Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The basics of Illinois DUI Suspension law

Among the most common questions I get have to do with confusion about a very important part of DUI law in Illinois, so I'll post an explanation here to try to explain (briefly) how DUI license suspension works in Illinois. While this information is consistent whether you face a Chicago DUI arrest, DUI in Lake county or elsewhere, nothing can replace an explanation by your lawyer in the context of your case, but I hope this helps.

DUI charges in Illinois usually involves a component called a statutory summary suspension. Statutory summary suspension means that the Secretary of State of Illinois, by law, is required to suspend the license of a motorist arrested for DUI in Illinois. This happens if the offense took place on a public roadway within Illinois and the officer properly filled out and served the motorist with a copy of a “Notice of Statutory Summary Suspension”. The length of a suspension is determined primarily by the actions of the motorist, now under arrest for DUI.

After arrest, the officer will request any number of chemical tests, including a breath, urine or blood test. If the motorist submits to the tests requested by the officer and that test shows either an alcohol level at or above a 0.08, or the presence of any illegal substance, the length of the suspension will then be determined by the motorist’s history at the Secretary of State. The motorist will either be suspended for six months or one year, depending on their prior record.

If any test requested by the officer is refused, the length of license suspension is again determined the same way, but this time, as either a one year suspension or a three year suspension. For example, if the officer requests urine and blood tests and the motorist refuses urine but submits to blood (or the other way around), the officer will mark the Notice of Statutory Summary Suspension as a “refusal” to submit, and the Secretary of State of Illinois will be required by law to enter a suspension for either one or three years accordingly.

It is important to note that if the greater term of suspension (one year or three) applies in either a refusal or submission, no hardship permit is available. This longer term of suspension for either refusal or submission is dependent on a determination by the Secretary of State of Illinois as to whether the motorist arrested for DUI has, within the previous five years, either been suspended as a result of a DUI arrest or been arrested and found guilty of a DUI.

It is important to remember that the suspension is administrative, and although it can be challenged in the same Court where the DUI criminal charges will be heard, it is a completely separate case. In fact, under Illinois law, Statutory Summary Suspension hearings are civil, as opposed to Illinois DUI charges, which are criminal in nature.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Drinking alcohol without getting drunk?

In DUI courtrooms around the country, and certainly here in the Chicago area, police officers regularly testify that they "smelled the odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from the suspect's breath". This almost always leads to a DUI arrest in Illinois and elsewhere. Great defense attorneys know well how to deal with such insignificant "evidence" and do so effectively.

But what happens when the "odor of an alcoholic beverage" doesn't mean the odor of an intoxicating substance? What if there's a product that has that odor, the taste, the feel - but not the effect?

It seems that question may come along soon. A drug researcher in jolly old England is looking into the possibility of dealing with the effect of alcohol that gives rise to DUI - impairment.

It seems officers in the future may need to think more about how heavily they rely on odor (they should already do so). What are your thoughts on the topic?