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The Ultimate Guide to DUI Charges in Illinois

Under Chicago law, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal and can result in severe penalties. Drivers over 21 have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit of .08%, whereas, for commercial drivers, the legal limit is .04%.

Any driver caught driving with a BAC higher than the legal limit will be arrested and charged with a DUI. However, you will also be arrested if your BAC is lower than the limit, but you are visibly impaired.

A DUI conviction in Chicago can have serious consequences. You could face license suspension, jail time, huge fines, and a permanent criminal record. Because of the number of deaths that are caused each year by drunk driving, the courts take a tough approach toward those accused of driving under the influence.

If you are in Chicago, IL, it’s important to be familiar with DUI laws to protect yourself and your loved ones. Ahead is everything you need to know.

Chicago, Illinois DUI Law

When you are pulled over by a police officer on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, they may request that you carry out a blood or breathalyzer test. If the test results are over the limit, you will be brought to the police station, and your driver’s license will be automatically suspended.

If you refuse to take a blood alcohol content test, your driver’s license will be immediately suspended, and you may still be brought to the police station with probable cause and arrested for a DUI.

When it comes to DUI cases, the burden is on the prosecutor to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused was driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If you tested above the legal limit at a traffic stop, it can be quite difficult to dispute charges, particularly without a qualified Chicago DUI lawyer.

Zero Tolerance Law in Chicago, IL

Illinois adopts a zero-tolerance policy towards those under the age of 21 driving under the influence. If a police officer stops an underage person driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, with any amount of a substance in their system, their driver’s license will be suspended.

The Zero Tolerance Law provides that minors will have their driving privileges revoked for three months if their BAC is above zero but under .08%. However, if their BAC is above the legal limit of .08%, they will be charged with DUI. Upon conviction, their driver’s license will be suspended for a minimum of two years.

Subsequent Zero Tolerance Law violations could get your driver’s license revoked for one to five years. You may be able to rescind the revocation by petitioning your case with the Office of the Secretary of State. An experienced DUI defense attorney can help you with this process.

DUI Penalties in Chicago, IL

According to 625 ILCS § 5/11-501, DUI can be either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on whether it’s a first or subsequent offense, the driver’s BAC level, and the involvement of minor passengers.

A first-time DUI is charged as a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in county jail and a maximum fine of $2,500. In some cases, you may be able to avoid conviction for a first DUI offense and receive court supervision instead. However, aggravating factors, such as having a minor passenger while driving under the influence, can increase your mandatory minimum penalties.

A second DUI is also a Class A misdemeanor that carries a jail term of at least five days or 240 hours of community service.

Aggravated DUI

Third and subsequent DUI offenses are charged as felony aggravated DUI, which comes with higher sentences, more fines, and harsher consequences than misdemeanors. 

Penalties for third and subsequent DUI convictions are as follows:

  • Third and fourth DUI convictions are a Class 2 felony punishable by three to seven years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000. If BAC is at or above .16%, an additional mandatory minimum of 90 days and a fine of $2,500, $5,000 for fourth convictions, are imposed.
  • A fifth DUI conviction is a Class 1 Felony with four to fifteen years of prison and fines of up to $25,000. An additional mandatory minimum of a $5,000 fine is imposed if BAC is at or above .16%
  • A Sixth DUI conviction is a Class X Felony punishable by six to 30 years and a fine of up to $25,000.

If a passenger under 16 is involved in any of these offenses, a mandatory fine of $25,000 and at least 25 days of community service are also imposed.

Besides past DUI convictions, a person can be charged with aggravated DUI if they commit, among others, the following offenses:

  • Causing a car accident that resulted in great bodily injury, permanent disability, or death
  • A second DUI offense that results in a bodily injury or harm to a passenger who’s under 16
  • Operating a vehicle without a valid driver’s license or a liability insurance policy at the time of their arrest
  • Causing an accident in a school zone with a speed limit of 20 miles per hour
  • Operating a school bus with at least one minors
  • Operating a vehicle-for-hire with at least one passenger in the vehicle

These offenses are charged as felonies and can lead to penalties with varying severity. When coming up against the criminal justice system, it is important to hire a DUI attorney that can protect your best interests and ensure that you do not fall victim to the justice system. 

