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What Counts as a DUI in Illinois?

On Behalf of | Sep 3, 2020 | DUI & Traffic Defense |

Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is most often associated with drinking alcohol before driving a car. According to the Illinois 2020 DUI Fact Book, even drivers with a Blood-Alcohol Content (BAC) below the legal limit are two times as likely to be killed in a car accident than sober drivers. However, Illinois statute 625 ILCS 5/11-501 outlines a more robust law that goes beyond drinking and driving. Penalties range from license suspensions to jail time. Being charged with a DUI is scary; don’t face it alone. Call a criminal justice attorney right away to find out what your options are and what you should do next.

What counts as a DUI?
To be charged with DUI, a person must be under the influence of alcohol, drug(s), a controlled substance, or any combination of those, while in control of a motor vehicle. Everything from opiates to prescription medication can fall under this umbrella. Take a look at the Illinois Controlled Substance Act (720 ILCS 570/100) for more information on what counts as a controlled substance.

Alcohol and DUIs
A person must have a BAC of .08 or below to drive a vehicle. If you’re driving a commercial vehicle, your BAC must be .04 or below. Drivers under 21 years old and anyone driving a school bus cannot have any alcohol in their system.

Now, just because you are under the limit doesn’t mean you are exempt from arrest. If a controlled substance affects your ability to physically control a vehicle, you can be charged with DUI.

Marijuana and DUIs
As of January 1, 2020, recreational marijuana is legal in Illinois for residents over the age of 21. The state considers a person to be under the influence of marijuana if five or more nanograms of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive compound in marijuana, per milliliter of blood are detected in the person’s system. Folks with medical marijuana licenses are exempt from this limit; however, if any THC is found in a person’s system and it impaired their ability to drive a car, they can be arrested and charged with DUI whether they have a medical card or not.

The bottom line is: Don’t drive drunk and don’t drive high.

Field Sobriety Tests
Once an officer pulls over a driver they suspect of being under the influence, they’ll likely administer a Field Sobriety Test (FST). While these may seem mandatory, they are not. You are allowed to decline – politely. If the officer asks you to take a Preliminary Breath Test (PBT) roadside to determine a BAC, you are also allowed to decline. Even if you do submit to a PBT, the BAC that shows up roadside is not admissible in a criminal case, but is often admissible for a hearing on the license suspension.

A note of warning: You will almost certainly be arrested after refusing a PBT. At the station, a post-arrest breath test will usually be administered. The results of this test are admissible in criminal court.

Aggravated charges
Several factors will increase the standard DUI charge to an Aggravated DUI charge. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Driving the wrong way down a one-way street
  • A third offense
  • Driving a school bus with one or more passengers on board
  • A crash resulting in great bodily harm or permanent damage to another person
  • A previous conviction of reckless homicide while under the influence
  • A crash resulting in bodily harm or permanent damage to another person in a school zone
  • Having no license or permit (or a suspended license or permit) at the time of the incident
  • Driving without insurance
  • Injuring a passenger under 16 years old

An aggravated charge is automatically a Class 4 Felony, punishable by one to three years in jail and up to $25,000 in fines.

If you are charged with a DUI, a Statutory Summary Suspension will automatically go into place 46 days after the report is filed. If you have no prior summary suspensions or DUIs in the previous five years, this means your driving privileges will be revoked for six months. (If you refuse a PBT or have previous charges, your privileges will be revoked for one year.)

On top of that, first time offenders will be charged with a Class A Misdemeanor. This includes up to one year of jail time, up to $2,500 in fines, and a license suspension up to one year. Depending on the actual BAC, a DUI conviction can include community service hours and additional fines or jail time.

The difference between a favorable outcome and a lengthy, lasting sentence is a criminal attorney. If you or someone you know has been charged with DUI in Illinois, contact Richard at Fenbert & Associates for a free consultation today.