Chicago Police and Illinois State Troopers aggressively enforce DUI laws, while district attorneys press for maximum fines, jail time, and license suspensions in many drunk-driving cases they take to trial. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Board, more than 90 percent of Chicago drivers arrested for DUI lose their licenses.

Sobering DUI Statistics

According to Secretary of State Jessie White’s 2012 DUI Fact Book, Illinois drunk driving fatalities have declined nearly 38 percent since 1999. As a result of law enforcement crackdowns on drunk driving, the state boasts the highest possible rating from the Mothers Against Drunk Drivers organization. Despite these encouraging statistics, drunk drivers still cause nearly half of all Illinois traffic deaths, and drivers under the influence are at-fault in more than 40 percent of all serious accidents on Illinois interstates and state roads. Men account for approximately 77 percent of all DUI arrests, and young men between 21 and 24 have five times the rate of DUI arrests as all other drivers.

Basics of Illinois Drunk-Driving Statutes

Illinois law defines “driving under the influence” as operating a motor vehicle with blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher; for commercial truck drivers, the standard is 0.04 percent — these standards are consistent with the federal Uniform Vehicle Code. The state of Illinois has zero tolerance for alcohol use by drivers under 21 and by all school bus drivers. Moreover, drivers with BAC levels at or above 0.16 percent can face charges of “aggravated” drunk driving, which carries enhanced penalties. Furthermore, all drivers facing DUI charges may lose their driving privileges for at least 90 days.

Blood alcohol testing and implied consent laws

When Illinois drivers sign their drivers’ licenses, they give their “implied consent” to blood alcohol testing. If an officer has a reasonable suspicion of a driver’s intoxication after the driver has participated in field sobriety testing, the officer may request further blood alcohol testing. In contrast with officers in other states, Illinois peace officers typically do not administer on-site breathalyzer tests; instead, they generally place suspects under arrest and transport them to police stations where the drivers will likely need to undergo breath, urine, or blood testing. Drivers under suspicion of driving while intoxicated may ask to have legal counsel present during field sobriety testing and administration of blood-alcohol tests.

Common issues in DUI cases

When an alleged drunk driver contests a Chicago DUI case, his or her defense will likely need to challenge the police officer’s probable cause for making the traffic stop. For example, “swerving” doesn’t violate Illinois traffic laws and likely doesn’t constitute probable cause for a stop. In other cases, defense attorneys may need to challenge the arresting officers’ reasonable suspicion of driving under the influence. Defendants frequently contest police officers’ administration and interpretation of field sobriety tests. In addition, if the arresting officer fails to appear at a defendant’s trial, the judge may need to dismiss all charges on the basis of the Sixth Amendment’s guarantee of a defendant’s Constitutional right to confront his or her accuser.

Consequences of a DUI conviction

Drivers convicted of driving under the influence must usually complete both alcohol education and court-approved treatment plans. When convicted in Chicago DUI cases, first-time offenders may lose their driving privileges and have their auto registrations suspended for a year. Statutes allow fines up to $500 and set community service requirements of up to 100 hours for first convictions. The courts may also order convicted drunk drivers to install ignition interlock devices as a condition of their driving privileges’ reinstatement. The state charges the majority of first offenses as Class A misdemeanors, and this type of conviction will generally remain permanently on drivers’ records. Therefore, convicted drunk drivers incur considerably higher insurance rates after reinstatement of their driving privileges, and they face automatic disqualification from some educational and employment opportunities.