Drunk drivers can face serious penalties

The Madison County Record Nov. 15, 2009, 12:39am

The holidays are a time of partying and celebration and perhaps, not surprisingly, a time when drunk driving dramatically increases.

Motorists often fail to realize that just one drink can impair their driving ability and lead to a serious accident, resulting in hurting or even killing someone.

In Illinois, those charged with a DUI offense, or "driving under the influence," face serious penalties if proven guilty. First offenders can lose their driver's license for up to one year, be imprisoned for up to 12 months, be required to perform 100 hours of community service, pay a fine of up to $2,500, or any combination thereof. Penalties will likely increase for subsequent offenses.

Furthermore, those convicted of drunk driving may lose work time, have their vehicle impounded and be required to carry high-risk auto insurance for 36 months. The penalties are more severe for second and third convictions.

A fourth conviction will result in the driver's license being permanently revoked. If an impaired driver is involved in an auto accident that results in serious bodily harm or one or more deaths, the case is heard in criminal court and the penalties are even more severe.

If stopped by the police for a probable DUI, a driver may be given a breathalyzer test. If you submit to the test, your breath will register a certain number on the test. If it is above the legal limit of .08, you will have your driving privileges suspended for 6 months. If you refuse to take the test, your license will be automatically suspended by the Secretary of State for one year.

The sentence which the court ultimately imposes is affected by a number of factors, including what transpired leading up to the DUI charge, policies of the local court, and weaknesses in the case uncovered by a person's defense attorney. The punishments take into consideration whether the person charged had a prior DUI conviction, if the driver was speeding, whether there was a child under age 14 in the car, and other matters.

For further information about this and other law-related issues, contact an Illinois State Bar Association member-lawyer in your area or visit www.isbalawyers.com.

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