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.
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)