You are heading home from having a couple drinks with friends . . . and you see flashing lights behind you. You have been drinking and driving, and for the first time in your life, you are about to get caught. Many of us know someone that has been arrested for drunk driving, but few of us actually understand what the repercussions for a first time drunk driving offense in Illinois really are.
The drinking and driving “limit” is .08, that is, .08 is the highest level of alcohol concentration allowed in a person’s blood or breathe to operate a vehicle lawfully. You can, however, be charged with drinking and driving with less than a .08 concentration of alcohol in the event that you are under the influence of alcohol at all and it is impacting your ability to operate a motor vehicle. Illinois law 625 ILCS 5/11-501 lays out the many ways in which a person is considered “driving under the influence,” including:
- driving with a blood alcohol content of .08 or above; 625 ILCS 5/11-501(a)(1)
- driving under the influence of alcohol; or driving under the influence of drugs to a “degree that renders the person incapable of safely driving,” or; 625 ILCS 5/11-501(a)(2) and 501(a)(3)
- operating a vehicle while under the influence of drugs; 625 ILCS 5/11-501(a)(4)
The punishment for drinking and driving depends on how many times you have previously been convicted of drinking and driving. The punishment, if convicted, will increase as well if you were driving with minors in your vehicle, if your blood alcohol concentration was above .16, if you caused an accident involving others, if you were driving in a school zone, or if a handful of other specific contingencies are met.
Absent these contingencies, a first time offender with a blow over the legal limit will face a Class A misdemeanor, the highest and most severe categorization of misdemeanors. The punishment will consist of being placed on Court Supervision for at least one year and a minimum of 100 hours of community service, though other criminal and administrative fines and penalties may be assigned as well, along with an automatic license suspension. The maximum allowable punishment for a first time offender is one year in jail and up to $2,500 in court fines.
Court supervision is only an option for first time offenders. This is where successful completion of court supervision results in no conviction being entered against you. The best case scenario for a first time drunk driving offender in Illinois is a finding of not guilty or an opportunity for court supervision. It is important to note that the criminal sentencing and ramifications on your license will vary greatly with subsequent DUI arrests.