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Illinois DUI defense lawyerWhen the police see someone driving erratically, they often jump to the conclusion that the person must be driving drunk or high. In such cases, a police officer may be predisposed to find reasons to request a breathalyzer test and make a DUI arrest. By the time they are done with you, you may feel like you have already been convicted. But breathalyzer tests can be wrong and there are many ways to challenge the results.

Reasons a Breathalyzer Result Could Be Wrong

You will want to let your attorney know about any possible grounds on which the breathalyzer result could be challenged. Here are some examples.  

Waiting period. To ensure that you have not consumed anything that could cause a false reading, the police are supposed to observe you for 20 minutes prior to running an evidentiary breathalyzer test (the one done at the police station). Police procedural error is a common DUI defense strategy.

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Illinois DUI defense lawyerIn Illinois, if a driver’s blood-alcohol content (BAC) measures .08 or higher, they are automatically deemed guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol. Under the law, a driver is assumed to be too impaired to drive when their BAC is .08 or higher. However, you should be aware that, under certain circumstances, Illinois drivers can be penalized for drinking and driving with a BAC below .08.

Four Ways You Can Be Penalized for Driving with a BAC Below .08

Scientific studies have shown that alcohol begins to affects your judgment and reaction time starting from the first drink, well before your BAC reaches the .08 level. Therefore, some types of drivers are held to a stricter standard for highway safety reasons. Illinois law defines four ways you can be charged with DUI or otherwise penalized for driving with even a very low level of alcohol in your system.

While driving a personal vehicle, you could be charged with DUI if your BAC tests higher than .05 but less than .08. However, in this situation, in order for you to actually be convicted of DUI, the police must present other convincing evidence that you were actually too impaired to drive safely. The arresting officer would have to testify, for example, that you were driving erratically, failed field sobriety tests, and/or admitted to consuming other types of intoxicants in addition to alcohol.

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IL defense lawyerWhen someone is charged with driving under the influence, they are often cited for one or more petty traffic offenses as well. Why is that?

That happens in part because, as the latest driver safety campaign says, “If you feel different, you drive different.” You make poor decisions, like driving too fast.

But it also happens because the police need a valid legal reason for initiating a traffic stop. Typically, the reason stated for a traffic stop is that the driver committed a relatively minor infraction of the law such as speeding, running a stop sign, failing to wear a seatbelt, or even having a burnt-out tail light. After observing the stopped driver and vehicle up close, the officer may then determine that a DUI charge is merited. But by writing up the ticket for the original infraction as well, the officer documents “for the record” the reason for the traffic stop.

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IL defense lawyerThe Illinois courts have long upheld a doctrine known as the “one act, one crime” rule. This doctrine is regularly applied to criminal cases stemming from a single act of driving under the influence.

Illinois Law Defines Multiple Possible DUI Charges

When a person is arrested for DUI, they may be charged with multiple offenses. For example, someone who was impaired by alcohol may be written up on two charges for the same incident:

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Posted on in DUI Defense

IL defense lawyerIf you have been charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you need to act quickly to mitigate the potential consequences, which can include losing your driver’s license, paying a fine of up to $2,500, and more.

But before a judge can hand down a sentence, the state must prove that you are guilty of the crime. Even if you failed a breathalyzer or drug test, a conviction is not 100% guaranteed. With the help of an experienced DUI defense lawyer and a comprehensive investigation of your case, it may be possible to get the charges against you reduced or even dismissed.

The better you understand the legal process, the better equipped you will be to work with your attorney to develop the best possible defense. Toward that end, here is a brief overview of the process.

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IL defense lawyerIf you are caught driving under the influence in Illinois, part of the punishment is the suspension or revocation of your driver’s license. However, the state realizes that most people need to drive in order to earn a living and care for their families. The solution is the Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device (BAIID), also commonly known as an in-car breathalyzer, blow-and-drive lock, or blow-to-go device.

Driver’s License Suspension for First-Time DUI Offenders

If you are arrested for DUI in Illinois and you either fail the evidentiary test (that is, your blood-alcohol concentration, BAC, is at or above .08) or you refuse to be tested, your Illinois driver’s license will automatically be suspended.

