Illinois Traffic Violation and DUI Lawyers

Unlawful Use of a License in Chicago


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When you are issued an Illinois driver’s license, it comes with certain obligations, such as following the rules of the road and consenting to a chemical breath or blood test if you are arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI). In addition to these basic rules, you are also agreeing to use your license appropriately. If you violate this law, you could be charged with a criminal offense.

Unlawful use of a license may arise in a number of ways, such as lending your driver’s license to another person or pulling out your suspended or revoked license as authorization to drive. If you are cited for a violation of this law, you can’t just pay a fine and move on, as you might with another moving violation. Instead, you’ll be facing criminal charges and may even lose your driving privileges.

Unlawful use of a license is a misdemeanor offense under Illinois law. This means that if you are convicted of this offense, you could be sentenced to jail time – and you will also have a criminal record. A skilled Chicago traffic ticket lawyer can help defend you against this charge, and work to protect your rights and your freedom.

What Is Unlawful Use of a License?

Under the Illinois Vehicle Code, it is illegal to use your driver’s license or permit in certain ways. Specifically, you can be charged with unlawful use of a license if you:

  • Display or cause to be displayed, or have in your possession any canceled, revoked, or suspended license or permit;
  • Lend your license or permit to another person, or knowingly allow someone else to use your license or permit;
  • Display or represent someone else’s license or permit as your own;
  • Fail or refuse to surrender your driver’s license or permit to the Illinois Secretary of State after an order of suspension, revocation, or cancellation; 
  • Allow any unlawful use of your license or permit; or
  • To take a driver’s license (or permit) exam for someone else, or to have another person take your driver’s license (or permit) exam. 

Importantly, unlawful use of a license is separate from using a fake identification card in other respects. In Illinois, you can be charged with a misdemeanor or felony crime if you possess a fraudulent identification card with the intent of committing a theft or another crime (such as obtaining alcohol when you are under the age of 21). Unlawful use of a license is specifically about using your driver’s license in an illegal way as it relates to driving.

For example, your younger brother had his license suspended after one too many speeding tickets. He needs to go to work, so he asks to borrow your driver’s license in case he is pulled over by law enforcement. If you allow him to use your valid driver’s license, then you could be charged with unlawful use of a license. However, if your brother is under the age of 21 and asks to use your driver’s license to buy alcohol, then he could be charged with possessing a fraudulent identification card (fake ID).

If the police give you a citation for this offense, it may state “Displaying or Possessing a Cancelled, Revoked, or Suspended License or Permit” on the ticket. As noted above, there are a number of ways that you can be charged with this crime beyond having or showing a license or permit that has been revoked, canceled, or suspended.

Penalties for Unlawful Use of a License

Under Illinois law, unlawful use of a license is a Class A misdemeanor. This is the most serious of misdemeanor crimes in the state. If you are convicted of a Class A misdemeanor, you could be sentenced to up to 364 days in jail, probation, and a fine of up to $2,500, plus court costs and related fees.

The specific law related to unlawful use of a license provides that a judge is required to sentence a person convicted of this offense to a minimum fine of $500 or 50 hours of community service. Ideally, this community service will take place at an alcohol education program. In addition, a person convicted of this crime shall be sentenced to no less than 7 days in jail. 

Importantly, if you have one or more prior convictions for unlawful use of a license, then this offense can be charged as a Class 4 felony. The penalty for this crime includes between 1 to 3 years in jail, probation, and a fine of up to $25,000.

In addition to the above penalties, if you are convicted of this offense, the Illinois Secretary of State will likely issue a license suspension or revocation order. Illinois has a point system, whereby you are assigned points on your driving record for traffic offenses. Typically, you must be convicted of a certain number of offenses within a set period of time to have your license suspended or revoked, with the length of the suspension based on the total number of points accumulated. However, for some offenses – like unlawful use of a license – your driving privileges will be immediately suspended or revoked.

Finally, a conviction for unlawful use of a license isn’t just a matter of having a mark on your driving record. It is a criminal offense, which means that a conviction will show up on your criminal history. This can make it difficult to get a job, find housing, and may even affect your second amendment rights.

Given these potential penalties, if you are charged with unlawful use of a license, it is vital that you reach out to a Chicago criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Your lawyer may be able to put together a factual and/or legal defense to help you avoid some of the more serious consequences of this offense.

Can I Get Court Supervision for Unlawful Use of License?

Depending on your specific situation, you may be eligible for court supervision for unlawful use of license charge. Court supervision means that your case will be continued for a specific period of time. During this time, you must fulfill the conditions set by the court, such as attending traffic school or performing community service.

Court supervision is not automatic. A judge may order it if they believe that (1) you are not likely to commit further crimes; (2) both you and the public would be best served by you not receiving a criminal record; (3) ordering court supervision is in the best interests of justice. The rules surrounding eligibility for court supervision are complex. Your best option is to contact a Chicago traffic ticket attorney as soon as possible if you have been charged with unlawful use of a license.

Do I Have to Go to Court for an Unlawful Use of License Charge?

Yes. Because an unlawful use of a license charge may result in jail time if you are convicted, you will be required to go to court on this matter. An experienced Chicago defense lawyer can represent you in court, and work with you to achieve the best possible outcome.

Typically, an Illinois traffic ticket will specify whether or not you are required to go to court. When a moving violation may result in a sentence of imprisonment, you will have to appear in court. If you fail to do so, a warrant may be issued for your arrest, and you may be charged with failure to appear.

Will My Insurance Rates Increase If I Am Convicted of Unlawful Use of a License?

If you are convicted of any traffic-related offense, such as speeding, reckless driving, or any other charge, it will likely impact your insurance premium. The same may be true for unlawful use of a license charge, depending on the facts of your case. Generally, if you allow any unlawful use of your license or permit, it will result in an immediate license suspension or revocation, which may impact your insurance rates.

If your license has been suspended, revoked, or canceled due to an underlying charge, then your insurance rates will have already been affected. An additional conviction for unlawful use of a license could increase them further. If you are charged with this offense in another way – such as by taking a driver’s license exam for a friend – then it may not affect your insurance rates.

Charged with an Illinois Traffic Offense? We’re Here to Help.

When you get a traffic ticket, you may be tempted to just pay the fine and move on with your life. While that certainly is an option for many tickets, it isn’t always the best choice. More importantly, if you have been charged with a criminal offense, you could be facing jail time and other penalties if you choose to plead guilty.

At Driver Defense Team, we aggressively advocate for clients throughout Cook County, DuPage County, and Lake County who have been charged with a range of moving violations, from petty offenses to felony crimes. If you have received a traffic ticket, our law firm will work hard to help you achieve the best possible result. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation with a Chicago traffic ticket lawyer, call or text us at 312-940-8330, or fill out our online contact form.

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