DUI Laws in Illinois

Intro

Illinois DUI laws address the amount of an intoxicating substance you can have in your body while operating a motor vehicle.  Violating these DUI laws can lead to criminal charges, which may be either a misdemeanor or felony charge depending on the circumstances which lead to you being charged with a DUI.

According to the Illinois Secretary of State, driving under the influence is defined as “operating a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol, other drugs, including cannabis (marijuana) prescribed for medical purposes, or intoxicating compounds and methamphetamine.” If you are charged with a DUI, you don’t simply have to accept the charges — and the consequences that come with it, like jail time, hefty fines, and a driver’s license suspension. Instead, you can fight back with the help of an Illinois DUI defense attorney.

While Illinois’ DUI laws are harsh, that doesn’t mean that there is no way to defend against DUI charges. There is a range of factual and legal defenses that your lawyer can develop to get the charges against you reduced or even dismissed.

What Is the Legal Limit?

In Illinois, drivers are legally considered to be under the influence if they have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or more, have a tetrahydrocannabinol concentration (THC, found in cannabis) of either 5 nanograms or more per milliliter of whole blood, or 10 nanograms or more per milliliter of other bodily substance, have used any other controlled substance, or are impaired by medication. These laws include both prescription and over-the-counter medications if taking them impairs your ability to drive.

While  DUI laws in Illinois allow for a certain amount of cannabis and/or alcohol to be present in your system, other controlled substances are not permitted to be in your system under any circumstances.  This means that even trace amounts of certain controlled substances cannot be present in your body while operating a motor vehicle in Illinois.

Types of DUIs

There are several DUI laws in Illinois, each relating to different intoxicating substances or combinations of intoxicating substances.  The controlling law for DUI in Illinois is 625 ILCS 5/11-501.  Under this law, you can be charged with any one or more of the seven subsections of the DUI statute based on the specific facts of your case.

The Illinois DUI law states: 

A person shall not drive or be in actual physical control of any vehicle within this State while:

  1. the alcohol concentration in the person’s blood, other bodily substance, or breath is 0.08 or more based on the definition of blood and breath units in Section 11-501.2;
  2. under the influence of alcohol;
  3. under the influence of any intoxicating compound or combination of intoxicating compounds to a degree that renders the person incapable of driving safely;
  4. under the influence of any other drug or combination of drugs to a degree that renders the person incapable of safely driving;
  5. under the combined influence of alcohol, other drug or drugs, or intoxicating compound or compounds to a degree that renders the person incapable of safely driving;
  6. there is any amount of a drug, substance, or compound in the person’s breath, blood, other bodily substance, or urine resulting from the unlawful use or consumption of a controlled substance listed in the Illinois Controlled Substances Act, an intoxicating compound listed in the Use of Intoxicating Compounds Act, or methamphetamine as listed in the Methamphetamine Control and Community Protection Act; or
  7. the person has, within 2 hours of driving or being in actual physical control of a vehicle, a tetrahydrocannabinol concentration in the person’s whole blood or other bodily substance as defined in paragraph 6 of subsection (a) of Section 11-501.2 of this Code. Subject to all other requirements and provisions under this Section, this paragraph (7) does not apply to the lawful consumption of cannabis by a qualifying patient licensed under the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Program Act who is in possession of a valid registry card issued under that Act, unless that person is impaired by the use of cannabis.

So what does all of this mean?  Well, the first two subsections deal specifically with alcohol.  The first subsection addresses drivers whose BAC is specifically over the legal limit of .08.  This is determined by blood, breath, or urine analysis.

The second subsection specifically deals with suspicion of alcohol in your body that is impairing your ability to operate a motor vehicle.  Basically, this means that an arresting officer suspects that you are impaired by alcohol, but has no direct evidence of your BAC being above or below the .08 legal limit.

Subsections 3 and 4 deal with similar circumstances as subsection 2, but address drugs and/or combinations of drugs that render the driver unable to safely operate a motor vehicle.

Subsection 5 addresses drivers suspected of being under the influence of both alcohol and a controlled substance(s) that renders the driver unable to safely operate a motor vehicle.

Subsection 6 is somewhat of a strict liability subsection for drugs and/or controlled substances.  Strict liability is a legal concept that essentially means that you can be held accountable for violating the law without the need to prove certain elements, like knowledge or intent. For purposes of this subsection, ANY amount, however minimal, of a controlled substance is in your system while operating a motor vehicle can lead to a DUI charge.  This determination is typically made by blood or urine analysis.

Criminal Penalties

If you are arrested for a DUI in Illinois, you can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor or even aggravated felony DUI, depending on the facts and circumstances which led to the arrest.  Whether you are charged with a misdemeanor or felony DUI, the State’s Attorney or Village Prosecutor must prove that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in order to meet the burden of proof in their criminal case.

