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Illinois DUI Laws

Driving under the influence is a significant public health issue. To combat the problem, Illinois has enacted strict laws concerning driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or other impairing substances. Even if you are acquitted, you can lose your driver's license for six months to one year.

While it's best to avoid DUI charges, mistakes happen. This article will help you better understand the law and plan your next steps should you get arrested.

Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) Limits and Implied Consent

"Per Se" BAC Limit 0.08 Percent
Zero Tolerance (Underage) BAC Limit 0.00 Percent
Enhanced Penalty (Aggravated) BAC Limit 0.16 Percent
Implied Consent to Submit to BAC Test? Yes

Select Penalties

Minimum License Suspension or Revocation (1st, 2nd, 3rd offense) Pre-conviction: 3 months / 1 year / 1 year; Post-conviction: 1 year / 5 years / 10 years
Mandatory Alcohol Education, Assessment and Treatment Both
Is Vehicle Confiscation Possible? Yes
Is Ignition Interlock Device Possible? Yes (Required for repeat offenders, and for restricted licenses)

Note: State laws are always changing through legislative, judicial, or other means. While FindLaw works hard to ensure the accuracy of its legal resources, it's a good idea to thoroughly research the law or check with an attorney to ensure you have the most recent information.

Driving Under the Influence in Illinois

Illinois law prohibits driving under the influence (DUI). Illinois defines DUI as driving or being in actual physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, intoxicating substances, drugs that make driving unsafe, or a combination of these. You don't have to be in motion to risk arrest. You only need to be able to drive if you decide to by being in the driver's seat or possessing the vehicle keys.

Illinois recognizes two legal per se intoxication limits. The first is blood alcohol content, and the second applies to cannabis and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). A per se limit is a level at which the law deems you intoxicated. Suppose your chemical tests are at or above this level. In that case, law enforcement does not need additional evidence that you are too impaired to operate a motor vehicle. A police officer may arrest you based on this evidence alone.

For alcohol, Illinois has set its per se legal limit at 0.08% BAC. The BAC legal limit is 0.04% if you drive a commercial vehicle like a school bus.

Illinois DUI law does allow for your arrest if your BAC is between 0.05% and 0.07% if the officer provides additional evidence that you are too impaired to operate a vehicle.

You also face arrest if you have five nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml) of THC in your system. Illinois has legalized medical cannabis, but like alcohol, you should not drive while under the influence. Illinois has a zero-tolerance policy for other intoxicants, like illegal drugs.

Implied Consent: Can You Refuse a DUI Test?

When law enforcement reasonably suspects you are driving under the influence, they ask you to submit to field sobriety tests and chemical tests. Chemical tests can include a Breathalyzer or breath test, or blood, urine, and saliva tests.

You agree to obey the law when you get a driver's license. Part of this agreement includes cooperating when an officer asks you to submit to chemical tests because you have implied your consent to this process.

Under implied consent laws, you have the right to refuse chemical tests. Yet, your driving privileges are automatically revoked for one year under Illinois' statutory summary suspension the first time you refuse. You lose your license for three years if you refuse a second time. This revocation is not dependent on a DUI conviction. You may face a longer revocation once convicted.

Refusing chemical tests will not prevent your arrest on a DUI charge. Law enforcement can arrest you without chemical tests. Plus, evidence of your refusal is now evidence for the court.

DUI Penalties

Your charges for DUI will depend on your BAC, THC concentration, and other circumstances surrounding your arrest. If your BAC is under 0.16%, you will generally face a class A misdemeanor for a first offense.

Anyone convicted of a DUI offense must undergo a comprehensive drug and alcohol evaluation before sentencing. This evaluation will provide recommendations to the court about possible treatment options. A judge may have you take part in a substance abuse program or impose other requirements.

With no aggravating factors present, the criminal penalties for a first conviction can include up to a $2,500 fine and up to one year of jail time. Your driving privileges can be suspended for one year.

For a second conviction, you might serve a mandatory minimum of five days in jail, with one year possible. However, a judge may order you to perform 240 hours of community service instead of a jail sentence. The judge can assess a fine of up to $2,500. Your license can be revoked for five years.

