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The Consequences of a Drunk Driving Charge in Illinois

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 caused each year by drunk driving, the courts take a tough approach toward those accused of driving under the influence. Prosecutors often adopt harsh tactics to secure a conviction against the accused and to move their case through the system as quickly as possible.

It is important to be aware of the severe repercussions that a DUI conviction can have on your life and future opportunities. With a criminal record, you will be subject to employer background checks and may lose certain constitutional rights. The only way to prevent a serious conviction is to contact an experienced Chicago DUI attorney.

Hirsch Law Group

At Hirsch Law Group, our DUI lawyers have what it takes to aggressively defend against your DUI charges. Our law firm has been helping Chicago clients fight against DUI charges for over 15 years, and we know how to build an effective defense to get your charges dismissed.

Our attorneys have worked as former prosecutors, so we know the tactics they will use to secure a conviction. This gives our DUI lawyers an advantage over other law offices and will ensure you receive the highest standard of legal representation.

Hirsch Law Group cares about protecting your future and we want to do everything we can to get a positive outcome in your case.

Call our law firm today to schedule a free consultation at 312-967-0275.

Chicago DUI Law

The law in Chicago provides that driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal. The legal limit is a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08%. Any driver caught driving with a blood alcohol concentration higher than 0.08% will be arrested and charged with a DUI. If you are a commercial driver, the legal limit is 0.04%.

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 face an automatic driver’s license suspension. If you refuse to take a blood alcohol content test, you may still be brought to the police station with probable cause and arrested for a DUI.

Zero Tolerance Law in Chicago

Illinois law adopts a zero-tolerance policy towards those under 21 driving under the influence. If a police officer catches an underage person driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, with any amount of a substance in their system, they will be charged with a DUI.

Unlike a standard DUI, the Zero Tolerance Law provides that minors will only have their driving privileges revoked for three to six months if they have not violated the law previously. They will not be subject to criminal penalties unless they were committing another crime while driving under the influence, such as possessing alcohol as a minor.

If you are charged with subsequent Zero Tolerance Law violations, you could get your driver’s license revoked for up to two 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.

Elements of a DUI in Chicago

Often, people believe that the DUI process is simple and that if you are caught driving while intoxicated, you will automatically receive a criminal conviction. However, the process is a lot more complex than people originally perceive. Depending on your situation, there are several distinct elements to a DUI charge.

DUI Conviction

The first element of a DUI charge is a criminal conviction. In Chicago, a first-time DUI is charged as a class A misdemeanor, which has a punishment of a maximum of one year in county jail and a maximum fine of $2,500. If you have no evidence or defense strategy to show that you are innocent of the DUI charge brought against you, you will be criminally convicted easily.

If you receive subsequent convictions for a DUI, the charge will be increased to a felony. Felony charges are much more serious than misdemeanors and carry higher sentences, further fines, and harsher consequences. The penalties for subsequent DUI convictions are as follows:

  • First conviction – Up to 1 year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500
  • Second conviction – Minimum of 5 days in jail or 240 hours of community service. If a child under 16 is involved these penalties could increase along with upgraded charges to a felony.
  • Third conviction – Class 2 Felony DUI. Minimum jail time of 90 days and three to seven years in prison. Fines of up to $25,000.
  • Fourth conviction – Prison sentence from three to seven years and fines of up to $25,000.
  • Fifth conviction – Class 1 Felony DUI. Prison sentence from four to fifteen years and fines of up to $25,000.
  • Sixth conviction – Class X Felony, the most serious type of felony. Prison sentences of 6 to 30 years which can be increased if there were aggravating factors.

Aggravated DUI

A prosecutor could increase a standard DUI charge to an aggravated DUI if the individual’s blood alcohol content were higher than 0.16% at the time of their arrest. Generally, an aggravated DUI refers to a DUI that is charged as a felony, which can result from multiple DUI convictions or a higher BAC.

Other factors can result in a first-time DUI being charged as a felony, or aggravated DUI, including:

  • The DUI resulted in personal injury or death.
  • The accused did not have a valid driver’s license at the time of their arrest.
  • The accused was driving in a school zone with a speed limit of 20 miles per hour.
  • There was a child under 16 in the vehicle at the time.
  • The accused was driving a school bus carrying minors.
  • The accused was driving a vehicle for hire or had at least one passenger in the vehicle.
  • The child in the vehicle suffered bodily harm due to the DUI.

When it comes to DUI cases, the burden is on the prosecutor to show, using evidence, that the accused was driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. They must prove this beyond a reasonable doubt. If you tested above the legal limit at a traffic stop, it can be quite difficult to dispute charges, particularly without a Chicago DUI lawyer. This is because the criminal justice system is tough on drunk driving and prioritizes convicting people rather than considering all the facts.

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.

License Suspension

Besides the criminal consequences of a DUI charge, Chicago drivers are subject to a statutory summary suspension of their driver’s license if arrested for a DUI. Recent statistics show that over 90% of drivers receive a license suspension with a DUI charge. 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 six months. If you are convicted of a DUI for a second time, this suspension period will be increased to one year. The suspension period may increase again if you are convicted of subsequent DUIs or if there were any aggravating factors.

