Illinois is suffering from drunk drivers. Almost 1,200 Illinois drivers died in car accidents in 2020. Roughly one-third of these drivers had blood alcohol levels above legal limits.
That’s why Illinois DUI laws are so strict and prosecutors so zealous. When you’re facing DUI charges, you may be looking at months in prison.
What are DUI laws in Illinois like? Can you make plea deals to get your charges changed? What can your DUI defense look like?
Get the facts and you can avoid becoming another statistic on Illinois’s roads.
Illinois DUI Laws
Section 11-501 of the Illinois Compiled Statutes discusses DUI laws. Driving under the influence occurs when a driver operates any vehicle while their blood alcohol concentration level is .08% or higher.
A first-time DUI offense is a Class A misdemeanor that is punishable with a prison sentence of up to 364 days in jail. You may also need to pay a fine of up to $2,500 and be on probation for up to two years.
If your blood alcohol level is .16% or more, you will be required to perform 100 hours of community service. A second-time DUI offense has a minimum prison term of five days, with additional offenses carrying stiffer penalties.
Section 11-501 does not describe a mechanism by which you can apply for a reduced sentence. In addition to DUI charges, you may face other offenses, like reckless driving or speeding.
Making a Plea Deal
The only way to get your charges reduced is to make a plea deal with the prosecutor. In exchange for the prosecutor dropping the DUI charge, you may be able to plead guilty to a reckless driving charge.
Reckless driving is another Class A misdemeanor offense, so you can go to jail for it. The advantage of pleading guilty to reckless driving is that you will avoid a mandatory license revocation. You may also avoid having to attend drug and alcohol education classes.
However, reckless driving can be a felony if you hit someone while you were driving.
Your prosecutor may offer you a deal just to take the case off their itinerary. They may also offer you a deal because they don’t think a jury will convict you.
Before you take a deal, you should talk to an Illinois DUI lawyer. Ask them to speak to the prosecutor and go over the terms of your deal.You should work out the terms with your attorney and let them talk to the prosecutor.
You may not be able to get the charge reduced, but you may be able to get the penalties reduced. This will help you avoid prison, though you may need to complete probation or other classes.
Fighting the Charges
Many people take plea deals because they assume they cannot beat their charges. In reality, your DUI case may be beatable, though you should prepare your defense in advance.
Breathalyzer tests can be flawed for a number of reasons. If the breathalyzer was not calibrated or cleaned before your test, it may produce a false positive.
Medical conditions like diabetes can also skew breathalyzer tests. When your blood sugar levels become very high, your body produces a substance called acetone. A breathalyzer can detect acetone and record a false positive, even if you have no alcohol in your system.
Your blood alcohol levels can rise over time, so a test administered long after you were driving can exceed state limits. If you can prove your blood alcohol level was lower while you were driving, a jury may acquit you.
Field Sobriety Tests
You are not required to perform field sobriety tests if an officer asks you to do so.
Even if you take tests, your lawyer may be able to convince a jury to disregard them. Many people fail one-leg-stand and walk-and-turn tests because they have bad hand-eye coordination. You may fail a vision test if you have bad eyesight.
Probable Cause and Illegal Police Actions
An officer must have probable cause to pull you over and administer a breathalyzer test. They must notice you speeding or violating a traffic law. If they have no probable cause to stop you, your lawyer can ask the judge to suppress evidence in your case.
Even if they have a reason to pull you over, an officer cannot start searching your vehicle unless they have a warrant or your consent. Your attorney may be able to get the evidence thrown out during the search, including bottles of alcohol.
Miranda rights apply to DUI arrests. If an officer failed to read you your rights and they solicited information from you, a judge may throw out the evidence. Describe your arrest to your attorney so they can launch a defense.
Getting Your Charges Reduced
Illinois DUI laws attach prison sentences to first-time DUI offenses. There is very little leeway for getting your charges reduced, but your attorney can try to make a plea deal. Keep in mind that you may be pleading guilty to a different offense with its own penalties.
You can also fight for an acquittal in a court trial. You may call the breathalyzer and field sobriety tests into question. Invoke your rights against self-incrimination and assert that the police violated your rights.
Contemplate your next steps with experts in DUI law. John M. Quinn & Associates, Ltd. can refer you to a quality DUI attorney. Contact us today.