Federal legislation has mandated that all states enforce the blood alcohol content (BAC) limit of .08 percent for anyone convicted of driving while intoxicated (DWI). The BAC determines the level of intoxication; a higher BAC means greater intoxication. At a .08 percent BAC, the driver likely has greatly impaired driving abilities in areas such as maneuvering, braking, speed and vehicle control, gear changing, and decision-making. The consequences for drinking and driving are very serious. A driver under the age of 21 falls under the category of zero tolerance, which means that a minor can have no alcohol in his system at all or else he will lose his driving privileges. School bus drivers must comply with the zero tolerance law as well.

Illinois Laws

Chicago has strict laws related to drinking and driving. A first-time drunk driving offender may need to pay for and install an ignition interlock device on his vehicle. The cost of the device can run upwards of $1,000. If the driver refused to take a breathalyzer test at the scene of the arrest, the state may be able to suspend his or her driver’s license for up to one year. In addition, after a conviction for reckless homicide involving alcohol, the state can seize the driver’s vehicle.


According to the Illinois Secretary of State’s website, the average offender arrested in Illinois for drinking and driving is a 34-year-old male with a .16 BAC, which is a BAC at twice the legal limit. During 2010, the state arrested almost 42,000 people for drinking and driving. About 85 percent of all individuals arrested were first-time offenders.

Chronological Sequence

A person arrested for drinking and driving in Chicago will go through a chronological series of procedures. After police have stopped a driver, an officer will generally ask the driver for his license. The driver may need to complete field sobriety tests before police decide whether to take him into custody, and the driver might also need to complete a breathalyzer test. Refusal to comply with a breathalyzer will result in enhanced penalties. For a BAC of between .05 and .08 percent, the legal action is optional. For a BAC above .08 percent, the state may suspend the defendant’s driving license immediately. The offender may be able to post bond, but the state might seize his vehicle.

Penalties for Drinking and Driving

Harsh penalties for drinking and driving include a number of serious consequences. For a first conviction, the state can revoke the person’s license for a year. For a BAC of more than .16 percent, the offender will need to pay an additional fine of $500 and complete 100 hours of volunteer work. If he or she drives with a minor under the age of 16 in the vehicle, the state can imprison the driver for six months, impose a fine of up to $1,000, and ordered the driver to complete 25 days of volunteer work. The consequences increase proportionately with the driver’s BAC. Additional penalties include probation, increased fines, and mandatory substance abuse treatment.