License Suspension

Besides the criminal consequences of a DUI charge, Chicago drivers are subject to statutory summary suspension of their driver’s license if arrested for a DUI. This suspension applies automatically from the day of your arrest, and the length of time you are subject to a suspension will depend on several factors, including:

  • Whether you have received a previous conviction for a DUI, reckless driving, or related charge
  • Whether you have had a prior statutory summary suspension because of a DUI
  • Whether there were any aggravating factors

For a first-time DUI, you can expect your driving privileges to be revoked for up to one year. Second and third DUI convictions will suspend your driver’s license for a minimum of five and ten years, respectively. Subsequent convictions will result in a permanent revocation of your driving privileges.

A Chicago, IL, DUI lawyer can help you file a petition to the Circuit Court to rescind the statutory summary suspension. They will need to have a valid legal basis, such as an unlawful DUI traffic stop or the police officer failing to notify the driver that they were under arrest for driving under the influence.

Recovering a driver’s license can be difficult, which is why we recommend seeking help from an experienced DUI attorney.

Consequences of a DUI Conviction in Chicago, IL

On top of license suspension and penalties resulting from a DUI, you will face serious difficulties and obstacles with a criminal record in Chicago. Most people convicted of a DUI with a criminal record will experience some level of adversity, whether it is applying for a job or trying to get a mortgage.

A DUI conviction, whether misdemeanor or felony, will appear on your public criminal record, which is accessible to anyone with access to criminal record databases. When you apply for a new job, your employer will see that you have been previously convicted of a DUI, and they may not hire you. Some fields of employment do not hire those with a criminal record, including government, education, and some medical jobs.

You will also be subject to background checks when you apply to attend a university or school, try to get a loan from a bank, or try to travel abroad. If you are currently in a child custody battle, a criminal conviction can limit your ability to see your children and may affect any other legal matters that you are currently dealing with.

Financial Consequences of a DUI Conviction

Many people underestimate the financial cost of a DUI conviction. On average, a DUI case can cost more than $10,000, besides any fines imposed upon conviction.

This cost stems from a couple of different aspects of a DUI, including criminal court fines, legal fees, court-imposed drug and alcohol education course fees, DMV fees, license restoration fees, and higher costs from insurance companies.

There are also long-term financial burdens of a criminal conviction for a DUI. If you plead guilty or do not work with a strong criminal defense lawyer, you will receive a criminal record. The difficulties you will face down the line with a criminal record when it comes to finding a job, applying to university to move up in your career, or purchasing a car insurance policy.

You may also be unable to get a commercial driver’s license, which will prevent you from applying for some jobs as well.

Commercial Drivers Facing DUI Charges

When you hold a commercial driver’s license (CDL), your livelihood could be at stake when facing DUI charges. This is why it is best to have an experienced commercial DUI lawyer defending you and fighting your case. Any commercial driver who is convicted of a DUI will be disqualified from driving a commercial vehicle for a minimum of one year.

When a commercial driver is stopped for DUI while operating a commercial vehicle containing hazardous material, they will not be eligible for a commercial license for a minimum of three years if convicted. A second conviction of a DUI will result in their CDL being revoked for life.

As such, it is vital that you seek legal representation from an experienced DUI defense attorney if you are facing drunk driving charges in Chicago, IL.

Possible Defenses to DUI in Chicago, IL

The only way to prevent a conviction in a DUI case is to hire an experienced Chicago DUI lawyer that can build a strong defense strategy. In most DUI cases, the accused is caught “red-handed” with a BAC test result that is over the limit. Because of this, many people believe that it is impossible to defend against a DUI charge.

However, with the backing of a talented DUI attorney, you could get your charges dropped completely or reduced. Examples of possible DUI defenses can include:

Illegal Search

A police officer must have a valid reason to pull an individual over and conduct a breathalyzer test. Reasons that can warrant a traffic stop can be traffic violations or the officer’s belief that you are about to break the law. However, if they cannot prove that they had a valid legal reason to pull you over, then any evidence against you during this stop is invalid.

Miranda Violations

During a DUI arrest, a law enforcement officer must read you your Miranda rights before they ask you any DUI-related questions. If they did not read you your Miranda rights, your DUI attorney could use this as evidence to get your charges dropped.

Inaccurate Test Results

Your DUI attorney may argue that your test results are inaccurate if they can prove that other factors could have impacted it, including medical issues. Certain medications for diabetes, asthma, liver and kidney diseases, and pain relief may affect DUI test results and possibly cause higher BAC levels. If such a case applies to you, you may be able to walk free.

The DUI defense that can be used for your case will depend on the circumstances and the evidence against you. Without a strong defense strategy, you will probably end up with a permanent criminal record.

Contact a Chicago, IL, DUI lawyer from our law firm today to discuss how we can effectively defend your DUI.