A third DUI within five years is a Class 4 felony Aggravated DUI. Your driver's license can be revoked for five years, and you face three to seven years in jail.

If aggravating factors are present, your penalties upon conviction significantly increase. DUI aggravating factors include:

  • Having a BAC of 0.16% or greater
  • Transporting a child under 16
  • Being involved in an accident that results in bodily harm
  • Driving a school bus
  • Transporting passengers for hire

Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device

When you are charged with a DUI, your driver's license will be automatically suspended under Illinois' statutory summary suspension. This is an administrative penalty separate from the driver's license suspension you receive upon DUI conviction.

Most drivers charged with a DUI will need to have a breath alcohol interlock device (BAIID) installed in their vehicle. A BAIID acts as an alcohol breath test that prevents your vehicle from starting when it finds any detectable amount of alcohol. Illinois requires BAIID devices equipped with a camera that takes a picture as you complete the test. You must maintain the device at your own cost for the entirety of your license suspension period.

You may qualify for limited driving privileges. If this is your first DUI case and you are at least 18, the Illinois Secretary of State's office can grant you a monitoring device driving permit (MDDP). A monitoring device driving permit allows unlimited driving privileges as long you install and maintain a BAIID in your vehicle. You must have cooperated with chemical testing and have no aggravating factors present.

You may apply for a restricted driving permit if you don't qualify for an MDDP. You will attend a hearing with the Illinois Secretary of State's Department of Administrative Hearings. You will explain your need for limited driving privileges. You must have undergone a substance abuse evaluation and treatment, as recommended. The department will review your driving record and make a decision. If granted a restricted driving permit, you must install a BAIID. There are strict limits about when and where you may drive on this permit.

Underage DUI

Illinois enacted zero-tolerance laws to combat underage DUIs. Zero-tolerance laws are strict. If you are under 21 and caught with trace amounts of alcohol or drugs in your system, law enforcement will arrest you. A trace amount is anything over 0.0% BAC.

A first DUI conviction will suspend your driver's license for two years. If you are 18 or older, you may apply for a monitoring device driving permit under the BAIID program after serving one year of your license revocation. If you are under 18, you may need to attend additional driver's education and retake the driving license exam.

You may be subject to the same fines and penalties as an adult DUI upon conviction, including the possibility of jail time. A judge can order you to attend the Youthful Intoxicated Driver's Visitation Program. Under this program, you will take part in comprehensive therapy sessions before and after visitations. If approved, you may have to visit the following locations, as appropriate:

  • Rehabilitation facilities to observe victims recovering from DUI accidents
  • Facility treating alcoholics in the terminal stages of alcohol-related disease
  • County coroner's office or morgue to view DUI homicide victims

Illinois DUI Resources

  • Illinois DUI Statute - Driving under the influence of alcohol, other drugs, intoxicating compounds, or any combination thereof. (625 ILCS 5/11-501)
  • DUI Fact Book - Detailed information on Illinois DUI laws and penalties, along with statistics and education information on drunk driving (The Office of the Illinois Secretary of State)
  • Road to Reinstatement - Pamphlet charting the path necessary to license reinstatement after a DUI (The Office of the Illinois Secretary of State)
  • Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device (BAIID) - Summary of Illinois's BAIID program for DUI offenders, including fees and providers (The Office of the Illinois Secretary of State)
  • Monitoring Device Driving Permit - Information about how to obtain a monitoring device driving permit in Illinois, required for BAIID use (The Office of the Illinois Secretary of State)
  • Restricted Driving Permit - Information about how to obtain a restricted driving permit in Illinois. Required for repeat offenders (The Office of the Illinois Secretary of State)
  • DUI Statistics - Historical data about alcohol-related accidents and fatalities in Illinois (The Office of the Illinois Secretary of State)

Need Legal Advice? Talk to a DUI Attorney Today

A conviction for driving under the influence carries considerable and long-term consequences. Consulting with a DUI defense attorney can help you understand the process and improve your outcome. Learn more about your legal options today by contacting a local DUI lawyer near you.

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