In McHenry County, dDrunk driving is taken seriously by the court, especially if it is a second DUI offense or third DUI offense. If you are facing a DUI or a Driving Under the Influence of Drugs (DUID) case, we will represent you harnessing our thirty years of experience fighting DUI cases. To discuss your McHenry County DUI case, call our firm at (312) 466-9466.
We understand that facing a DUI case can be stressful and overwhelming. If you are facing DUI charges in McHenry, it is in your best interest to hire a lawyer immediately who can explain your options to you.
Illinois law defines DUI as the crime of operating a vehicle while impaired by alcohol or other drugs to a level that renders the driver incapable of operating a motor vehicle safely. The law has changed over the years, but currently, .08 is the legal limit for Blood Alcohol Content (BAC). For drivers under the age of 21, Illinois has a zero-tolerance policy. Any BAC above zero point zero can result in a DUI charge. This law attempts to deter underage drinking as well as stop any underage drinkers from getting behind the wheel.
A DUI charge arises when police observe a vehicle driving erratically and pull over the driver. This behavior could include swerving, running a stop sign, or driving over the yellow dotted line. After the driver has been pulled over, the police will look for signs of intoxication, such as the driver's demeanor, smell, or physical appearance. If the officer believes the driver has been drinking, he will ask the driver to submit to a field sobriety test. Based on that test, the officer can place the individual under arrest for DUI and bring him or her to the police station for a breathalyzer or chemical test to determine their blood alcohol level (BAC).
If the driver's BAC rises above .08, the State will charge him or her with Driving Under the Influence (DUI). First-time offenders are usually released on their own recognizance, which means you do not have to pay bond. However, for a second-time or third-time offender, you may have to post cash bond. The amount will completely depend on the situation of your arrest. The driver's license will also be suspended for a period of time immediately after the arrest.
If you have been charged with DUI in McHenry County, you must undergo a DUI evaluation. For more information about how to obtain this evaluation in McHenry County, visit our McHenry County DUI Evaluations article.
You have the option to plead Guilty or Not Guilty to a DUI. In some cases, taking a plea bargain can result in a more lenient sentence, such as completing substance abuse counseling or doing community service. If a defendant pleads Not Guilty, the case will go to trial, where both sides will have the opportunity to present witnesses and evidence. Ultimately, a judge or jury will make a finding of Guilty or Not Guilty, and if found guilty, the court will determine the sentence at a sentencing hearing.
The number of DUI arrests per year has been steadily decreasing in McHenry County. In its most recent report to date, Cyber Drive Illinois reported that in 2015, there were 719 DUI arrests in McHenry County, while 2014 logged 782 and 2013 recorded 859 arrests.
However, even in 2015, McHenry County still came in ninth in the state for DUI arrests. Given that McHenry is the sixth largest county in the State, the figures are somewhat under-average proportionally for DUI per capita. For every 100,000 residents in the county, there were roughly 234 DUI arrests, based on the 2015 data.
Like other counties in Illinois, McHenry County uses DUI checkpoints during holiday weekends or other high traffic moments to snag drunk drivers. These operations often make use of multiple police departments, including forces from a municipal department, the McHenry County Sherriff, and the Illinois State Police. Based on a decision by the United State Supreme Court, these roadside safety checks are not considered a violation of your rights. The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) issues grant funding to police departments across the state to administer roadside checks during high-risk holiday weekends, such as July 4th and New Years' Eve.
If you have been arrested for DUI in McHenry County, whether at a roadside check or in a normal instance of being pulled over, seek help from an experienced McHenry County DUI attorney. Even a first time DUI conviction can have serious, long-lasting consequences, and it's not worth the risk try to fight your case without the assistance of a lawyer.
DUI sentences depend on a defendant's criminal history as well as several other factors. If the DUI was the cause of an accident, or if the driver's license was revoked or suspended, the State can upgrade the charge and increase penalties.
For first DUI offense, the court is most lenient. Usually, this type of offense is classified as a Class A misdemeanor, and defendants are eligible for court supervision. However, the court can also suspend your driver's license for six months, impose fines, and require that the defendant attend a substance abuse education program.
After a first offense, penalties become more severe. Usually, a second DUI is still classified as a Class A misdemeanor, but court supervision is no longer an option. The minimum requirement is five days in jail or 240 hours of community service. Your driver's license will also be suspended.
Any DUI offense committed after two convictions is considered Aggravated DUI, which is a Class 2 felony. This level of crime is punishable by 3-7 years in prison, although probation of up to 48 months is also an option. It is fairly uncommon for a judge to offer probation for a third DUI offense.
It's important to remember that in all of these cases, the court will consider the totality of the circumstances in deciding how severely to sentence a defendant. Additional relevant factors include the defendant's BAC at the time of arrest, if "great bodily harm" resulted from the incident, or if children were in the vehicle at the time of arrest. There's no guarantee -- a sentence always depends on the discretion of the State's attorney and judge.
When a driver is pulled over for suspected drunk driving, the police will usually ask the driver to complete a field sobriety test. This includes a series of tests, such as walking heel-toe in a straight line, standing on one leg and counting to thirty, or a test called the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test (HGN) which involves following a flashlight with your eyes while holding your head still. The latter has been established as a questionable means for determining intoxication but is nonetheless used by police forces across the state.
There is no penalty under Illinois law for refusing to take a field sobriety test. However, that doesn't mean that this fact cannot be used against you later in court. The police may have other bases for suspicion of drunk driving, such as the smell of alcohol or erratic driving, that form "probable cause" and entitle them to arrest you. When the case comes to court, refusal to comply with field sobriety tests can be seen as incriminating.
If the police have probable cause to believe you have broken the law -- whether you take the field sobriety tests or not -- they can put you under arrest and bring you to the police station for a breathalyzer test or other medical tests, such as a urine test, that determine Blood Alcohol Level. It should be noted that the police can only demand you take a breathalyzer test after you have been formerly placed under arrest for DUI.
Illinois law penalizes people who refuse to take a breathalyzer test. For a first-time refusal, the driver's license will be suspended for one year. If it is not the driver's first offense, the suspension lasts for three years. Before administering the test, the police are required to read you a list of warnings about the consequences of failing the test or refusing to take it.
Once you are arrested for DUI in Illinois, it is imperative that you quickly hire an experienced McHenry County DUI lawyer. Even if you have failed a field sobriety test or a breathalyzer test, there are circumstances in which a criminal defense lawyer can argue that the results of the test should be suppressed. This means that the police did not satisfy all of the legal requirements to administer the tests, and thus the results should be ignored by the court. We have had success suppressing DUI test results in the past, which has resulted in dropped charges or acquittals.
In 2015, nearly a third of DUI defendants in Illinois were convicted. Don't let your case become a part of that statistic. There are many avenues to fight a DUI case, and with the assistance of an experienced McHenry County DUI lawyer, it is possible to beat the charges. To schedule an in-person consultation with our McHenry County criminal defense attorneys, give us a call at (312) 466-9466.