If you have been charged for a DUI you probably have multiple questions and wonder where to begin. It is great that you are taking the first step and researching your options. However, contacting a specialized DUI lawyer should be your very next step to find out exactly what is that you got yourself into and to put an end to your concerns.
Now that we clarified what you need to do first let me answer the question you probably came here for - is DUI a felony in Illinois?
A DUI charge may either be a mere misdemeanor or worse felony. Generally, a DUI offense for the third time is automatically considered to be a Class II felony. Usually, the first and second DUI offenses are not.
But, the first and second DUI offenses can be considered as felonies if circumstances provided by law are present such as:
When a person is injured while driving under the influence;
When the person is under the influence while having minors as passengers; and
Other special circumstances provided by law
Maybe, it’s your third time to be charged with DUI. If you believe that you are innocent in the charge, or if you are not sure about it, then probably you need to contact a DUI lawyer that might be a big help for your problem!
Bank robbery, drug trafficking, threatening a federal public official, and organized crimes are considered as felony crimes punishable by law. Do you know that driving under the influence (DUI) is also as grave as these crimes mentioned as it also violates Illinois laws and you can be charged for a felony?
What is DUI?
Driving Under the Influence or DUI literally means a person is under the influence of alcohol or drugs while driving. Perhaps, DUI is considered as one of the most serious driving offenses because it involves over one-third of all traffic accidents in the US, that’s why it carries heavy penalties.
Elements of DUI
The DUI Law prohibits a person who is under the influence to drive. Otherwise, he or she shall be guilty of an offense, which comes with a serious penalty. In order for a person to be charged with DUI, the following elements must be present:
That the person charged drove the car - he has the control of the movement
That he was under the influence while driving - due to the alcohol, or drugs, or combined alcohol and drugs, his ability to drive safely to his destination is affected at a certain degree
How to contradict the charge of DUI
Given the elements above, all of these should be met before a person will be charged with DUI. It is worth to note that the second element requires that the driving should be affected at a certain degree. If not, even if he is under the influence, there are instances when he could not be guilty as charged.
For instance: Miko goes straight to the bar every after work for 20 years. As always, he consumed 8 beers and 1 shot before going home. While on his way home, he was stopped by an officer due to a broken taillight. But, he was not showing any signs of unsafe driving.
Since the officer could smell the alcohol although it appears that he was not intoxicated, the officer conducted a breath test and revealed a BAC of .10 percent. In this case, he is guilty of driving with a BAC of .08 percent or higher, but not with DUI because of the absence of the second element.
Types of Drunk Driving Laws
In order for you to understand the law better, you should take note that there are actually four common types of drunk driving laws:
Driving Under the Influence of alcohol
Driving Under the Influence of an intoxicating substance
What is driving with a BAC of .08 percent or higher?
In every state, there is a presumption that if a person has a BAC of .08 percent or higher, such a person is under the influence of alcohol. Many states have prohibited a person with such percentage in their blood to drive, whether or not the driving of the person is impaired.
Elements of Driving with a BAC of .08 percent or higher
In order for a person to be charged with such, the following elements must be present:
That the person charged drove the car
That the driver’s BAC is .08 percent or higher
Given the same example above, Miko is most likely to be charged guilty of driving with a BAC of .08 percent or higher. It is worth noting that the manner of driving does not matter, the mere presence of the BAC according to the prescribed percentage stated by law is sufficient.
Alcohol and Driving in Illinois
From the moment you are granted a license to drive in Illinois, there is an implied consent that you agree to comply with all the traffic laws, including the DUI Laws and the Implied Consent Law.
The Implied Consent Law mandates drivers to submit to blood, breath, and urine tests, in case they have been arrested by police officers based on probable cause that a crime has been committed, to determine whether or not there is a violation of the Illinois DUI law.
In Illinois, there are two instances when a driver may be charged for DUI:
That the driver has a BAC of .08 percent or higher; and
That the driver has a BAC of .05-.08 percent and the driving ability of the driver was impaired
In the first instance, the mere fact of having a BAC of .08 percent or higher is already a violation of the DUI law.
In the second instance, it is not required to have a BAC of .08 percent or higher, instead, having a BAC of .05-.08 percent is sufficient, provided that the ability of the person to drive has been impaired.
Moreover, it is worth to note that the percentage of BAC required is different in other cases:
Generally, a person having a BAC of .08 percent or higher is not allowed to operate a motor vehicle except:
Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) Drivers having a BAC of .04 percent or higher are not allowed to drive trucks and other CMVs
Minor’s BAC level should be 0.0 percent except:
if they are under medication containing alcohol; or
2.b if they come from a religious ceremony.
(it is worth noting that the general rule is still applied, meaning in the two cases, the national legal limit of .08 percent should be followed)
Drugs and Driving in Illinois
A driver who is under the influence of illegal drugs is not allowed to operate any vehicle. Otherwise, you will be charged for violating the DUI law.
Generally, he is also not allowed to transport any medical cannabis, unless such is placed in a sealed container and is not accessible to the driver while he is driving.
Drugs: When Allowed?
It is worth noting that not all drugs are prohibited in Illinois. The use of cannabis or medical marijuana is allowed provided that:
The person is issued with a medical authorization from a registered physician
The person allowed to use the same will be given a registry card and his license will be provided with a notation regarding the matter.
But, even if the person is allowed to use cannabis or medical marijuana, for as long as the driver is suspected to be impaired, it can still be subjected to a sobriety test. Refusal thereof will result in the automatic suspension of the license, as well as the cannabis card.
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