Dangerous Driving: When Drunk Driving Becomes A Felony
This article includes important information on the following:
- When a DUI is considered a felony in Illinois or Indiana, and why,
- How to behave during and after a police stop, including how to handle their request for a test, and
- How a good DUI attorney can help and what to look for when searching for one.
What Is A Felony DUI In Illinois Or Indiana?
While many Driving Under the Influence (DUI) and Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) charges will be misdemeanors, some, in more serious cases, will be felonies. This has a big impact on the consequences of your arrest, and the possible punishments.
But what factors determine whether you will be charged with the DUI as a felony?
What Aggravating Factors Can Make A Drunk Driving Charge A Felony Charge?
A DUI or OWI can be charged as a felony for several different reasons. In most cases, it is either because of repeat offenses or because of the level of danger you placed others in as a result of your conduct.
In Indiana, a prior OWI offense within five years is felony eligible, as is having a passenger under the age of 18 in the vehicle when you’re arrested for OWI.
In Illinois, a third or subsequent offense can be charged as a felony.
In both states, any sort of accident with great bodily harm or death is automatically felony eligible as well.
Do I Have The Right To An Attorney When An Officer Asks Me To Conduct Standardized Field Sobriety Tests?
You do not have the right to counsel at the time that they are administering the standardized field sobriety tests, but you do have the right to refuse them.
Legally, standardized field sobriety tests can be refused without any sort of consequence or negative inference.
What Should I Say If An Officer Initiates A Traffic Stop And Asks If I Have Been Drinking?
While you should never lie to a police officer, you also do not have to answer that question either.
There are some things that you have to do when you’re stopped by the police. You do have to provide an ID or driver’s license. And you do have to get out of the car if they ask you to.
But you definitely do not have to answer any other questions about whether you have been drinking or taking drugs.
Should I Agree To Take A Blood Or Breath Test At A DUI Stop?
You should agree to take a blood or breath test only if you know for sure that your blood alcohol content is under 0.8 or if you know for certain that you do not have any controlled substances in your blood. Or in Illinois, if you know that you’re under the allowable limit for THC in your system.
Obviously, that is very hard or even impossible to determine. Unless you have not consumed any alcohol or substances for some period of time (research suggests that cannabis stays in your system for up to a month) you should consider carefully whether or not you should submit to a chemical test.
Cases in which there is a chemical test that shows that you were over the limit or had taken an illicit substance are very difficult to win. Cases without a chemical test are much more manageable.
I Was Not Mirandized. Can I Have My DUI Case Dismissed?
Failure to give Miranda warnings is not a basis for dismissal in any kind of criminal case, contrary to what certain television shows sometimes suggest.
At most, you could ask the court to suppress statements that you made that were in violation of Miranda.
But the reality is that Miranda warnings are significantly different from what most people perceive based on their representation in the media. For example, the police are not required to give you Miranda warnings as they are stuffing you into the back of a squad car.
There are very specific situations where the police are required to give you a Miranda warning, and that generally involves you being questioned while in police custody. If they’re not asking you questions, other than biographical information, then there is no requirement for them to give you Miranda warnings.
How Do I Find A Qualified Illinois Or Indiana DUI Attorney To Represent Me?
Do your research on the internet, read reviews to make sure clients have had primarily positive experiences, and go through attorney websites to make sure they have experience in the field you need.
You can also check out different attorney organizations. For example, great criminal and DUI attorneys are often members of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers or a local variety thereof. There is also another national organization that a lot of experienced DUI attorneys belong to: the National College of DUI defense.
How Much Will My DUI Lawyer Cost?
Every lawyer is going to be different when it comes to legal fees. Some attorneys charge by the hour, some charge a flat fee. At the end of the day, you just need to do some research first.
If an attorney’s fees sound too good to be true and are way lower than anyone else that you’ve seen or talked to, then it probably is too good to be true. Extreme caution should be used with attorneys charging very low fees because you will probably get what you paid for.
Is It Possible To Win My DUI Case?
Not every case can be completely won, but there are small victories to be obtained in every case.
While obtaining a not-guilty verdict is definitely a win, avoiding a driver’s license suspension could also be a win. Being able to drive while your suspension is in effect, so you will be able to work, is a win.
Also avoiding a CDL disqualification is definitely a win too. All these different wins are possible, but will ultimately be determined by the specific set of facts in your case.
There are other “wins” other than a not guilty verdict or dismissal. For example, negotiating to have a felony case amended to a misdemeanor would be a victory. A person with multiple prior DUI arrests avoiding jail or prison could also be considered a great result. What a “win” means in your situation will depend on your particular set of facts and circumstances.
That is why it is essential to have an experienced DUI attorney, who is specialized in the field, and will know how to get the best possible outcome for you after a DUI arrest.
For more information on Felony DUI Offenses In Illinois & Indiana, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (815) 290-9170 today.
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