When police pull you over on suspicion of drunk driving, they will attempt to establish probable cause for an arrest through observations, field sobriety tests and a portable breath test. If officers place you under arrest, you may end up at the police station or jail taking a breath test or at a hospital having your blood drawn in order to determine whether your blood alcohol concentration meets or exceeds the Illinois legal limit of 0.08.
In the absence of any other factors, you could face a misdemeanor DUI charge. However, a charge of driving under the influence can quickly turn into a felony depending on the circumstances that exist at the time of the arrest.
Circumstances that "aggravate" your DUI
The penalties associated with an aggravated DUI are harsher than for a DUI since the former is a felony. You could face at least one year in prison, an extended suspension of your driver's license and mandatory alcohol education and treatment. The state could even confiscate your vehicle. As you can imagine, these consequences would also seriously affect your personal and professional lives for some time. Circumstances that could elevate your DUI charge to an aggravated DUI charge include the following:
- If when the officer pulls you over, you do not have a valid driver's license
- If your license is already suspended at the time of your arrest
- If you fail to carry the required insurance for your vehicle
- If you have a child under the age of 16 in the vehicle at the time of your arrest
- If you cause a motor vehicle accident resulting in bodily harm or death
- If you have prior convictions for DUI on your record
You could also face this felony charge if your BAC is extremely high. While you should take any DUI charge seriously, you certainly want to begin addressing this charge as quickly as possible. There are no guarantees when it comes to criminal prosecutions. Police officers and lab technicians make mistakes, equipment may not function properly and officers don't always follow proper procedures. You also need to understand your rights and determine whether an officer violated them.
A thorough review of the situation may reveal weaknesses in the prosecution's case and provide you with options you would not have otherwise thought about. Considering what is at stake for you, it would benefit you greatly to enlist the aid of an experienced criminal defense attorney at your first available opportunity.