The state of Illinois considers a DUI a criminal offense, and can result in large fines, license suspension or revocation and potential jail time. It is important to approach the situation with knowledge of your legal rights and your options going forward so you can ensure the best outcome for yourself.

Penalties after a first DUI conviction include a loss of full driving privileges for at least one year, possible prison time up to one year and a fine up to $2,500. The court may also request drug and alcohol testing and treatment or community service. Penalties increase for your second and third convictions, and if your DUI involved an accident, especially if it injured others, the consequences are much greater.

Two cases

A DUI charge in Chicago has two parts:

  • Criminal charges including traffic tickets: The court will not add charges to your record until after your court hearing if you plead or are found guilty
  • License suspension: Happens automatically after 46 days from your arrest if you refuse to take a chemical substance test; you have the option to fight the suspension

Working with an experienced DUI defense lawyer in these situations can be beneficial as he or she will know every deadline and defensive strategy as well as how to collect evidence to support your case. An attorney can also begin the steps towards preventing the automatic license suspension while you wait for your sentencing. Keep in mind, this suspension occurs 46 days after your arrest unless you fight it within the allotted time frame.

Next steps

The next steps for fighting your DUI may include:

  • Arraignment: Your first court date, often 30 to 60 days after your arrest; the court will give you the option to plead guilty or not guilty
  • Plea bargain: Some DUI cases have a better outcome when you choose to accept a bargain rather than going to trial
  • Future court dates: Expect up to five court dates, each with a different purpose and where your lawyer can present evidence for your defense

Be aware that if the court convicts you, you will receive a license revocation that lasts for at least one year; you may then have it reinstated by having a hearing with the Secretary of State.