Everyone should know that driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol is against the law in Illinois, as well as every other state in America. Getting caught behind the wheel when you are drunk can result in serious legal consequences, and a DUI conviction on your record can damage your life for years. For this reason, anyone facing a DUI charge must retain legal counsel as soon as possible.
DUI defendants are often scared and anxious about what is going to happen next. The following are some of the most frequently asked questions our law firm fields from clients and potential clients regarding DUI arrests, charges, and convictions. For more information, call our office today at (630) 474-8000.
What is the legal limit for driving under the influence?
Every state now has the same legal limit for most drivers, which is a 0.08 percent blood alcohol content (BAC). For commercial drivers, the limit is halved at 0.04 percent BAC. A driver younger than the legal drinking age of 21 faces a zero-tolerance policy, and cannot have a BAC of more than 0.00 percent.
Always realize, however, that the legal limit simply creates a presumption of intoxication. You can still face DUI charges if an officer believes you show signs of impairments despite a BAC of less than the legal limit.
When can an officer arrest me for DUI?
Like an arrest for any offense, a police officer needs probable cause to arrest you for suspicion of DUI. Often, officers will use roadside tests to obtain probable cause that you are impaired, including field sobriety tests or Breathalyzer tests. If an officer does not have probable cause, an arrest violates your Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure.
Does a BAC of more than the legal limit mean an automatic conviction?
Many people believe that if a breath or blood test shows a BAC of more than 0.08 percent, they face an inevitable conviction and see no point in hiring a defense attorney. This is not the case, however, because an experienced DUI defense attorney may have ways to defend against DUI charges—even with tests showing you exceeded the legal limit. A defense attorney may challenge the accuracy of the chemical tests or the legality of your arrest, for example, to try to avoid a conviction.
What penalties will I face for a DUI conviction?
The penalties for a DUI conviction will vary from case to case depending on many factors. The following maximum penalties apply for a first DUI in Illinois:
- Class A misdemeanor conviction
- Revocation of your driver’s license for one year (minimum)
- As long as one year in jail
- Fine of as much as $2,500
- Installation of an ignition interlock device upon reinstatement of your license
These penalties increase if your BAC exceeds 0.16 percent, if you had a child in the car, or if you injured another person.
What Are the Non-Legal Consequences of a DUI Conviction?
While most people who face DUI charges are justifiably concerned about the penalties that the court will impose, the extra-legal consequences of a DUI can prove just as severe—if not more so. Typically referred to as “collateral consequences,” schools, employers, government agencies, licensing authorities, and other parties can impose these non-judicial penalties of a DUI and make a significant impact on your life. Collateral consequences of a DUI conviction include:
- Termination from a current job
- Difficulty obtaining a future job
- Problems renting an apartment or house
- Loss of professional licenses
- Probation, suspension, or expulsion from a school or university
- The loss of scholarships
- Significant insurance rate increases
You may incur these collateral consequences even while your case is pending. An experienced lawyer, however, can manage the fallout from a DUI charge from the beginning—even before prosecutors file a criminal case—so always call an attorney immediately after a DUI arrest to arrange for legal representation.
Are There Defenses Available?
Many people arrested for DUI wonder how to defend themselves. While you may feel like the deck is stacked against you, the prosecutor still must prove every element of the charges beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the criminal justice system’s highest burden of proof. A skilled attorney may raise legal defenses that call into question the accuracy of the evidence against you. In addition, police may have improperly stopped, arrested, or investigated you. If there so, and experienced lawyer can try to have the court throw out the evidence they collected. Without the evidence the police collected, prosecutors are often forced to drop DUI charges entirely.
When available or appropriate, defenses that DUI attorneys commonly raise in DuPage County, Wheaton, and the rest of suburban Chicago include:
- Challenging the legal justification for the initial traffic stop
- Introducing evidence of an improperly calibrated Breathalyzer device
- Arguing that the officer who conducted sobriety testing lacked the required training and experience to interpret the results
- Showing that you have a medical condition that could cause symptoms that the officer mistook for signs of alcohol intoxication or that could affect the results of Breathalyzer testing
Contact a DuPage County DUI Defense Law Firm as Soon as Possible
The experienced DUI defense lawyers at Martin & Kent, L.L.C., represent people facing DUI charges in Wheaton and throughout DuPage County. If you were arrested for a DUI, call (630) 474-8000 to dicuss your case with one of our attorneys—and get started on your case today.