Do I Have To Submit a Breathalyzer in Chicago, IL?

Chicago, like the rest of Illinois, follows an implied consent policy when it comes to submitting blood or breath alcohol tests. This means that all drivers, by virtue of holding a driver’s license, automatically give consent to submit to a BAC test if pulled over on suspicion of driving while intoxicated by a police officer.

When a police officer arrests you for DUI, they will give you either one or two DUI citations. The first one will be given when you are pulled over on suspicion of driving under the influence, and the second will be given if your BAC is above the legal limit. The officer must have probable cause to arrest you based on either a breathalyzer or their own suspicion.

A prosecutor does not need a valid test to secure a conviction against you, and often prosecutors will believe a police officer’s testimony that you were visibly impaired. It is important that you hire a criminal defense attorney to defend against your DUI. They can build a strong DUI defense to prove either that the evidence is invalid, the stop is illegal, or other possible reasons.

Can I Get a DUI Expunged in Chicago, IL?

In Chicago and all throughout the state of Illinois, a DUI conviction can never be expunged. There are certain criminal offenses that the law excludes from expungement, and DUI is one of them. This means that if you are convicted of a DUI, it will be on your criminal record forever and will affect you for the rest of your life.

The only situations in which a DUI can be expunged from a criminal record are:

  • If you were arrested for a DUI but never charged
  • The court found you not guilty
  • The governor of Illinois granted a pardon for your case
  • Your DUI case was dismissed

Having an experienced Chicago, IL, DUI lawyer is the only way to prevent receiving a permanent criminal record for a DUI. Otherwise, you will have to come up against the justice system alone and risk jeopardizing your life and future with a permanent criminal record.

Chicago, IL, DUI Lawyers at Hirsch Law Group

At Hirsch Law Group, our priority is to protect your future and prevent you from receiving a conviction and a permanent criminal record. Our law office boasts a team of former prosecutors that now work as professional DUI defense lawyers.

Having worked as former prosecutors, we understand the tricks and tactics that a prosecutor will use to convict you, and we can use this knowledge to build an airtight defense on your behalf.

Our managing attorney and founder, Gordon H. Hirsch, set up a criminal defense law firm with the aim of defending the rights of those who can’t defend themselves. Along with the amazing DUI attorney, James Brzezinski, Gordon H. Hirsch has helped many clients get their charges dismissed or reduced substantially over the years. They are highly-skilled, experienced, and knowledgeable and will work tirelessly for your best interests.

Hirsch Law Group lawyers have gained multiple awards and recognitions for their dedication to clients’ rights, including America’s Top 100 Attorneys and Best Criminal Defense Attorneys in Chicago 2022.

We have offices all throughout Illinois, including Chicago, and our DUI defense attorneys have a deep understanding of local DUI law in Chicago. With our stellar track record, you can rest assured that your case is handled with the utmost professionalism.

Mitigation Package

In addition to providing aggressive criminal defense through litigation and negotiation, our law firm also offers mitigation packages to clients. A mitigation package is a document of information that shows the prosecutor that you are an otherwise law-abiding citizen. Prosecutors deal with hundreds of cases each month, and they do not have the time to learn about each defendant.

We create mitigation packages with the aim of getting your charges reduced or dismissed by including information that portrays you in the most positive light. Some information that can be used to prove your good character include:

  • Education and employment history
  • Lack of criminal record
  • Military service
  • Charity or voluntary work that you have taken part in
  • Family history and supporting letters from friends and family members
  • Any rehabilitation services that you have previously attended

A Chicago DUI lawyer from our firm will get started on creating this package from day one. They will gather as much supporting evidence for your case as possible and submit this to the prosecutor. Our goal is to get the prosecutor to see you as a person rather than a number in the criminal justice system. We want to ensure that you get the best possible outcome for your case.

Contact a Chicago, IL, DUI Lawyer Today!

The criminal justice system is built in favor of prosecutors and government interests. So, when you are arrested for a DUI, the odds are stacked against you and in favor of a conviction. Often, people believe DUI cases are hopeless, particularly if the accused tested with a high BAC. However, if you have a strong DUI attorney, it is possible to dispute a DUI charge and prevent a criminal conviction.

In the criminal legal system, you are on your own against resourceful and qualified prosecutors. At Hirsch Law Group, we have a team of criminal defense attorneys that cares about protecting your future. With DUI cases, we understand that there are huge risks involved, and we want to do everything we can to get your case dismissed. 

Call our law offices today to schedule a free consultation with a Chicago, IL, DUI lawyer.