attorney who has not handled thousands of these cases may not be aware of these. There are also methods of personalizing a DUI defense that can convince prosecutors to agree to more lenient penalties.