Is a DUI a Felony or a Misdemeanor in Illinois?

man holds beer bottle outside of drivers side window committing a DUI felony or misdemeanor

One of the most common questions clients with drunk driving cases ask is, “Is a DUI a felony or a misdemeanor in Illinois?” The answer to this question is not always straightforward, and depends on various of factors. These include your BAC test results, whether you have had prior DUI convictions, and whether other aggravating factors exist. Understanding more about the differences between felony and misdemeanor DUI in Chicago, and what you can expect if you are convicted, can help ensure you make informed decisions that are best for your situation.

Penalties for Misdemeanor and Felony DUI in Chicago

In Illinois, a first-time DUI offense is usually classified as a Class A misdemeanor. This is the most serious type of misdemeanor offense. If you are convicted of a Class A misdemeanor DUI, you can be sentenced to up to one year in jail, fines of up to $2,500, and a minimum of 100 hours of community service. Additionally, your driver’s license may be suspended or revoked, and you may be ordered to attend mandatory alcohol education classes.

If you are arrested for a third or subsequent DUI within a 20-year period, you may be charged with a Class 2 felony. A Class 2 felony conviction for DUI can result in up to seven years in prison. You may also face fines of up to $25,000. 

If you have five or more prior DUI convictions, you may be charged with a Class X felony. This is the most serious level of felony, and the penalties are stiff. A Class X felony DUI conviction comes with up to 30 years behind bars and up to $25,000 in fines. 

What Aggravating Factors Make a DUI a Felony in Illinois?

Most DUI offenses in Chicago are considered misdemeanors. There are some circumstances under which a DUI can be charged as a felony, however. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Prior felony DUI conviction(s)
  • A DUI that causes serious bodily injury or death to another person
  • A DUI that occurs while driving on a suspended or revoked license
  • A DUI that occurs while transporting a child under the age of 16

Felony DUI convictions can lead to substantial prison time, significant fines, and other penalties. Convictions also have a lasting impact on your personal life and your career. If you are facing felony DUI charges in Chicago, an experienced felony defense lawyer can help you understand your rights and legal options. Your attorney will evaluate your case and develop a defense strategy that minimizes the impact your DUI arrest has on your life.

Defending Against DUI Charges in Chicago

Regardless of whether you are facing misdemeanor or felony DUI charges, it is important to work with an experienced criminal defense lawyer who will protect your rights. Your attorney may employ one or more legal strategies when defending you against your charges. Some of the most common defenses that Illinois lawyers use in DUI cases include:

Challenging the legality of the traffic stop

Illinois law holds that for a police officer to pull you over, he or she must have a valid reason to do so. Suspicion of drunk driving, on its own, is not usually enough. The officer must still have probable cause to make a stop, like erratic driving, running a red light, or speeding. If the stop was illegal, any evidence gathered during the stop, including BAC test results, may be inadmissible in court.

Disputing the results of the breathalyzer or blood test

Breathalyzer and blood tests are used to measure a driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC). However, these tests are not always accurate. Errors can occur during the testing process, tests may not be properly calibrated, or testing supplies can be contaminated or defective. Your criminal attorney may be able to challenge BAC test results, weakening the prosecution’s case.

Asserting Your Constitutional Rights

If your constitutional rights were violated anytime after you were pulled over, your DUI attorney may be able to get your criminal charges dropped completely. If you were arrested for a DUI, and you were not informed of your right to remain silent, for instance, any statements you make are not admissible in court.  

Felony DUI lawyer Spiros Nicolet
Spiros Nicolet
Spiro Nicolet earned his Law Degree from Marquette University in 1991. Attorney Nicolet worked at Madgrigrano, Gagliardi, Zievers & Aiello during Law School and then worked for Westlaw the premier provider of legal research materials for law firms. Mr. Nicolet is active in a number of professional organizations including the American Bar Association, the Wisconsin Bar Association, the Milwaukee Bar Association, a member of the Phi Kappa Sigma Fraternity. Attorney Nicolet has also been admitted to practice in the Oneida Tribal Judicial System. Attorney Nicolet’s goal is to service every client with professionalism, respect and integrity.

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