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First Time DUI

Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a criminal offense, but the idea of being arrested for the first time might not faze many people. After all, it’s a first time DUI offense, and the law is lenient on first-time offenders, right?

Although most states categorize first time DUIs as misdemeanor offenses, the consequences, both short-term and long-term, are harsh. If you’re arrested for drunk driving, you must understand not just punishments come with a DUI conviction, but it can have a long-term effect on your life too. 

What is the Penalty for a First Time DUI in Illinois?

It’s essential to understand you aren’t alone after a drunk driving arrest. Every year in Illinois about 35,000 people are arrested for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Although the penalties of a first time DUI can differ based on how your DUI case plays out and if your DUI criminal defense attorney gets your DUI charges dropped or reduced, here are the possible penalties for a first-time DUI offender:

  • Because a first DUI offense is a Class A misdemeanor in Illinois, if you’re arrested and charged with this crime you’ll face a potential jail time of one year and fines of up to $2,500.
  • Rarely are first-time DUI offenders sentenced to months or a full year in jail or prison. Often, they don’t face the maximum fine; however, there’s a mandatory minimum fine of $500. But the $500 doesn’t include other fees, such as court costs, surcharges, or the cost of court-ordered rehabilitation programs, including alcohol awareness courses.
  • Often, substance abuse counseling is ordered, but it’s not a mandatory penalty if convicted.
  • If you were transporting a minor in your car, the minimum fine is $1,000.
  • A first DUI offender whose blood alcohol content was 0.016% or higher is required to complete a minimum of 100 hours of community service.
  • A first offender who was with a passenger under the age of 16 years must complete 25 days of community service in a program that’s beneficial to children.

Apart from the statutory summary suspension mentioned above, a first-time DUI offender will face a driver’s license suspension for one year. However, the offender may apply for a restricted driving permit (RDP) to drive to medical appointments, work, school, and/or alcohol or drug treatment. If your driver’s license has been suspended for a first-time DUI conviction and a statutory summary suspension, you must install an ignition interlock device (IID) or breath alcohol ignition interlock device (BAIID) in your car for the duration of the RDP.

Illinois DUI Penalties - Infographic

Will a First-Time DUI Ruin My Life?

A DUI criminal charge doesn’t have to ruin your life. If you get an experienced DUI criminal defense lawyer, fight your DUI case, and negotiate a good plea deal, you may go on with your life with minimal changes. If your DUI attorney can win your case or get your DUI criminal charges dropped, you won’t even have a DUI on your driving record. However, if you choose to go to trial without a proper criminal defense representation, the stakes are high you’ll be convicted. If this happens, your life will be ruined.

To understand how a first-time offense will affect your life, and how you can stop it from happening, here are some consequences involved.

  • Driver’s license suspension. The most immediate ramification of a DUI charge is losing your driving privileges. Your driver’s license will be suspended even though you aren’t convicted--unless you take immediate legal action. After a first DUI conviction, you’ll face a twelve-month license suspension. And if you’re under 21 years old, your driver’s license will be suspended for 2 years. Obviously, not being able to drive to see friends, to visit family, to a doctor’s visit, to work, or to run errands is a good way to ruin your life.
  • Time in jail. The penalties for DUI vary depending on how many traffic violations you’ve had, the circumstances around your DUI, and the judge’s mood. But all DUIs carry jail time or prison sentences. As a first offender, you may face a minimum jail time of 364 days in jail and if your blood alcohol level was 0.16% or more, you may spend a maximum of 364 days in jail. If you had a minor in your car, you could spend six months in jail.
  • Career. Even after serving your jail sentence, a DUI doesn’t go away. Every time you apply for jobs, you have to disclose your criminal record. Most employers verify this information using a background check. Often, driving under the influence is a liability, and it’s looked down upon. Thus, it affects how “hirable” you’re. Fortunately, hiring a DUI lawyer to defend you can get you acquitted or get your DUI charges dropped, which is a good way to protect your reputation, and ultimately your career.
  • Financial consequences. The biggest consequence of a DUI charge is the price tag. Drunk driving offenses are notoriously expensive. You may have to pay a fine of $1,000 for a first-time DUI. also, there are unofficial fines that are billed as court costs and other state costs. For a first DUI offense, these costs range between $1,000 to $2,600, and they can be much higher. Further, you may be ordered to go to mandatory DUI school. Here, you’ll pay for a DUI school course or alcohol treatment program out of pocket. This program lasts for 3 to thirty months and costs $500 to several thousand dollars. Your car may also be impounded after your DUI arrest, and you’ll need to pay for each day it stays in the impound lot. License reinstatement comes with its own fee. Further, having a DUI on your driving record will raise your auto insurance premiums because your insurance company will see you as a risk.

