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Do I Need a Lawyer for My DUI?

Driving under the influence ('DUI') is a criminal offense with serious potential consequences. DUI also carries significant license consequences based upon whether you submit to or refuse testing as well as whether you are convicted of the offense. Securing the legal representation of an experienced Illinois DUI attorney is essential.

The law in Illinois governing DUI is extremely complex with a constantly changing landscape. A charge of DUI is generally comprised of 2 separate cases:

  • A summary suspension of your driver’s license and driving privileges based on submitting to and failing a chemical test (breath, blood and urine) or refusing the request for testing; and
  • The criminal charge(s) for DUI which can result in jail, fines and the revocation of driving privileges upon conviction. Motions for discovery, subpoenas, and pre-trial motions need to be prepared, filed and presented properly before the court.

An experienced Illinois DUI attorney knows exactly which defenses may be available in your case and can help ensure the best result possible. Your DUI attorney should guide you through the process, ensuring that the legal consequences of your arrest and effect on your life are minimized. The DUI lawyers at The Davis Law Group, P.C. welcome the opportunity to provide a free initial consultation.

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What Should I Say if I Am Asked About Drinking During a Traffic Stop?

Don’t lie about drinking if asked by an officer during a traffic stop. Lying will typically lead to complications if you are ultimately charged with DUI. Remember that you are likely being recorded with video and/or audio.

If you have not consumed any alcohol, you should tell the officer that you have not had anything to drink. If you have consumed alcohol, you always have the option to politely tell the officer that you don’t feel comfortable answering any questions without your attorney present. While this answer will typically lead to further investigation, it is often in your best interest.

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Do I Have to Take Field Sobriety Tests 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 standardized FSTs include the walk and turn test, one leg stand test, and horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test. The FSTs requested by the officer on the street should always be refused since there is no penalty for refusing these tests. These tests, as they are designed, are considered by many to be subjective and unreliable. Remember that your performance on FSTs are graded and judged by the officer who may have already decided to arrest you for DUI.

A polite and direct statement to the officer that you will not take the field sobriety 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.

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Should I Take a Breath Test When Asked by the Police?

There is no penalty for refusing the breath test that you are asked to submit to, usually on the street, PRIOR to your arrest for DUI. This test is known as a preliminary breath test or PBT. A PBT is used for probable cause purposes and is not admissible at trial. However, your driver'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 and may be admissible at trial.

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 typically best to refuse this test as well.

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What Is the “Worst Case” Scenario if I Have Been Charged With DUI?

The answer to this question depends upon a few factors such as whether you are charged with a misdemeanor DUI or felony DUI. Technically, the worst case scenario for a first offender would be one year in jail. However, 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. In Illinois, court supervision on a DUI charge 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 your sentence. In rare cases, a first offender may face a serious threat of jail time, particularly if there are serious aggravating circumstances, such as 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 a revocation of your Illinois driver's license. You may be charged with a felony DUI under certain circumstances which, depending on the facts of your case and criminal history, may carry even more severe penalties. The attorneys at The Davis Law Group, P.C. are able to review your case and explain in simple terms the potential consequences of your specific DUI charges.

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How Much Information Should I Provide the Police Before and After I Am Arrested for a DUI?

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.

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Will I Lose My Driver’s License for a DUI?

A DUI can impact your driver’s license in two significant ways.

First, you face a suspension of your driver’s license and privileges if you take a chemical test (blood, breath or urine) and fail that test or if you refuse testing. This is known as the Illinois summary suspension law. The suspension begins 46 days after your arrest. The length of the suspension depends on whether you fail or refuse testing and whether you have a prior DUI.

If you have not had a prior DUI disposition within 5-years of the current arrest:

  • Fail testing: 6-month license suspension
  • Refuse testing: 12-month license suspension

If you have had a prior DUI disposition within 5-years of the current arrest:

  • Fail testing: 12-month license suspension
  • Refuse testing: 36-month license suspension

The second potential impact on your driver’s license is related to your sentence on the DUI charge itself. If you are granted court supervision, which is a non-conviction disposition, your driver’s license will not be revoked. However, if you are convicted of the DUI your license will be revoked and the length of the revocation will depend on the number or prior DUI convictions which appear on your driving record. Conviction include sentences of conditional discharge and probation.

A first-time conviction for DUI will result in a minimum 1-year revocation. A second conviction for DUI arising out of arrests which occur in a period of 20-years will result in a minimum 5-year revocation. A third conviction for DUI will result in a minimum 10-year revocation. A fourth or subsequent conviction for DUI will result in a lifetime driver’s license revocation.

Remember that a license revocation does not automatically terminate after the minimum period has passed but continues until the Secretary of State grants you driving relief after an administrative hearing.

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Can I Request a Permit to Drive During the DUI Suspension?

The Secretary of State offers a driving permit known as a Monitoring Device Driving Permit (MDDP), which allows first offenders to drive with a breath device installed in their vehicle during a summary suspension. This permit is only available to those classified as first offenders by the Secretary of State. You are considered a first offender if you have not had a prior DUI disposition within 5-years of the current arrest.

You or your DUI attorney can apply for the driving permit by submitting the appropriate application with the Secretary of State. More information on the MDDP program can be found here.

Remember that if you are ultimately convicted of DUI, a license revocation will be entered. The revocation will cancel your MDDP. At that point, driving privileges can only be requested through a hearing with the Secretary of State.

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What if I Have a Commercial Driver’s License?

The laws in Illinois are even more severe for CDL holders who are charged with 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 Illinois criminal defense attorney. Cases involving CDL holders must be handled with the utmost care due to the potential consequences on your professional livelihood. The DUI attorneys at The Davis Law Group, P.C. have extensive experience defending CDL holders facing DUI charges throughout Illinois.

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How Much Money Will an Illinois DUI Cost Me?

There are two primary costs that result from an Illinois DUI: legal fees and court costs/fines. Legal fees depend on the complexity of your case, criminal background, and the type of DUI charge (misdemeanor or felony) you are facing. 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. The attorneys at The Davis Law Group, P.C. are able to quote you a specific fee range after discussing the details of your case.

Court costs and fines vary widely depending on a number of factors including the circumstances surrounding your DUI, county of arrest, and the result achieved. Of course, a dismissal or finding of not guilty after trial results in no fines or court costs. A first time DUI offender faces a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum $2,500 fine plus mandatory fees and court costs. A felony DUI is punishable by a maximum $25,000 fine plus mandatory fees and court costs. Our goal is to minimize the effect of the DUI charge on you, financially and otherwise.

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This is only a small sample of the most common questions that clients have about their DUI case. If you do not see an answer to any questions that you have, feel free to contact us by phone or via our contact form and we will do our best to help you.

Related Articles

Demystifying Illinois DUI Sentencing

The New MDDP Law and Applicable Secretary of State Regulations

Application of the Illinois Summary Suspension Law and Constitutional Implications

Developments in the Illinois Summary Suspension Law

New DUI, Traffic Laws Stiffen Penalties

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