Getting pulled over on suspicion of a DUI is a terrible experience, and a conviction for DUI can change a person’s life forever. The penalties for DUI in Illinois are harsh. First offenders may face a loss of driving privileges for up to six months, jail time of up to 364 days or community service, and fines of as much as $2,500, and repeat offenders face more serious sentences.
When a police officer initially pulls a driver over, it may be for a traffic violation. But the officer may also suspect that the driver is under the influence based on observations of erratic driving or unusual behavior, such as slurred speech or bloodshot eyes. At this point, everything the officer does at the scene is for the purpose of gathering the evidence necessary to make an arrest.
Standardized field sobriety tests
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) standardized a battery of field sobriety tests to help the officer detect signs of intoxication. The three main signs of impairment are horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN), an involuntary eye-jerking when tracking horizontal movement; walk-and-turn heel-to-toe and pivot after nine steps; and the one-legged stand for at least 30 seconds.
In Illinois, the evidence gathered from field sobriety tests will only support a DUI conviction if the officer administering the test was trained and the test properly administered. The results may also be deceiving if the individual being tested is on medications or has a neurological problem or disability.
The officer may also request that the suspect submit to a preliminary breathalyzer test, which the driver may refuse. The results of such tests are often called into question if there is evidence that the equipment is improperly maintained or if the officer did not administer the test properly.
Implied consent and refusal to take a chemical test
Implied consent laws presume that an individual driving on a public road has implicitly consented to a chemical test to determine their blood alcohol concentration (BAC). An individual who refuses the test after arrest may face an automatic one-year driver’s license suspension for a first refusal. The officer, however, is required by law to give a clear warning to the individual of the consequences of refusal or of a BAC of .08% or higher.
Depending on the circumstances, it is possible to find holes in the evidence gathered at the scene or to question the officer’s arresting procedures that can result in many charges being dropped or penalties minimized. It is important to have an aggressive criminal defense lawyer serving the Springfield community who will fight to lessen the charges and minimize the damage done to your life.