A charge of driving under the influence of alcohol in Illinois generally takes two forms. One, the driver is charged with violating section 625 ILCS 5/11-501(a)(1). Two, the driver is accused of violating section 11-501(a)(2). Each charge has its own implications.
In this article, we are going to look at charge of 11-501(a)(1). This type of charge is called the “per se” DUI offense in Illinois. It concerns the legal limit. Section 11-501(a)(1) concerns the legal limit for alcohol concentration in a person’s blood or breath. Some people call this a blood alcohol content or BAC. The legal limit in Illinois is 0.08. The law says that a person is guilty of DUI per se for an alcohol concentration that is 0.08 or higher.
For a charge of 11-501(a)(1), it is irrelevant whether the person was intoxicated. In fact, the person could be sober and yet still be guilty of DUI per se. The reason is the only thing that matters is the alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more.
The reason that Illinois and other states have a alcohol limit of 0.08 is that in order to receive federal funding for highways, state lawmakers had to agree to lower the legal limit to 0.08 from 0.10, where it was previously. Lawmakers estimated that 0.08 or more is when a person would be impaired from alcohol. The purpose of the statute establishing the legal limit was establish a standard by which the judge could determine whether a person is under the influence or not.
In a prosecution for violation of 11-501(a)(1), the State does not have to prove that the defendant was impaired. In fact, the defendant could have been operating a motor vehicle with the utmost caution and care, and yet still be guilty.
Arguably, if the prosecution were to proceed on a charge of 11-501(a)(1) alone, the police officer should be barred from testifying as to his observations of the defendant’s impairment. The police officer should not be allowed to testify that in his opinion, the defendant was intoxicated. That would be irrelevant. The only issue in a case like this is whether or not the defendant’s alcohol concentration was 0.08 or more. Testimony about field sobriety testing, or moving violations while driving would be irrelevant and immaterial.
As you can see, it is difficult to defend against these types of cases. In DUI defense, 11-501(a)(1) cases are all about excluding the results of chemical testing in court. If you can have the breathalyzer result thrown out, then you have a winnable case. Or, if you can show that the breathalyzer machine was inaccurate or unreliable, then you can win your case as well. If you been charged with DUI and you have a ticket with a citation of 11-501(a)(1), you need to call me.