Illinois has some of the harshest penalties related to driving under the influence (DUI). Whether drugs, prescription medication or alcohol, if you are pulled over and ultimately arrested for DUI, you will have to face the reality of criminal charges, high fines and the possibility of losing your driving privileges either temporarily or permanently. Knowing what to do and what not to do, and more importantly, when to do it and when not to, can save you thousands of dollars, months or years of suspensions or revocations of your driver’s license and the possibility of a criminal conviction on your record.
What is a DUI?
A DUI can be either a misdemeanor or felony offense depending on the specific facts. Being charged with a DUI can become a felony if you do not have a valid driver’s license, if someone was hurt as the result of an accident or if you left the scene of an accident. Regardless of whether you are charged with a misdemeanor or felony DUI, you will face license suspensions or revocations, fines up to $2500 for misdemeanors and $25,000 for felony offense, alcohol/drug counseling, victim impact panels, required DUI related insurance (SR-22), having a breath device (BAIID) installed in your car before you can drive it, the possibility of criminal convictions or jail/prison sentences, the loss of your vehicle to impounding.
Because of the host of consequences one faces when arrested for a DUI, having a knowledgeable and capable DUI attorney on your side is vital. Contact DUI attorney Purav Bhatt to discuss your case at 773-791-9682.
What Do The Police Look for When They Pull You Over?
An officer is specially trained to identify signs of impairment and clues of being under the influence when conducting a traffic stop. Knowing what the officer is looking for when he pulls you over is the first way to prevent being arrested for DUI. If you are pulled over for committing a traffic violation such as not signaling before turning, speeding, or changing lanes unsafely, the officer’s training will kick in. He will approach the vehicle and start smelling for drugs or alcohol. His eyes will scan the inside of the vehicle for cans, plastic cups, or bottles. Even having a wristband from a bar or festival is a clue to an officer that you were possibly drinking and may be under the influence (take those off as soon as you leave the venue). It is enough for the officer to continue his investigation into a possible DUI.
He will ask for your license and insurance. Along with checking if you are legally driving and insured, the officer is checking to see whether you can find your identification and insurance and how long it takes you to produce it. If the officer smells alcohol coming from the car (not necessarily from you), he will ask you to exit the vehicle. At this point, he is watching how you exit the vehicle. Did you use the door or frame for balance? Once you step out of the car, he will ask you questions related to your alcohol intake that day. “Small talk” you think, but no. The officer is watching whether you are swaying, what your pattern of speech is and what your eyes look like.
DUI Field Sobriety Tests
The officer will then ask you perform field sobriety tests (SFSTs). These are dual-attention tests designed to observe your responses as to whether you can listen to directions, are coordinated enough to perform the tests, and can understand what the officer is saying to you. These tests include a horizontal gaze nystagmus test (HGN). During this test, the driver is asked to follow a pen or stimulus to check of nystagmus horizontally and vertically. Next, you will be asked to perform the walk and turn test. This is an extremely specific test that the officer will demonstrate for you. It is so specific in the steps you must take, the direction you must turn and what foot you must start with that even sober drivers can and have failed this test. Next the driver will be asked to stand on one leg and count as high as they can. The officer is looking to see how long you can stand on one leg, whether you use your arms for balance and how many times you put your foot down. Understand that these tests are not fool proof and an officer must administer these tests in an exact way to be considered reliable in court.
Should You Take the Breathalyzer Test?
If the officer finds enough clues of impairment (and they will), there is probable cause to arrest you for driving under the influence. You will be taken to the police station and aske whether you wish to submit to a breathalyzer test to register your BAC. What the officer will never tell you is that the field sobriety tests, and BAC tests are voluntary and not required. You do not have to take these tests and in fact, you are providing evidence against yourself by submitting to these tests. There are consequences to not consenting to the tests including longer license suspensions but those can be reversed and undone in court with the help of a skilled DUI attorney by your side.