Know what is at stake with a DUI charge in Illinois

Like most people, you probably didn't set out to drive after you had too much to drink. In fact, you probably didn't intend to get drunk; you might simply have wanted a couple of drinks with friends or family. Regardless of your intentions at the beginning of the night, you later got stopped and arrested for drunk driving.

Now, your anxiety is probably through the roof. You wonder what potential penalties you could face, how your arrest will affect your personal and professional life, and what a conviction could cost you. Even a conviction for a first offense comes with potentially harsh penalties, and you need to know your legal options for minimizing the negative consequences. To clarify matters, it can help to understand exactly what is at stake.

First offense

For a first offense, you could face the following penalties:

  • Up to one year in jail
  • Up to $2,500 in fines
  • Up to one year license suspension
  • Use of ignition interlock device if granted a restricted license
  • Mandatory alcohol assessment, treatment and education
  • Possible confiscation of your vehicle

The court may also order you to do a certain number of hours of community service. You could also face the suspension of your driver's license for up to three months before a conviction.

Second offense

Being convicted of a second offense could result in the following penalties:

  • Use of an ignition interlock device
  • Up to five years license suspension
  • Mandatory alcohol assessment, treatment and education
  • Possible confiscation of your vehicle

You could also face additional incarceration, community service and fines above that of a first offense. Prior to a conviction, you could also lose your driver's license for up to one year.

Third offense

If the court convicts you of a third offense, you could face the following penalties:

  • Use of an ignition interlock device
  • Up to 10 year license suspension
  • Mandatory alcohol assessment, treatment and education
  • Possible confiscation of your vehicle

You could also face increasingly harsher penalties regarding prison time, community service and fines. Prior to a conviction, you could lose your driver's license for up to one year.

Aggravating factors

The above are just the baseline penalties you face if convicted of DUI. If your blood alcohol concentration level at the time of your arrest was .16 or higher, you could face additional penalties. In addition, if you were arrested for drunk driving and had children in the car or caused a serious or fatal accident, the penalties and potential charges only increase, along with the impact on your life.

A conviction is not automatic. Know your rights.

As you can see, a conviction for driving under the influence could significantly impact your life for a long time. Fortunately, you have the right to challenge the charges against you, including any evidence prosecutors intend to present to the court. Remember: a conviction is not automatic; a mistake in police procedure or on the part of the prosecution could result in a reduction or dismissal of charges.

Before doing anything else with regard to your case, speak with a knowledgeable DUI defense attorney about your legal options for protecting your rights and future.

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