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IL DUI lawyer“I got a ticket for DUI last night. Is there any way to get out of this?

“If I lose my driver’s license, I could lose my job. I have to be able to drive.”

“I admitted I had been drinking and I blew .08 on the breathalyzer. Is there anything you can do to help me?”

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IL DUI lawyerBefore the police can legally arrest someone for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol (DUI), the police must have “probable cause” to believe that the person actually committed the crime. Probable cause consists of specific facts or observations made by the police.

This is not the same as proving the person “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt,” which is the standard for actually convicting someone and punishing them for the crime.

Lack of Probable Cause for an Arrest Is a Common Defense Strategy

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IL DUI lawyerWith the legal drinking age set at 21 nationwide, you would not expect there to be many arrests for driving under the influence (DUI) among people under age 21. Yet over 2,000 Illinois youth received punishment for underage driving and driving in 2016. If you are suspected of drinking and driving, the penalties you may face are substantially tougher if you are under age 21 than if you are age 21 or older.

The Legal Limit for Blood Alcohol is Lower for Underage Drivers

If you are at least 21 years old, you are considered guilty of DUI when you have a blood-alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or higher. You can also be charged with DUI if your BAC is .05 or higher and there is additional evidence that your driving was impaired.

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IL defense lawyerImagine that you are driving down a suburban street at night, in a rush to get home. Flashing lights appear; you are being pulled over by the police for speeding. The officer stands at your window and asks for your license and registration. As you retrieve those items for inspection, the officer shines a flashlight into your car and spots a bottle of whiskey on the passenger seat. The officer is now wondering whether you are guilty of a more serious offense, such as driving under the influence (DUI).

This is when things get interesting. The officer casually asks, “You mind if I have a look in your car?”—intending to learn if that bottle is open and shows signs that you have been drinking out of it, which would help support a DUI charge. If you agree, you have just consented to a search of your entire car, and anything the police find can be used as evidence against you. Or you have the right to say, “No, I do not give consent for any searches.”

Let us assume that you do not give consent for a search. Can the police officer now legally search your car without your consent?

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IL DUI lawyerWhen someone is arrested for drunk driving in Illinois, they will typically be charged with one of two crimes, either driving under the influence (DUI) or aggravated DUI.

An aggravated DUI charge results from driver actions that the state legislature has deemed particularly harmful or risky to public safety.

Aggravated DUI Is a Felony

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Posted on in DUI Defense

IL DUI lawyerWhen you hear the term “driving under the influence,” you probably picture the driver in a standard sedan or perhaps a sports car. But a significant number of DUIs happen on motorcycles, and the results are often deadly.

More Motorcycles on the Road, More DUI Deaths on Motorcycles

About 8.7 million motorcycles were on American roadways in 2016, twice as many as there were in 2002. There were 5,414 motorcyclists involved in fatal accidents in 2016, and 25% of those drivers had a blood-alcohol concentration over the legal limit, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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IL defense lawyerWhen charged with driving under the influence, one of your first thoughts is likely to be, “How much is this going to cost?” The cost of hiring a defense attorney may be your most immediate concern. But that should not be your only concern. The total cost of a DUI conviction will be far higher than attorney fees alone. In the end, a strong DUI defense that keeps a drunk driving conviction off your record—and your wallet—will be worth far more than the attorney fees.

The Cost and Benefits of an Aggressive DUI Defense

For a first-time DUI offense, you can expect to pay several thousand dollars in legal fees. But you must weigh that against the total cost of a DUI conviction, estimated at over $15,000.

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IL defense lawyerImagine that you have been pulled over by a police officer for some relatively minor traffic violation. The officer approaches you in a friendly manner as if he is just making conversation. He asks about where you have been, where you are going, whether you have had any drinks today, and so on. He gets you to admit that you were at a bar and that, yes, you had a drink or two.

Did You Just Say Too Much?

Many people believe — incorrectly — that they are required to answer each and every question that a police officer asks. Their natural instinct is to be cooperative. They may even hope that the officer will let them off with just a warning because they were so polite.

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IL defense lawyerIf you have been charged with driving under the influence (DUI) in Illinois, your defense strategy will depend in part on whether your case is a “per se” DUI or “impaired” DUI.

