Holidays, Drinking and Driving Under the Influence (DUI)
As the holidays are again upon us and Christmas and New Years parties are being planned, it is important to remind people not to drive while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. Unfortunately, many people choose to do so despite the fact that they are risking their own lives, as well as the lives of other innocent people who may be impacted by that person’s bad decisions. They also risk losing their driving privileges, the loss of which greatly impacts a person’s life in a negative way or, worse yet, loss of their freedom by having to serve time in jail and/or prison. Finding a designated driver should be the first thing you do when planning to party during the holidays, or at any other time.
The State of Illinois has enacted laws that enable law enforcement officials to conduct blood alcohol and/or chemical tests if they have reason to believe a driver is impaired at the time of an auto accident resulting in injury or death. The State recently updated its DUI (driving under the influence) laws to expand those people who are authorized to administer such blood drawing tests to include licensed physician assistants (P.A.) and advanced nurse practitioners.
The Illinois laws regarding DUI arrests and penalties are frequently updated and those updates usually increase the severity of DUI punishments that include expensive fines, mandatory counseling, driver’s license suspension or revocation and ever increasing court costs and attorney fees. Because the laws are always changing, a driver charged with a DUI offense can choose to be sentenced under whichever year’s laws are more lenient. For example, if you are arrested for DUI in 2008, but not sentenced until 2010, you can choose to be sentenced using whichever year’s laws are less stringent, usually the older version.
Illinois law requires those convicted of DUI offenses that are subject to restricted driving or monitoring devices to install in their cars a “Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device” (BAIID), which will prevent an impaired driver from being able to even start the engine of his or her vehicle. A recent update requires that a camera also be installed with the BAIID, which captures an image of the driver while blowing breath into the device and the image has to be broad enough to clearly show whether or not the driver is in any way circumventing the mouthpiece on the BAIID device. Anyone determined to have tampered with the device, thereby preventing the camera from getting a clear picture of the subject blowing into the Breathalyzer, or showing that the person did not blow directly into the Breathalyzer, will be subject to an additional three months of driver’s license suspension.
Laws regarding DUI offenses continually become more and more strict across the United States and repeated offenses result in greater and longer penalties. In Illinois, a first offense is considered a Class A Misdemeanor and penalties can include court supervision for up to two years, as well as fines, mandatory alcohol or drug counseling and/or community service and, in cases where the car’s occupants are under the age of 16 years, the penalties can also include mandatory jail time or community service that directly benefits children.
A second DUI offense is also considered a Class A Misdemeanor, but allows for no court supervision and, instead, mandatory conviction and revocation of driving privileges, as well as mandatory jail time or community service and fines up to $2,500. Again, offenses involving under age passengers and/or injuries or death mandate even more stringent penalties and this applies to all DUI offenses.
Unfortunately, there is a need for laws involving third, fourth, fifth and sixth DUI offenses. A third offense is considered a Class 2 Felony with a mandatory jail sentence of at least 10 days or 480 hours of community service, as well as the possibility of imprisonment, along with large fines, lawyer fees, court costs and mandatory alcohol/drug counseling.
Fourth, fifth and sixth offenses are considered non-probationary felonies with mandatory prison sentences that range from 3 to 30 years, as well as expensive fines, court costs and attorney’s fees.
If a DUI results in the death of another person, the charge is a Class 2 Felony and the judge will only award probation under extremely extraordinary circumstances, so you can count on being imprisoned for a long, long time.
As you can see, it’s just not worthwhile to even think about driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs because, if and when you are caught, your life will be forever changed and if your offense harms other people, you will be in prison for a long time. Just don’t do it! Call a friend or a cab, but do NOT drink and drive.
A Public Service Announcement for a better Chicago.
Law Offices of Michael J. Brennan