The acronym “DUI,” or driving under the influence, is a term used to refer to a drunk driving offense. In some states the term “driving while intoxicated” or “DWI” may be used interchangeably with DUI. In other states, the DUIs and DWIs are separate criminal offenses where a DUI is the offense related to driving under the influence of drugs or substances, and a DWI is the offense related to driving while intoxicated.

The state of Illinois does not distinguish a DUI from a DWI when charging someone with a drunk driving violation. In Illinois DWIs and DUIs are both terms that involve criminal offenses covering all types of impaired driving, ranging from driving drunk to driving while under the influence of drugs, such as marijuana or other controlled substances. In fact, in Illinois, it does not matter whether or not the drug is prescribed, illegal, or abused, if an individual is driving impaired, they will likely be charged with a DUI.

A DUI can often become a more serious offense depending on the level of intoxication of the driver. The level of intoxication, also known as a driver’s blood alcohol concentration, or “BAC,” is the amount of alcohol in the driver’s bloodstream. When an individual is pulled over, authorities have equipment and options available to measure an individual’s BAC. Then, if a driver has a high BAC level, they will likely be charged with a DUI violation and may receive a harsher sentence than someone who has a lower BAC.

This is due to the amount of alcohol that is found in their system, and how impaired the driver was when they were stopped. It is important to note that the standard legal limit is a BAC level of 0.08%. As such, any amount over the limit will result in a DUI charge, along with the other state penalties that go along with the charge.

What Is Probable Cause?

If a police officer suspects that a person may be operating a vehicle under the influence, they will have probable cause to pull that person over. Examples of evidence that would allow a police officer to establish probable cause to pull someone over include when they see that a person is speeding or swerving all over the road. Further evidence would include the officer actually observing alcohol or drug paraphernalia in the vehicle.

After establishing probable cause and pulling a driver over, the officer will likely request that the operator of the vehicle step out of the vehicle to take a test in order to determine whether they are operating the motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Examples of the tests that may be conducted on a driver presumed to be driving under the influence include:

  • Breathalyzer: A breathalyzer handheld device that measures the concentration of alcohol in a person’s system, by having the individual blow into the device. This test may be administered either at the scene by the officer or at a police station;
  • Blood or Urine Testing: Blood or urine testing requires a medical professional to conduct the testing and produce lab results. As such, they are typically administered at the booking facility rather than at the scene. Further, such testing may typically only happen after the police have obtained a search warrant signed by a judge to conduct the testing. In Illinois this is not the case due to implied consent laws; and/or
  • Field Sobriety Tests: Field sobriety tests are commonly administered at the scene, and include a variety of different tasks that are designed to test a person’s balance and soberness. Examples of tasks administered by officers include touching a finger to your nose, reciting the alphabet, walking in a straight line, or standing on one foot while counting.

If a driver fails any of the above tests, the officer will then have grounds to arrest them at the scene for drunk driving. Additionally, if a person refuses to perform any of the tests that can be administered at the scene, the officer may still arrest the individual if they suspect that they are impaired and driving under the influence. It is important to note that circumstantial evidence such as the smell of alcohol on a person’s breath or observation of open containers or drug paraphernalia in the vehicle, can be used as evidence to arrest the driver for driving under the influence.

If I Am Arrested for DUI in Illinois, Am I Required to Take a Chemical Test?

The legal answer is no, you are not required to take a chemical test at the scene. In Illinois, anyone who has been stopped or detained under suspicion of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence, may choose to not take a breath or blood test that measures their blood alcohol content at the scene. However, refusing to submit to a breath or blood test at the scene will have serious and immediate consequences, such as the immediate suspension of your license. This is due to the state of Illinois’ implied consent laws.

What Is Implied Consent?

Similar to other states, Illinois has implied consent laws. Illinois’ implied consent law states that any person who drives or is in physical control of a motor vehicle on the public highways is deemed to have given their consent to a chemical test for the purpose of determining the content of alcohol in their blood.

These implied consent laws make it easier for an officer to administer the above tests at the scene, as drivers who refuse the tests will have violated the implied consent laws. Additionally, Illinois has recently extended the implied consent laws to include pre-arrest tests, such as field sobriety tests and breathalyzers.

What Are the Penalties for Refusing to Take a Chemical Test?

As can be seen, the penalties for refusing to take a chemical test in Illinois are great. Once again, when an individual is lawfully arrested for a DUI, and they refuse to submit to the testing outlined above, their driving privileges will be immediately suspended. The severity of the penalties for refusing a breath or blood test are also dependent on whether or not the defendant is a first time offender.

If the defendant is a first time offender, their license will be suspended for one year if they refuse the test, or six months if they take the test but fail. If the defendant is a repeat offender, their license will be suspended for three years if they refuse the test, or one year if they submit to the test but fail. Further, if the offender is habitually driving under the influence, their license and driving privileges may be revoked by the Secretary of State’s office permanently.

Importantly, the suspension of the driver’s license starts 45 days after notice is given of the suspension. This allows individuals to challenge the arrest and charges. For instance, if the officer administered the tests illegally, such as without reading the defendant their rights at the scene, the results of the test may be thrown out and the charges may be dropped. Additionally, for first time offenders, mant courts allow the suspension to be discharged, if they drive with a monitoring device in the vehicle for a period of time.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help With DUI Charges in Illinois?

In Illinois DUIs are serious criminal offenses and have severe and immediate consequences. Thus, if you refused a chemical test when stopped on suspicion of a DUI, or after being arrested, you should immediately contact a Illinois DUI/DWI lawyer.

An experienced Illinois criminal defense lawyer will be able to help you fight any charges, as well as help you reduce the penalties associated with refusing the test. Additionally, an attorney will also be able to represent you in court, if necessary.