- Why do I need a lawyer for my DUI?
- Do I have to take field sobriety tests or the breath test when asked by the police?
- What is my "worst case" scenario if I have been charged with DUI?
- How much information should I provide the police before and after I am arrested?
- What if I have a Commercial Driver’s License?
- How much money will this ordeal cost me?
Why do I need a lawyer for my DUI?
The law in Illinois governing driving while under the influence ('DUI') is extremely complex. A charge of DUI is generally comprised of 2 separate cases: 1) A summary suspension of your license and driving privileges based on submitting to and failing a chemical test (breath, blood and urine) or refusing the request for testing; and 2) The criminal charge(s) for DUI which can result in jail, fines and the revocation of driving privileges upon conviction. Motions for discovery, subpoenas, pre-trial motions, and requests for driving relief need to be prepared, filed and presented properly before the court. Having an experienced attorney is essential and will allow you to know exactly which defenses may be available in your case and will guide you so that the legal consequences of your arrest and effect on your life are minimized.
Do I have to take field sobriety tests or the breath test when asked by the police?
Under Illinois law there is no legal requirement to submit to field sobriety tests ('FSTs'). FSTs are physical performance tests usually requested by the police on the street after a traffic stop but PRIOR to your arrest. Examples of FSTs include the walk and turn test, one leg stand test, finger to nose test, etc. The FSTs requested by the officer on the street should always be refused since there is no penalty for refusing these tests. These tests are generally subjective and unreliable. In the case of the FSTs, remember that they are being graded by the officer whose generally has already decided to arrest you for DUI.
A polite and direct statement to the officer that you will not take the tests being requested is usually a good response. Remember that the police typically do not (and need not) inform you of your right to refuse these tests in a DUI investigation.
Furthermore, there is no penalty for refusing the breath test that a person is asked to submit to, usually on the street, PRIOR to your arrest for DUI. This test is known as a preliminary breath test.
HOWEVER, a person's license may be suspended for failing or refusing the separate breath test at the police station which is requested AFTER you have been arrested. This test is known as an evidentiary breath test.
Sometimes, it is in your interest to take the breath test offered at the police station when you are certain that the amount of alcohol consumed could not reasonably result in a breath alcohol concentration ("BAC") result of .08 or more. If there is any doubt regarding your potential BAC level, it is best to refuse this test as well.
What is my "worst case" scenario if I have been charged with DUI?
The answer to this question depends upon whether you are charged with a misdemeanor or felony DUI. If you are a first offender and plead guilty or are found guilty after trial you may be eligible for a sentence of court supervision which usually includes a fine, an alcohol evaluation, alcohol classes, attendance at a victim impact panel, under certain circumstances, community service, and regular reporting to a court monitoring officer in order to make certain that you are in compliance with the conditions of the court order. In rare cases, a first offender may face a serious threat of jail time, particularly if there are serious aggravating circumstances, e.g., an accident with injuries or death.
If you are not a first offender, but are still charged with a misdemeanor, you face all of the conditions listed above as well as a greater potential of jail time and the revocation of your Illinois driver's license. A person may be charged with a felony DUI under certain circumstances which depending on the facts and circumstances of the case and criminal history which may carry even more severe penalties.
How much information should I provide the police before and after I am arrested?
You are only obligated to provide a driver's license and proof of insurance and/or vehicle registration to the officer upon request. Other details such as whether or not alcohol or drugs were consumed, your whereabouts prior to the traffic stop, where you were headed, etc. need not be provided to the officer. You can politely tell the officer that you will not be providing the answers to those questions. You need not explain your choice to the officer if he or she persists in questioning you. If the officer places you under arrest for DUI, he should not initiate any communication or questioning of you unless he has provided you with your Miranda rights (commonly known as your right to remain silent, etc.).
Do not volunteer information or spontaneously discuss your actions because they can be held against you regardless of whether your Miranda rights have been read or not. At the station, an officer will attempt to interview you about the chain of events prior to the traffic stop as well as other personal information. You are under no obligation to participate in this interview and you can politely refuse to answer these questions as well.
What if I have a Commercial Driver’s License?
The laws in Illinois are even more severe for CDL holders who are stopped for DUI. If you are driving a commercial OR non-commercial vehicle, you must submit to a breath test or face the disqualification of your CDL. Refusal of such testing will result in the disqualification of your CDL privileges for a minimum of one year.
If you are driving a commercial vehicle at the time of the stop and you submit to alcohol testing, a BAC of .04 or more will result in a minimum one-year disqualification of your CDL. If you are driving a non-commercial vehicle, a BAC of .08 or above will result in a minimum one-year disqualification of your CDL. These rules apply regardless of the result of your criminal case in court. It is important to emphasize that your CDL will be disqualified whether or not you are driving a commercial vehicle.
Because of the severe impact a DUI can have on your CDL, it is very important to contact an experienced criminal attorney. Cases involving CDL holders must be handled with the utmost care due to the potential consequences on your professional livelihood.
How much money will this ordeal cost me?
This is a difficult question to answer because legal fees depend on the complexity of your case and the type of DUI (misdemeanor or felony) you are charged with. Since each DUI arrest is unique, a thorough, in-person consultation is required to explain exactly what actions need to be taken on your behalf and anticipated costs. At the outset our goal is to obtain the dismissal of the DUI charge. If this is not possible, then our goal is to minimize the effect of the charge on you, financially and otherwise.
This is only a small sample of the questions that clients have about their case. If you do not see an answer to any questions that you have, feel free to contact us by phone or e-mail and we will do our best to help you.