Statistics nationwide tend to correlate an increase with blood alcohol content (BAC) and the potential for a serious motor vehicle crash. In order to reduce the rates of serious accidents that cause injury, death and property damage, states have created laws intended to regulate the use of alcohol before driving a motor vehicle. In Illinois, the name for impaired driving is driving under the influence (DUI), and DUI charges can carry harsh penalties.
The simplest way to avoid a DUI may be calling for a cab or using an app like Lyft to arrange for a sober driver to pick you up and take you home. Of course, there are also medical and social reasons why a person who isn't chemically impaired can end up charged with a DUI. Understanding the potential consequences of a DUI charge can determine how best to handle your situation.
Understanding legal standard for DUI charges
For adults over the age of 21, a BAC of 0.08 percent or higher will result in DUI charges. For minors under the age of 21, the detection of any amount of alcohol can result in criminal charges, due to strict zero tolerance laws. Those with commercial licenses are also subject to stricter standards. Bus and truck drivers, along with other commercial drivers, have a BAC limit of 0.04 percent. Anyone who tests over those limits will very likely face DUI charges.
In cases where another chemical, not alcohol, is suspected, a field sobriety test and an officer's testimony may be enough to lead to DUI charges. A judge may order a blood or other chemical test to verify what compounds are in someone's body at the time of a DUI arrest. Any amount of an illegal drug or certain prescription drugs could lead to charges.
Illinois has strict criminal penalties for DUI offenders
Even a first time DUI offense carries potentially life-altering criminal penalties. You could face up to a year in jail, as well as a fine of up to $2,500 and loss of your license for a year. The state may also require the installation of an ignition interlock device in your vehicle to prevent future impaired driving episodes.
Second offenses carry the same penalties as a first, except you could lose your license for at least five years. With a third offense, the fine stays the same, but you're facing between three and seven years in jail, as well as loss of your license for at least a decade.
Social consequences can impact you for years
Even if you manage to avoid jail time, a conviction or guilty plea could cost you your job. Many employers take a zero tolerance approach to any kind of criminal activity. If you don't lose you job over the charges, you could still lose them due to not having reliable transportation. Finding a new job or even a place to rent can be challenging if you have a criminal record.
Your social life can also end up impacted. You could lose friends or find yourself never getting invited anywhere that serves alcohol. People will be less likely to trust you to drive and may consider your drinking a serious personal issue simply because of the DUI charge.