Definition of DUI Per Se

A DUI per se (“by law”) means that your breath or blood tested over the legal limit for alcohol, marijuana, or another intoxicating substance.

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IL defense lawyerImagine you are on vacation in Florida, or maybe up at the lake in Wisconsin. You go out for dinner and have a few cocktails. Driving back on unfamiliar streets, you get pulled over by the police for a traffic violation, and end up arrested for driving under the influence (DUI)—or as they call it in Wisconsin, Operating While Intoxicated (OWI).

If you get arrested in another state, one of your first thoughts is likely to be, “Will the state of Illinois find out about this? Can I lose my Illinois driver’s license as the result of a DUI committed in another state with different laws?”

The short answer is, “Yes.” States share driver information. The effect of an out-of-state DUI conviction on your Illinois driver’s license can be the same as if you got the DUI conviction in Illinois.

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IL DUI lawyerYou have probably seen news stories about people who have been arrested for driving under the influence 10 or 15 times, and wondered, “15 DUIs? I thought Illinois was super-strict on DUIs. How was that person not already in prison?” In reality, Illinois law is very tough on driving under the influence. The state simply prefers to keep non-violent offenders out of prison, so they can be working and supporting their families, rather than being a huge financial burden on their fellow tax-paying citizens. In addition, multiple offenders often have records dating back to years when DUI laws and judges were far less strict than they are today.

The Case of the Man with 15 DUI Convictions

One Illinois citizen has had 15 DUI convictions dating back to 1982. His driver’s license was revoked years ago, but he continued to drive without a license, in at least one case showing police a fake ID. He has been arrested in at least 10 Illinois counties, been involved in collisions and committed various traffic violations.

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IL DUI lawyerA look at the Oak Brook Police Department’s DUI arrest record reveals a good tip for DuPage County drivers: do not drink and drive in Oak Brook, particularly on the area’s busiest streets and during peak traffic hours. The Oak Brook PD made 43 arrests in 2017 for driving under the influence, roughly in line with its average of 50 arrests per year in 2013-1016. That’s roughly one per week.

Unfortunately, the number of DUI-related car crashes in Oak Brook hit a five-year high of 18 in 2017, twice as many as in 2016. So, even if you are not driving while intoxicated, stay alert and drive defensively on the busy roads around the Oak Brook shopping mall, because some driver around you very well could be driving impaired. If you are involved in an accident, even if you are not at fault, no one wants to spend their free time dealing with insurance adjusters and body shops.

Note that across all of DuPage County, there were about 2,900 DUI arrests each year in 2014, 2015, and 2016.

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IL teen DUI lawyerWhat can happen to a 16- or 17-year-old driver if they get arrested for drinking and driving in DuPage County? In short: A lot. While drivers under the age of 18 have the advantage of being treated as juveniles, rather than adults, in the Illinois legal system, they have the disadvantage that state law is very tough on underage drinking and driving.

Drivers Under Age 18 Go to Juvenile Court

When a minor under the age of 18 is arrested in Illinois, they are processed through the juvenile justice system. By law, the police can only detain 16- and 17-year-olds in a municipal lockup or county jail for a maximum of 12 hours, after which they must either be released to parents or processed for placement in a juvenile facility. If a DUI charge is filed against the juvenile, they can either make a plea deal with the prosecutor or have a bench trial before a judge; juveniles are generally not entitled to jury trials.

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IL DUI lawyerMemorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer in Illinois, and anyone with a boat (or a friend with a boat) is eager to get out on the water. And what is a day on the water without a cooler full of ice and beverages? Just remember: Safety first. Nobody wants to end an otherwise good day on the water with somebody in the back of a police car—or worse, an ambulance. Drunk boating, also known as operating under the influence (OUI), is a serious offense in Illinois, akin to drunk driving on the road.

Operating a Watercraft Under the Influence Is a Crime

Under Illinois law (625 ILCS 45/5-16), it is a crime to be in physical control of a watercraft while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or any other intoxicants that render the driver incapable of safely operating the watercraft. The term “watercraft” includes all motorized vessels including Jet Skis and all non-motorized craft such as sailboats, kayaks, and canoes.

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