Even the cheapest DUI costs run to thousands of dollars. To prevent a DUI from ruining your life, get a strong defense. At Dohman Law Group, we have helped hundreds of clients get their DUI charges reduced and dismissed, and we can help you get a favorable outcome. Contact our criminal defense law firm at (847) 616-9993 to schedule a free initial consultation.

First Time DUI charges

How Long Will a DUI Stay on Record in Illinois?

Illinois takes driving under the influence offenses seriously and has a zero-tolerance policy for DUI convictions. Thus, if you’re convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or other substances, that conviction will remain on your record forever.

The Criminal Identification Act allows you to seal criminal records. Thus, your criminal record will still exist, but it can only be accessed by obtaining a court order. So, your record isn’t available to the general public, and can only be accessed by a court order. In felony offenses where a conviction can’t be expunged, you can seal your record. However, in Illinois, it’s illegal to seal a DUI conviction.

Expungement is where a state destroys the physical copies of your criminal record and removes your name from public and official records regarding a particular crime. However, in Illinois, whether you were tried as an adult or even as a minor, your DUI conviction can’t be expunged from your criminal record.

Is it Worth Getting a Lawyer for First DUI?

Typically, a first-offense DUI is a misdemeanor, and most courts hand down a standard sentence. If you were driving while drunk and there’s enough evidence to back that up, including elevated blood alcohol concentration, failed field sobriety tests, witnesses stating you were driving erratically--most DUI offenders choose to plead guilty. Here, DUI criminal defense attorneys may not much to help you.

However, if there are any facts that could increase your penalties, such as an extremely high blood alcohol concentration or an accident, or aspects that might reduce your penalties, such as procedural problems during your DUI arrest, it’s in your best interest to hire an experienced DUI lawyer to help you with your defense. 

If you’re unsure, a DUI criminal defense lawyer can help you recognize these facts and help you come up with a strong defense, and they can represent you at trial.

If there are any doubts about your DUI case, you want to take a guilty plea. With a plead deal, you agree to plead guilty in exchange for a lesser offense from the prosecutor.

First DUI offense in Illinois

Questionable field sobriety test results, blood alcohol level below 0.08%, procedural issues with your arrest, such as the arresting police officer not reading you your Miranda rights, questions regarding the accuracy of blood alcohol content are some factors that create doubt about the justification of your arrest. An experienced DUI attorney can help you get your charges dropped or reduced. 

If your DUI case is more than just a misdemeanor first-time DUI offense, hiring an experienced DUI lawyer is crucial. Instances, such as driving under the influence with a child in the vehicle, a very high alcohol concentration in your blood, and/or causing injuries, can turn a first-time DUI into a felony. These can lead to severe penalties, including one year or more in prison, among other penalties. A skilled DUI lawyer can have a better chance of reducing your plea or sentence than you would on your own.

Being charged with a DUI can affect your life in many ways. It can limit your career progression, stay on your record permanently, and cause serious financial consequences. You must take these charges seriously, even though this is your first offense. At Dohman Law Group, our knowledgeable DUI criminal defense lawyers in Rolling Meadows can help you get your charges dismissed or reduced. To schedule a free initial consultation, call us today at (847) 616-9993, or chat with us online to learn how we can help. 

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