How Has DUI Law Changed Over the Years in Illinois?
The penalties for DUI have become more severe and it is probably going to continue to get worse in the future. When I first started practicing in 1998, the limit for blood alcohol content or sometimes they call it BAC for short, was 0.10% and since then, it has now been reduced by 20%, to 0.08. There has been a lot of talk that it is going to continue to go further down. The punishments have also become much harsher. When I first started practicing law, it was fairly rare to see somebody actually do any jail time unless there was a fatality, but even in my death cases, I was able to get probation for people back when I was first starting to practice DUI cases.
However, now the law has changed and there are a lot more mandatory minimum jail sentences. There are a lot more mandatory minimum sentences for community service or other punishments that are in the statute, which means that even if the judge thinks that somebody is worthy of a lenient or alternative sentence or something like that, their hands are tied. The law says that the judge must sentence them to whatever that heavy sentence is. The law is getting harder on drunk drivers and drugged drivers and I would expect it to continue to get worse.
How Is A DUI Defined In Your State?
In Illinois, DUI is defined as being in actual physical control of a vehicle while you are under the influence of alcohol. The distinction about being in actual physical control means that a person does not have to be driving to be found guilty of DUI. For example, a common scenario is someone who has parked the car and fallen asleep or pulled the car over or something like that, so the car is not in motion, but they are in the car and so that is where the actual physical control comes in. There is case law that basically states that if you are in the vehicle and you have the keys on your person, you are considered to be in actual physical control of that vehicle.
There have been cases decided in the appellate court where for example, people have been asleep in the driver seat with the car running because it was cold outside. There is a case where someone was actually asleep in the back seat with the car running, because it was cold and they were found to be in actual physical control of the vehicle and they were convicted of DUI and that was upheld at the appellate level. So you do not have to be driving the car. It does not have to be in motion in order for you to be charged or convicted for a DUI.
Do Most People That Are Charged With DUI Have High BAC Levels?
The DUIs charged under the limit are rare, but they still do occur and I have represented a number of people who actually were under the limit but were still charged. The thing about the blood alcohol level is that it is a very low limit. For example, like an elderly person or a very young individual who does not consume alcohol on a regular basis, if they had a blood alcohol content of 0.08%, they probably would feel like they were drunk or intoxicated. Most people that do consume alcohol on a regular basis or even on a social basis, if you ask them how they felt when they were at a 0.08% blood alcohol content, they would probably say that they were buzzed at most, and not drunk.
So I have represented many people with BACs close to 0.08%, we call that a close tolerance reading. Most of my clients in that situation have told me that they took the breath test because they either did not have a lot to drink or they did not feel drunk or intoxicated. I have also successfully represented individuals with very high blood alcohol readings, triple the limit and above. But the reality is that most DUI arrests do have a higher blood alcohol content that is probably closer to like double limit, like a 0.16%.
Is There A Typical DUI Defendant In Illinois?
There is no such thing as a typical DUI client. If you had to look at DUI’s statistics, they would tell you that there are certain age brackets that account for a higher percentage of arrests but it is not even significantly higher. In reality, DUI arrests have no preference for gender, race, education, or economic background. I have represented teenagers and I have represented people well into their seventies; I have represented both rich and poor people, as well as every racial and religious demographic. Overall, my clients are very diverse and come from all walks of life.
Public Knowledge Of A DUI Arrest Or Conviction
Since the invention of the internet, there is no such thing as privacy anymore. Regretfully, a person’s DUI arrest is going to be easy for someone to find if they are looking for it. Generally, the police or prosecutors are not going to be calling up family, friends, employers or anything like that. However, on the internet, it will be relatively easy for someone to find out about it just by going through Google, Yahoo or any search engine. The county court that they have been arrested in, is a public record and most of those counties are now online and you can look and see all kinds of information about anyone, especially if they were charged with DUI or other criminal or traffic offense.
Also the newspaper police blotters are all online too. So unfortunately, it will be fairly easy for somebody if they are looking for it to find it, but there is really not a lot that a person arrested can do about it. As you can imagine, a lot of people are anxious about finding a way to clear their name on the internet and actually there are a lot of companies that offer that type of service, but I would tell people to be extremely cautious about that because, of those companies that offer that type of service to clean your record or clean your arrest off the internet or anything like that, most of those are scams. So, do your homework on whatever company you are planning on hiring before you actually hire them.
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