Illinois DUI laws explained

by Sami Azhari on May 29, 2012

Chicago DUI | Cook County

Driving under the influence is a criminal offense in Illinois. The first offense is generally a Class A misdemeanor. Under very rare circumstances, a first offense can be a felony.

The statute for DUI is found in the vehicle code at 625 ILCS 5/11-501. Most cases are charged under 11-501(a)(1) for having an alcohol concentration in one’s blood or breath of 0.08 or more, or 11-501(a)(2) for being intoxicated. A person who drives with any amount of cannabis or controlled substance in their blood, breath or urine would be charged under 11-501(a)(6).

A misdemeanor has a maximum penalty of up to one year in jail. A sentence of one year in jail or more is only available for a felony. The law regards a misdemeanor as less serious than a felony.

A person who is sentenced to jail for less than one year will serve that sentence in the county jail facility. A person sentenced to one year or more of incarceration, however, has to serve that sentence in the Illinois Department of Corrections. Misdemeanor sentences are served in the county jail. Felony sentences are served in IDOC.

Most all sentences handed down by Illinois courts are served at 50 percent. This means that whatever number is on the sentencing order, the defendant must serve 50 percent of that time. This is known as “good-time” or “day-for-day” credit.

Class A misdemeanors have a maximum fine of $2500. This is not, however, the only financial penalty for driving under the influence. In addition to fines, a person who is found guilty of DUI must also pay court costs. Court costs are not considered to be penalties. Rather, these are considered assessments. Court costs are set by the county board.

Court costs can be very expensive. As with all things political in Illinois, court costs are set by priorities for the collection of revenue. There are some county courthouses where court costs are much higher. For example, in Lake County, court costs seem to be higher than anyplace else. Court costs in Cook County, despite Chicago politics and huge budget problems, remain lower.

The most significant court cost is the DUI Technology Fee. By statute, the court must assess a DUI Technology Fee of $750 for anyone who was found guilty.

A person who has no prior DUIs or charges of reckless driving (625 ILCS 5/11-503) will be eligible for a special disposition called supervision.

Supervision is generally reserved for first offenders. Supervision is not a conviction. In fact, supervision is not a sentence. When the court imposes a term of supervision, the case is continued under the supervision of the judge without the court entering a judgment. The charge will be dismissed provided the person does not violate the law.

Anyone who has been found guilty of reckless driving or DUI in the past is not eligible for supervision. For these persons, the minimum sentence is a conviction.

A conviction for DUI causes the Secretary of State to revoke that person’s driver’s license. Anyone convicted of DUI will have his license revoked for a minimum period of one year. After that year revocation has passed, that person will be eligible for reinstatement. However, reinstatement is not guaranteed.

In order to be reinstated after revocation for DUI, the offender must appear before the Secretary of State Department of Administrative Hearings. There are only four locations in the state of Illinois: Chicago, Joliet, Springfield, and Mount Vernon. The offender must undergo a formal hearing and prove to the Secretary of State by clear and convincing evidence that to reinstate that person’s driving privileges will not endanger the public safety or welfare.

The formal hearing process is adversarial in nature. A lawyer represents the Secretary of State, and is called a prosecutor. The hearing is presided over by a hearing officer who acts as a judge and issues a written opinion granting the petition for driving relief, or denying it.

It is reported that 80 percent of applicants for reinstatement are denied.

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