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How Can a Lawyer Defend a DUI Charge in Illinois?

There are generally two ways to win a DUI, as an attorney can engineer a plea bargain to a lesser included offense or challenge the state’s evidence at trial. Most cases involve a little bit of both.

Over the past 25 years, DUIs have evolved from severe traffic tickets to one of the most serious offenses in the state. A DUI today often involves collateral consequences, like drivers’ license suspension and monetary cost. This change is especially apparent in Illinois, which is known for its harsh laws on the subject.

Plea Bargain

Between 90 and 95% of criminal cases are resolved prior to trial with an agreed plea of guilty. Typically, the defendant enters this plea in exchange for a lesser charge or a reduced sentence.

In Illinois DUIs, that lesser charge is usually reckless driving. Prosecutors normally agree to this plea if the evidence is somewhat weak, as outlined below, or if there are extenuating circumstances, such as a long gap between a first and second offense. Although reckless driving, like a first and second DUI, is a Class A misdemeanor, the collateral consequences are not nearly as severe in terms of drivers’ license suspension and higher auto insurance rates. Furthermore, reckless driving is a court supervision-eligible offense and a second DUI is not.

As for a reduced sentence, almost everything is negotiable. Some common agreements include:

  • Probation in lieu of jail time,
  • A lower than maximum fine,
  • A shorter drivers’ license revocation, and
  • An RDP (restricted drivers’ license) during at least part of the revocation period.

The judge has the final say over all plea bargain agreements and can decide whether to accept or reject the prosecutor’s recommendation, but it is almost unheard of for a judge to exercise this power without at least giving the two sides a chance to amend the settlement terms.

Challenging the Evidence

Most prosecutions under the Illinois DUI law are per se violations under subsection (a)(1). This provision states that defendants are guilty as a matter of law if their BAC exceeds .08, or whatever the legal limit is under the circumstances.

The Breathalyzer has been around since the 1950s, and while there have been many improvements, the underlying technology is essentially unchanged. Some potential challenge areas include:

  • Acetone: Diabetics, smokers, and some people on special diets have elevated acetone levels. Breathalyzers register this substance as ethanol, which sometimes causes artificially high results.
  • Unabsorbed Alcohol: If the defendant has had any alcohol within the last hour or so, it has probably not been absorbed and the results will be skewed.
  • Mouth Alcohol: If the defendant belches or burps in the 15 minutes prior to the test, the results will probably be artificially high.

Admittedly, these flaws are insufficient to discount the test results entirely, but in borderline situations, they are often enough to convince at least one juror that the chemical test may be slightly inaccurate.

Reach Out to Assertive Attorneys

There are several ways to win a DUI charge. For a confidential consultation with an experienced criminal law attorney in Schaumburg, contact Glasgow & Olsson.

(image courtesy of Maria Stiehler)

Breaking Down a Third DUI in Illinois

In most states, third DUIs are somewhat rare, due to the 10 or 15-year look back period. This means that a DUI will “fall off” a person’s record after the 10-15-year period, and any DUIs charged after that will not be considered subsequent offenses. In Illinois, prior convictions never “fall off” an offender’s record for DUI sentencing purposes, so an offense that everyone else has probably forgotten about often comes back to haunt defendants charged with DUI. Furthermore, even if there was no DUI conviction, the prior case can still be admissible for sentencing purposes. That includes prior court supervision cases and some reckless driving convictions.

Previously, in a post about second DUIs, I brought up the point that a second offense is sometimes the dividing line between a one-off incident and a problem drinker. A third DUI is nearly always the cutoff between these two informal categories, underscoring the need for an aggressive attorney.

The Law and Local Procedure

Another reason for hiring an experienced, local attorney is that a third DUI in Chicagoland is procedurally different from similar offenses in other parts of the state.

These differences begin at the pretrial release phase. Most jurisdictions in Chicagoland impose high bail amounts in third DUI cases. It is not unheard of for these amounts to exceed $30,000. Most counties allow defendants to assign their bail money to attorneys’ fees.

