Driving while under the influence of alcohol or illegal substances can result in DUI charges. The state of Illinois can charge a violator with either a misdemeanor or felony DUI charge. While both charges are serious and carry a variety of penalties, a felony charge is the more serious crime and accordingly includes increased penalties. While each state in the United States has different laws regarding felony DUI charges, the state of Illinois has enacted laws similar to those passed by most other states.
Differences between Felony and Misdemeanor DUIs
In the state of Illinois, as in much of the U.S., drivers who have a blood alcohol content (BAC) level above 0.08 percent can be arrested and charged with a DUI. DUI laws don’t just apply to driving a car when impaired. Rather, DUI laws extend to driving under the influence when operating a boat, a motorcycle, or another type of motor vehicle.
If an offender does not have a history of DUI, the state is likely to charge the offender with a misdemeanor. However, a misdemeanor charge might not be possible if the DUI incident involved a bodily injury or death to another party. Some of the penalties for misdemeanor DUI may include license suspension, fines and fees, or even an ignition interlock device placed in the offender’s car. Misdemeanor DUIs can result in jail time.
In contrast, the state can charge the driver with a felony if the incident involved bodily harm or death, if the DUI a second or third offense, or if the incident included driving without a valid driver’s license. The blood alcohol limit is the same for both types of DUIs. Some things that can result in it being charged as a felony instead of a misdemeanor include drunk driving without a valid driver’s license, at least two prior convictions, causing bodily injury or death to people.
The penalties and punishments of a felony DUI charge can be quite severe. The same penalties that result from a misdemeanor DUI often also apply to felony DUI penalties. In addition, the state can revoke a driver’s license for five to ten years or even permanently. The fines can be upwards of $20,000. Offenders convicted of felony DUI charges may have to serve jail time for up to seven years.
Mitigating and aggravating factors sometimes influence charges and sentencing. An extensive criminal history can be detrimental to the person being charged. The court might also consider whether the driver’s blood alcohol level significantly exceeded the legal limit. If the driver killed one or more people while driving under the influence, the prison terms may range from upwards of 15 to 20 years.
There are, of course, long-term consequences associated with a felony DUI conviction. These punishments can last over the course of a lifetime. Some of the consequences include a criminal record, potential job loss, suspension of the right to operate a motor vehicle, mandatory parole upon release from prison, and even strain on the offender’s personal life or family relationships.