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 for filing a petition which could include the DUI traffic stop being illegal 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, so 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 severe adversities with a criminal record in Chicago. The criminal legal system does not make it easy for individuals convicted of a crime. Most people convicted of a DUI with a criminal record will experience some difficulty afterward, whether 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 that has a criminal record database. 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 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 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 conviction can cost more than $10,000. This is an enormous expense for most Chicago citizens and can often be unexpected.

This cost stems from several 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 hire a strong criminal defense lawyer, you will receive a criminal record. The difficulties you will face with a criminal record when finding a job or applying to university to advance your career can be quite costly.

You may also be unable to get a commercial driver’s license, preventing you from applying for some jobs.

Commercial Drivers Facing DUI Charges

When you hold a commercial driver’s license, your livelihood could be at stake if facing DUI charges. It is best to have an experienced commercial DUI lawyer defending you and fighting your case. Any driver holding a commercial driver’s license convicted of a DUI will be disqualified from driving a commercial vehicle for a minimum of one year. If the driver was operating a commercial vehicle containing hazardous material when the DUI occurred, they will not be eligible for a commercial license for at least three years. A second conviction of a DUI while holding a commercial driver’s license will result in their CDL being revoked for life. 

Can I Get a DUI Expunged in Chicago, IL?

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

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

  • 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 in Chicago was dismissed.

Having a DUI defense and the backing of 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 future opportunities with a permanent criminal record.

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 holding a driver’s license, automatically consent to submit to a BAC test if pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving by a police officer.

When a police officer arrests you for a DUI, they will give you one or two DUI citations. The first 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 suspicion.

Although an officer cannot force you to give a breathalyzer at a traffic stop, our Chicago DUI lawyers encourage you to comply with the officer’s orders and submit a breathalyzer, even if you know you are over the limit. The courts are often more likely to impose harsher penalties on those who disobeyed police orders during a DUI arrest, and it can be more difficult to defend these cases.

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 under the influence, even if this is not the case. 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, that it was an illegal stop, or that you should not be convicted of a DUI based on other reasons.

DUI Defense Strategies

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 over the limit. Because of this, many people believe 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 substantially. Examples of a DUI defense they could use for your case include:

Illegal Search

A police officer must have a valid legal reason to pull an individual’s vehicle over and conduct a breathalyzer test. This reasoning can be based on their belief that you were breaking the law or about to break it. However, if they cannot prove that they had a valid legal reason to pull you over, any evidence against you during this stop is invalid.

Miranda Violation

During a DUI arrest, a law enforcement officer must read you your Miranda rights. They may not enforce DUI law, interrogate you, or take you in without having read you your rights. 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

Although you can be convicted of a DUI in Chicago without a valid test, your DUI attorney may still argue that the test you conducted during an arrest was invalid and cannot be used as probable cause for arrest. In some cases, a DUI lawyer can convince a prosecutor that the testimony of the law enforcement officer is invalid and that the results are inaccurate.

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 a defense strategy that can be used for your case.

Chicago DUI Lawyers at Hirsch Law Group

At Hirsch Law Group, our priority is to protect your future and prevent you from receiving a permanent criminal record. Our law office is a team of former prosecutors working as aggressive 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, worked as a former prosecutor and set up a criminal defense law firm with the aim of defending the rights of those that are accused of crimes. Gordon Hirsch and our other DUI attorney, James Brzezinski, are highly specialized in handling DUI charges, and they have helped many clients get their charges dismissed or reduced substantially for many years.

When coming up against the criminal justice system, it is important to hire a DUI attorney that protects your best interests and ensures that you do not fall victim to the justice system. Our 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.

Hirsch Law Group has law offices throughout Illinois, including Chicago, Cook County, DuPage County, Winnebago County, and Kane County. Our DUI defense attorneys have a deep understanding of local DUI law in Chicago and have helped many clients fight against charges in local courts.

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 to the prosecutor that you are an otherwise law-abiding citizen. Prosecutors deal with hundreds of cases each month and do not take the time to learn about each defendant.

We create mitigation packages with the aim of getting your sentence reduced or charges dismissed by including information that sheds you in a positive light. Some information we may include in these packages includes:

  • Education and employment history
  • Lack of or minimal 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 start creating this package from day one. They will gather as much supporting evidence for your case as possible and submit this to the prosecutor. We aim to get the prosecutor to see you as a person rather than a number in the criminal justice system. We want to ensure 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 straightforward, 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.

At Hirsch Law Group, we have a team of criminal defense attorneys that care 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. The criminal legal system does not care about your future and will do anything in its power to secure a conviction.

When you contact our law firm, an attorney from our law offices will build an aggressive DUI defense to reduce your penalties or get your charges thrown out altogether. We want to help you avoid a criminal conviction and ensure that you receive the highest standard of legal representation possible.

With DUI charges, you need to hire a DUI attorney that has the experience necessary to protect your rights. For this reason, you should contact the DUI attorneys at Hirsch Law Group to represent your case.

Call our law offices today at 312-967-0275 to schedule a free consultation with a Chicago IL DUI lawyer.