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Illinois Drunk Driving Laws

While many Bears fans enjoy a good brewski, combining alcohol and driving is never a good idea. Illinois has some very strict drunk driving laws on the books, including more severe penalties if there are children in your car while you’re driving drunk. For these reasons — not to mention the obvious risks involved — you should avoid drinking and driving in Illinois. If you’ve been arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) or a related offense, you should know Illinois’ drunk driving laws and what the possible consequences are if you’re convicted.

What Illinois Law Says About Testing the Alcohol in Your Blood

Determining if a driver is drunk usually involves more than just field sobriety tests — law enforcement also tests your blood-alcohol concentration (BAC). For people over 21, it’s illegal to drive if your BAC is .08 percent or more, and for commercial drivers, the limit is .04 percent (Sec. 5/11-501). Illinois is a so-called “zero tolerance” state, which means that people who aren’t yet 21 years old may not have any measurable amount of alcohol in their blood while driving (Sec. 5/11-501.8).

Illinois drunk driving laws require the following when testing sobriety:

  • A driver may refuse a preliminary breath test prior to an arrest (Sec. 5/11-501.5);
  • If arrested, drivers must submit to a breath, blood, or urine test to determine their BAC (Sec. 5/11-501.2(c)(2));
  • State law requires the person performing the breath or blood test to be properly trained (Sec. 5/11-501.2; Admin. Code 1286.100 et seq.);
  • Testing equipment must be properly calibrated for the results to be admissible in court (Sec. 5/11-501.2; Admin. Code 1286.200)

What Illinois Law Says About Penalties for Drunk Driving

If you’re convicted of drunk driving in Illinois, you could face very serious consequences, which vary depending on your age, BAC level, the ages of any passengers, whether you have previous convictions, and other circumstances. Illinois statutes include the following penalties for driving while intoxicated:

  • Suspension of your driver’s license (Sec. 5/6-208 et seq.)
    • One year for the first conviction (two years if you’re under 21) OR if you refuse BAC testing
    • Five years for the second conviction
    • 10 years for a third conviction
  • Jail time (Sec. 5/11-501(c) & (d))
    • Up to one year for a first conviction
    • Five days to one year for second conviction (or community service)
    • Three to seven years for a third conviction
    • Additional time may be added if a person under 16 is in the car at the time of the stop
  • Fines (Sec. 5/11-501(c) & (d))
    • $1,000 to $2,500 per offense for the first or second conviction
    • Up to $25,000 for the third conviction
    • Additional fines if a person under 16 is in the car at the time of the stop
      • $1,000 minimum for the first offense
      • $25,000 maximum for the second offense
      • $25,000 minimum for the third offense

Read the full text of the compiled Illinois Statutes for more details.

I Was Arrested for Drunk Driving: What’s Next?

It doesn’t matter how sober you feel — if your BAC is over the legal limit, law enforcement considers you intoxicated. That’s not the end of the story, though. People charged with drunk driving can challenge the BAC testing equipment, the procedures used by law enforcement, and the reason for the traffic stop, among other things. An experienced DUI defense attorney can explain the post-arrest process, guide you through your legal options, and help protect your rights.