Whether a misdemeanor or felony DUI, the outcomes can vary depending on whether this is a first-time DUI, or a second or greater DUI within a 10 year period. Potential outcomes include:

  • Dismissal of charges by the State
  • Finding of not guilty by a judge or jury
  • Plea to a reduced or lesser included charge
  • Court Supervision for 1 to 2 years (only for first-time offenders)
  • Conditional Discharge conviction from 1 to 2 years
  • Probation for 1 to 2 years
  • Fine up to $2500 
  • Jail time in the Illinois Department of Corrections:
    • Class A Misdemeanor DUIs range from 1 to 364 days in custody
    • Class 4 Felony DUIs range from 1 to 12 years in custody depending on the nature of the offense.
    • Class 2 Felony DUIs range from 3 to 28 years in custody depending on the nature of the offense.
    • Class 1 Felony DUIs range from 4 to 15 years in custody depending on the nature of the offense
    • Felony DUIs range from 6 to 30 years in custody depending on the nature of the offense

Supervision is only available for a first-time DUI offender.  If you are charged with a second or subsequent DUI, the best offer that the State or village prosecutor can and will make is for Conditional Discharge conviction, in the vast majority of cases.

Effect On Driver’s License

Depending both on what happened during your arrest for suspicion of DUI and the outcome of your DUI case, the status of your driver’s license can vary tremendously.  If you are stopped by the police and asked to perform field sobriety tests and then submit to chemical testing, your actions can affect your driving privileges.  If your license is suspended because of the results of the chemical testing, it is known as a statutory summary suspension.

Statutory summary suspensions occur when you fail to provide a breath or blood sample after your arrest, fail the chemical test, or are unable to perform or complete the chemical testing. One of the most common reasons that people fail to complete chemical testing occurs when the individual is unable to blow hard enough for the breath to be analyzed.

Failing a chemical test means that there is a BAC of .08 or more, a THC of either 5 nanograms or more per milliliter of whole blood or 10 nanograms or more per milliliter of other bodily substance, or a trace of other drugs. Statutory summary suspensions are automatic and take effect on the 46th day from the date of the suspension notice.  Typically, this notice is given to the alleged offender in paper-form labeled as a “Warning to Motorist.”

Illinois DUI laws dictate that an individual who fails chemical testing on a first offense is subject to a 6-month suspension.  An individual who fails a second or subsequent test within 5 years is subject to a 1-year suspension of their driver’s license.

An individual who refuses chemical testing on a first offense is subject to a 1-year suspension of their driving privileges.  An individual who refuses chemical testing for a second or subsequent test within 5 years is subject to a 3-year suspension.

Even though the DUI laws in Illinois mandate suspensions of driving privileges depending on the results of the chemical tests, these suspensions can be contested in the proper court.  If successful, the statutory summary suspension can be rescinded.  A successful rescission hearing would result in the motorist’s suspension never take effect or driving privileges to be reinstated,  based on the timing of the rescission.

There are additional potential consequences to a motorist’s driving privileges as a result of the criminal DUI charges.  Of course, if charges are dismissed or the motorist is found not guilty, there will be no additional suspensions or revocations as a result of the DUI law(s) that the motorist is charged with violating.  However, there are consequences if the motorist either pleads guilty or is found guilty of violating an Illinois DUI law.

If you plead or are found guilty, court supervision does not result in a revocation of your license. However, you may be required to pay reinstatement fees of $250 to the Illinois Secretary of State after any suspension period.  Most first-time offenders charged with a misdemeanor DUI are eligible for court supervision, provided that there aren’t aggravating circumstances, such as a particularly high BAC, driving with a child in the car, or causing an accident.

On the other hand, a conditional discharge conviction or probation will result in a revocation of your license for a period of time, as determined by the Secretary of State. Judges and the courts do not revoke or suspend licenses. Instead, this is a function left to the Secretary of State, as provided in 625 ILCS 5/6-206.

Once your license is revoked, the only way to regain driving privileges is to petition the Secretary of State for a restricted driving permit or to request a full reinstatement hearing. If you are caught driving during a statutory summary suspension or revocation, you can be charged with a misdemeanor or even felony charge of driving on a suspended or revoked license under 625 ILCS 5/6-303.

Charged with an Illinois DUI? We’re Here for You.

If you are arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence, you may be worried about any number of things: having a criminal record, losing your ability to drive, or even paying the steep fines and fees associated with a DUI conviction. We are here to help. Our team of skilled Illinois DUI defense lawyers will aggressively advocate for your rights, helping you achieve the best possible outcome.

At Driver Defense Team Law Group, we defend drivers throughout Illinois who have been charged with a range of moving violations, from speeding to reckless driving to DUI. As former prosecutors, public defenders, and trial team coaches, we have the experience and knowledge to help our clients obtain a favorable resolution. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, call or text us at 312-940-8330, or fill out our online contact form.

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