An arrest for driving under the influence in Illinois can be deceiving. Usually the driver is released from police custody on a signature bond. Few are required to post bond. Further, the charges are filed on traffic tickets. Some people develop expectations that the DUI may not be a serious matter. This mindset is sometimes expressed with this phrase, “It’s only a misdemeanor.”
But the law in Illinois has special penalties if one of those traffic tickets is for no insurance.
The Uniform Citation and Complaint has a box to check for the offense of no insurance. The section cites the statute, 625 ILCS 5/3-707.
A ticket for no insurance by itself is a petty offense punishable by fine only. A person can get supervision for the offense of operating a motor vehicle without proof of insurance. Supervision will not result in a suspended driver’s license. A conviction requires a mandatory $500 fine and will cause the Secretary of State to suspend that person’s driver’s license. This insurance-based suspension is called a financial responsibility suspension.
But the combination of a no insurance ticket and DUI is dangerous.
The Illinois DUI statute says the following:
Aggravated driving under the influence of alcohol, other drug or drugs, or intoxicating compound or compounds, or any combination thereof.
(1) Every person convicted of committing a violation of this Section shall be guilty of aggravated driving under the influence of alcohol, other drug or drugs, or intoxicating compound or compounds, or any combination thereof if:
(I) the person committed the violation while he or she knew or should have known that the vehicle he or she was driving was not covered by a liability insurance policy;
See 625 ILCS 5/11-501(d)(1)(I).
In Illinois, any charge that begins with the word, “aggravated” is a felony.
This statute became law in 2008. It changed the practice of DUI defense because the problem is, people are driving without insurance all the time.
People fail to carry insurance for all sorts of reasons. It could be a deliberate decision not to purchase insurance, a financial inability to afford insurance, or negligence in allowing an insurance policy to expire.
It is not a defense that the person did not own the vehicle. Driving a vehicle that belongs to someone else does not relieve the driver of the obligation to have insurance. A person can be ticketed for no insurance when driving a car belonging to someone else.
The law in Illinois on DUI without proof of insurance says the following:
Except as provided otherwise, a person convicted of aggravated driving under the influence of alcohol, other drug or drugs, or intoxicating compound or compounds, or any combination thereof is guilty of a Class 4 felony.
See 625 ILCS 5/11-501(d)(2)(A).
A Class 4 felony has a potential penalty of 1-3 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections and a possible fine of $25,000. The minimum sentence on a felony offense is a conviction that can never be expunged or sealed. Further, a conviction will cause the Secretary of State to revoke the defendant’s driver’s license.
All too often, a person will get a DUI and find out his insurance expired the month before. Even if the insurance is not valid by one day, the driver would be guilty. Also, after-acquired insurance is the term used in court to describe a person who purchases a policy after the DUI arrest. This is not a defense either.
An innocent mistake combined with an arrest for DUI can place the defendant in a precarious situation.
The State will review each DUI to determine whether felony charges should be filed. Recently, the state legislature passed a law that prohibits village attorneys from prosecuting DUIs that could be charged as felonies. Thus, the State has to be consulted on each of these cases. The arrest will be referred to the Felony Review division of the State’s Attorney to decide if the case should be upgraded.
The State’s Attorney has complete discretion in choosing which cases should be upgraded. A defendant who has never been arrested before could be charged with a felony offense.