Illinois state law defines driving under the influence (DUI) as “operating a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol, other drugs, or intoxicating compounds.” A driver is considered too impaired to operate a vehicle in Illinois when his or her blood alcohol concentration is .08 percent or higher, or when he or she is impaired by the consumption of any amount of alcohol. A driver will also be charged with DUI if he or she operates a vehicle while under the influence of an illegal substance or is impaired by a prescription or over-the-counter medication. A high concentration of drugs and alcohol in the body can significantly affect the driver's coordination, judgment, physical control, reaction time and level of alertness. When a person consumes alcohol to the point of impairment and then operates a vehicle, his or her chances of causing a serious or fatal accident increase dramatically, and the State of Illinois and county of Cook enforce DUI laws vigorously.
What leads to drunk driving charges?
Any DUI case will start with the initial police stop. An officer, upon observing any traffic violation (swerving, speeding, driving too slow, etc.) will pull over a motorist on the side of the road. The officer will then approach the vehicle and look for outward signs of intoxication: slurred speech, the smell of alcohol, or bloodshot and glassy eyes. If the officer still has reason to believe the motorist may be driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, he or she will likely ask the motorist to exit the vehicle and perform one or more field sobriety tests. The motorist's performance on these tests will influence the officer's next decision – whether to take the motorist into custody and request a breath test or blood test.
If a driver takes a breath or blood test and the result is above the legal limit (.08% or greater) he or she will face DUI charges. It is important to note, however, that even if a driver's chemical test results are in the legal range, that he or she may still face DUI charges. DUI is defined in Illinois law as:
- Driving a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of .08% or greater,
- Driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol/drugs or a combination of alcohol and drugs, or
- Driving a motor vehicle with any amount of illegal drug (such as cannabis or other controlled substances) in one's system.
"Under the influence" as mentioned in the second bullet point above, is defined in Illinois as impairment of physical and/or mental abilities to any degree. For this reason, a driver may face DUI charges even if his or her blood or breath test shows a result that is within the legal limit.
Illinois DUI Law
When a police officer has probable cause that a person was driving under the influence, he or she may arrest the driver for DUI. Once the officer has tested the driver's BAC and determined it is .08 percent or more or tested the driver for the presence of an intoxicating or illegal substance, the officer can then add additional DUI charges.
As soon as a driver is arrested for DUI, he or she will have two separate legal processes to contend with: a criminal trial and a summary suspension hearing. The criminal trial is where the driver will be tried for committing the crime of driving under influence. The summary suspension hearing is a completely separate process from the criminal trial initiated by the motorist, and has no bearing on the outcome of the criminal case. Summary suspension hearings are an opportunity for the driver to challenge the suspension of his or her driver's license, which will be suspended on the 46th day after he or she is given notice of the DUI suspension. Notice of the Statutory Summary Suspension is usually given on the date of the arrest.
Slightly different DUI laws apply to drivers under the age of 21, school bus drivers and commercial drivers. An underage driver or school bus driver may not operate a motor vehicle with any detectable amount of alcohol/drugs in their system. A commercial driver may not operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol level of .04% or greater. High breath results or the presence of children under the age of 16 may also mean enhanced penalties.
Contact a Chicago DUI attorney today
If you are facing DUI charges in Cook County, it's in your best interest to obtain skilled legal representation as soon as possible. Without proper defense, you could ultimately be convicted and sentenced to such penalties as driver's license suspension, probation, mandatory DUI school, large fines, and even time in jail. At Fagan, Fagan & Davis, we understand what our clients stand to face if they're convicted of their charges, as well as how a conviction may affect multiple aspects of their lives. We are committed to utilizing all possible defense strategies and negotiation tactics to fight our clients' DUI charges, and will never give up on our clients or their cases.