A third DUI is a Class 2 felony that is punishable by a maximum three to seven years in prison and/or a fine that is usually $3,500, which includes a $1,000 DUI technology fee. However, that is only part of the story. Judges in Cook County, DuPage County, and Will County do probation sentences in these cases, but they usually require confinement as a condition of probation. Statutorily, the minimum jail time is ten days, but when confinement is a condition of probation, the sentences are considerably longer and may be as high as 180 days. Then, probation can last a maximum of four years.

A third DUI conviction means a maximum ten-year drivers’ license revocation, during which a restricted driving permit may or may not be available. DUI arrests also involve an administrative license suspension, and even if the defendant has prior convictions, the law may still consider the offense to be a first for this limited purpose, meaning that additional relief is available in the event of administrative license suspension.

Defending a Third DUI

Although every case is different, the state’s evidence in third DUI cases is often rather shaky because many of these offenses are chemical test refusal cases for which the conviction rate is only about 60%. The conviction rate in test cases is closer to 90%. Going to trial for a felony DUI is quite risky because if the jury convicts the defendant, the court often assess the maximum seven years.

The defendant often faces a choice between a plea to probation that includes some jail time and the possibility of an extended prison sentence. Many times, the field sobriety test (FST) results are the deciding factor.

Reach Out to Aggressive DUI Attorneys

A third DUI is always a serious felony. For a confidential consultation with an experienced criminal law attorney in Schaumburg, contact Glasgow & Olsson.

(image courtesy of Rob Bye)

Illinois Legislature Mulls Changes to Theft Statute

State Rep. Elgie Sims, Jr. (D-Chicago) just introduced House Bill 3337, which would raise the felony theft threshold from $500 to $2,000.

This proposal stems from a push by the Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform to reduce the state’s prison population by 25% before 2025. Proponents of H.B. 3337 and similar judicial reform measures often point to a series of grim statistics:

  • The prison system costs $1.4 billion a year (this figure does not include payroll),
  • Almost half of released offenders are arrested again within eight years, and
  • Such recidivism costs an additional $120,000 per person.

Opponents, such as Quincy Menards Assistant General Manager Scott Warner, predicted that changing the threshold would create more crime. A 2011 Pew Charitable Trusts survey concluded that increasing the dollar limit for felony theft had almost no effect on the overall property crime rate.

Theft Crimes in Illinois

Theft is a serious crime in Illinois. Most first-time offenders will be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, which is one step away from a felony and on par with most DUI and battery offenses. There are basically two criteria under the theft law that determine the seriousness of the offense:

  • Property Value: Theft of any property (including cash) under $500 is a Class A misdemeanor; theft up to $10,000 is a Class 3 felony, and the punishments go up from there.
  • Owner Status: If the property owner was an individual as opposed to a company, the penalties are nearly always more severe. The penalties are also higher if the victim was a church or a school.

A prior conviction is also an aggravating factor. Class A misdemeanors are punishable by a maximum one year in jail, and a Class 3 felony means a maximum two to five years in prison.

Legally, theft usually means exercising unauthorized control over property. That could mean physically taking it, denying another person’s superior right to possession, altering a price tag, keeping rented property too long past the return date, and other similar conduct. It is also a crime to knowingly possess stolen property.

Theft Defenses

If the prosecutor alleges theft by deception, the state must prove that the defendant was objectively deceptive. In other words, the prosecutor must normally prove that whatever the defendant allegedly did would have been sufficient to dupe someone else. There may also be questions about the owner’s consent. If there is even a reasonable doubt as to consent, the defendant is not guilty.

Lack of evidence is often the best defense in criminal cases, and in many theft matters, there is no evidence as to ownership. The prosecutor must produce the item’s owner in court, and many times, the owner has moved out of the jurisdiction and/or lost interest in the case by the time the trial rolls around. The law surrounding theft in Illinois is complex, but as we note here, there are a number of defenses available to a defendant. A criminal defense attorney will be invaluable to anyone accused of theft in Illinois.

Contact Experienced Attorneys

Theft cases are serious crimes that are sometimes difficult to prove. For a confidential consultation with an experienced criminal law attorney in Schaumburg, contact Glasgow & Olsson. Home and jail visits are available.

(image courtesyof Didier Weemaels)