The point at which a police officer suspects a driver of driving while impaired is when the DUI process begins. He or she may have observed erratic driving, a traffic violation, or may be responding to the scene of an accident. At first encounter, a driver’s appearance, demeanor, and physical appearance will make an impression on the officer from which the officer may suspect impairment. If so, he or she will ask the driver some questions as well as ask the driver to participate in standard field sobriety tests and/or to take a portable breath test; the driver has the right to refuse these tests which are not admissible at trial.
The officer may arrest the driver for suspicion of DUI. At the police station, the driver will again be asked to take a test or tests—breathalyzer, urine, or blood—which determine blood alcohol concentration (BAC). The results of these tests are admissible at trial, however the driver still has the right to refuse to take these. If the driver submits and his or her BAC is .08 or greater, they will be charged with DUI. Note that, regardless of BAC test results, a DUI case still can be won.
The driver will usually be released on bond and given a court date. The driver will also be notified that their driver’s license will be suspended in 46 days. You can learn more here from experienced Illinois DUI defense attorneys.
A first-time DUI offender who fails a breathalyzer faces a six-month suspension of their driver’s license. If the driver refuses the breathalyzer, the driver faces a one-year suspension. If the driver is a repeat DUI offender and fails the breathalyzer, they face a one-year suspension; three years if they refuse the breathalyzer.
After an arrest, a driver has 90 days within which he or she can petition the court for a hearing. The hearing is a civil matter and separate from the DUI trial which is criminal. The hearing may be provided on the initial court date but must be provided within 30 days of filing. At the hearing, the burden of proof is on the driver who has the opportunity to prove that police did not follow at least one of four limited elements of procedure at any point during the arrest.
If the suspension is not rescinded, and the driver is a first-time offender, he or she can apply for a MDDP (Monitoring Device Driving Permint) to drive. If granted, a Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device (BAIID) is installed on his or her vehicle. This device measures the BAC of the driver each time he or she drives. The cost of installing and maintaining is incurred by the driver. Drivers previously found guilty of DUI within the last five years are ineligible for an MDDP permit.
When the court date arrives, the driver is advised of the charges against him or her by a judge, the DUI defense attorney in Illinois or in your state (the driver’s attorney) and the prosecutor exchange evidence, and pre-trial motions are filed. A plea of guilty or not guilty will be entered at this time. This can occur over one to three court appearances. A not-guilty plea will result in a trial in front of a judge or jury in which case it’s the State’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The State will present evidence and may call witnesses, the least of which will include the police officer, and rest their case. The driver’s attorney may do the same. The driver may testify but is in no obligation to do so. After arguments are made, the judge or jury will present a finding of guilt.
A Guilty Plea
If the driver either pleads guilty or is found guilty at trial, the driver’s Illinois DUI defense lawyer and prosecutor will negotiate a sentence. If the driver pleads guilty, he or she is giving up his or her right to plead not guilty in exchange for a favorable sentence. Among other things, and in addition to driver’s license suspension, the sentence will likely include fines, fees, and alcohol education classes. And, depending on the circumstances, the sentence will also include a period of supervision and possibly up to one year in jail or a period of community service.
Best-case scenario is that the driver is found not guilty by the judge or jury. In this instance, the driver is discharged without consequence. If the finding is guilty, a sentencing hearing is held at which the state may present any aggravating factors such as criminal record and background. The defense attorney will try and present facts that offset those, possibly citing hardship in the hope for lenience from the judge.