When is Driving Under the Influence a Felony?
In the State of Illinois, a first DUI (driving under the influence) offense is usually a Class A misdemeanor, but even for a DUI misdemeanor, you could be fined and serve time in jail. Clearly, if you’re charged with DUI, you’ll need to be advised and represented by a Chicago DUI attorney.
But what about second, third, and subsequent DUI offenses? When is driving under the influence a felony in Illinois? What are the penalties for a DUI felony conviction? What are your rights if you’re charged with DUI, and when should you seek help from a Chicago DUI defense lawyer?
If you will continue to read this short explanation of DUI felony charges and your rights in this state, you’ll find the answers you may need, and you’ll also learn what steps you should take if you’re facing a felony DUI charge in or near the greater Chicago area, now or in the future.
When is the Charge “Aggravated” DUI?
According to the Illinois Secretary of State, 330 people died in alcohol-related traffic accidents in Illinois in 2021. That same year, over 21,000 Illinois drivers were placed under arrest for driving under the influence. Of those who were arrested, 86 percent were first-time DUI offenders.
Any DUI offense that triggers a felony charge is considered aggravated DUI. A third or subsequent driving under the influence offense is always charged as a felony in Illinois. Aggravated or felony DUI will also be charged if you were driving under the influence and:
- at-fault for a crash that caused great bodily harm, permanent disability, or disfigurement
- at-fault for a crash that resulted in a fatality
- driving a school bus and carrying one or more passengers 18 years old or younger
- driving a vehicle for-hire and carrying one or more passengers
- driving the wrong direction on a one-way street
- have a previous conviction for DUI or aggravated DUI involving a fatality
- driving with a child under 16 and at-fault for a crash that caused bodily harm to the child
- driving without a valid driver’s permit or driver’s license
- driving without automobile liability insurance
- you are also transporting a child 18 or younger for a second or subsequent time
- your license was revoked or suspended for DUI, reckless homicide, or leaving the scene
What Are the Penalties for a Felony DUI Conviction?
Generally speaking, a misdemeanor DUI conviction in Illinois may be penalized with up to a year in jail, while a felony driving under the influence conviction is punishable with more than a year – in some cases, much more – in an Illinois state prison.
Any DUI conviction in Illinois may also be penalized with fines, community service, and court-ordered alcohol classes, treatment, testing, and/or counseling, as well as court-ordered participation at an Illinois Victim Impact Panel.
For felony DUI convictions, the State of Illinois enforces mandatory minimum sentences that cannot be suspended or reduced. A felony DUI offender who is sentenced to a conditional discharge or probation must serve at least ten days in jail or 480 hours of community service.
What Can Happen After a DUI Conviction?
After any DUI conviction, along with the criminal penalties, your auto insurance rates will rise, and if you drive for a living or if your job involves driving, you could be forced to find other work. A DUI conviction creates a criminal record that may be seen by neighbors, landlords, and prospective employers.
You can expect disciplinary action by your state licensing board if you carry a professional license in Illinois, and if you are not a citizen of the United States, a driving under the influence conviction – especially a felony conviction – may prompt a deportation proceeding.
As you probably already know, unless you plead guilty or no contest you cannot be convicted of felony DUI (or any other crime) in Illinois unless and until a prosecutor can prove to a jury that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. You will need a DUI defense lawyer who can cast doubt on the state’s case against you.
When Should You Contact a DUI Attorney?
Every DUI case in Illinois is unique. The precise charge that a defendant will face, and the specific penalties for a felony DUI conviction, will depend on the details of the driving under the influence incident and the defendant’s previous criminal convictions (if any).
That’s one reason why, if you are facing a prosecution for driving under the influence – now or in the future in the Chicago area – you will need, as quickly as possible, the aggressive defense representation and personalized legal advice that a Chicago DUI defense lawyer will provide.
How Will Your Attorney Help You?
Your defense lawyer will investigate the circumstances of your DUI arrest, evaluate the state’s evidence against you, speak with any witnesses, and protect your legal rights while developing an appropriate strategy for your defense. Your defense lawyer may challenge:
- whether the police had reasonable suspicion to stop you or probable cause to arrest you
- the validity of your breathalyzer test results
- the credentials of the police officer who tested you
- the arresting police officer’s testimony
An arrest for driving under the influence in Illinois – even for felony DUI – does not necessarily mean that you will be convicted, but if you are, the penalties may be quite harsh, and a DUI felony or misdemeanor conviction cannot be expunged or sealed – ever – in Illinois.
Why Should You Choose Driver Defense Team?
A Chicago DUI attorney at Driver Defense Team will develop a strong defense strategy and bring your felony DUI case to its best possible conclusion. We understand how losing your privilege to drive may negatively affect your job, your future, and your family.
If you’re charged with felony DUI, misdemeanor DUI, or with any other traffic-related criminal charge or moving violation in or near the Chicago area, contact Driver Defense Team at once by calling 312-940-8330. One of our attorneys will evaluate your case without cost or obligation.
Driver Defense Team has offices in Chicago, Villa Park, and Stone Park, and our DUI attorneys represent clients in DuPage County, Cook County, Kane County, and Lake County. If you face a DUI charge now or in the future, bring your case to Driver Defense Team, and let us fight on your behalf.