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Is My Driver's License Automatically Suspended in an Illinois DUI?

Yes, in an Illinois DUI, your driver's license can be automatically suspended. This automatic loss of driving privileges can happen in two ways. The first is if you fail the standardized field sobriety tests or submit to the standardized field sobriety tests and the results suggest that you were driving impaired. The other way you can automatically lose your driving privileges is if you refuse, fail, or are unable to complete the DUI chemical test.

This blog will explore in more detail the specific circumstances that can lead to an automatic suspension of your driver's license, the length of the suspension period, and your options for driving during the suspension period.

The DUI Arrest Process and Your Driving Privileges

In Illinois, you could be accused of driving under the influence if an officer suspects that you were operating a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol and/or drugs. If your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is at or above 0.08, you are lawfully considered under the influence. That said, you can still be charged with a DUI if your BAC is below that amount, as long as it can be shown that your normal faculties were diminished because of the consumption of alcohol and/or drugs and you were, therefore, unable to drive safely.

To determine if you were driving impaired or with an unlawful BAC level, a police officer will direct you to participate in a couple of different tests. The first assessment is the standardized field sobriety test (FST).

Validated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the tests consist of the:

  • Walk-and-turn,
  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus, and
  • One-leg-stand.

Poor performance on any suggests driver impairment. Technically, you could refuse to participate, but doing so will result in an automatic driver's license suspension. You could also face this sanction if you agree to submit to the tests but fail them.

If the officer has probable cause to believe that you were driving under the influence, they may arrest you. They will take you to the police station, where you will be directed to participate in another test. This time, the test is a chemical analysis developed to determine the level of alcohol in your system. You will be asked to provide a blood, breath, or urine sample. If you fail, refuse, or cannot complete the chemical test, you will be subject to a statutory summary suspension of your driver's license.

Notice that the field sobriety and summary suspensions of your driving privileges happen early in the DUI process. This means that you can be subject to serious sanctions even before your criminal case is decided.

What Is the Driver's License Suspension Period?

The amount of time you could lose your driving privileges for after an automatic suspension depends on the particulars of your case.

If you were subject to a field sobriety test suspension, the suspension periods are as follows:

  • 12 months if you refused to participate
  • 6 months if you submitted to the test and failed

If you were subject to a statutory summary suspension, the suspension periods are as follows:

  • 12 months for a first offense of refusing a chemical test
  • 3 years for a second or subsequent offense of refusing a chemical test within 5 years
  • 6 months for failing a chemical test
  • 1 year for a second or subsequent offense of failing a chemical test within 5 years

If you are a CDL holder, the statutory summary suspension periods are as follows:

  • 1 year for a first offense
  • Lifetime for a second offense

Both the field sobriety test and statutory summary suspensions take effect on the 46th day after you received notification that your driver's license would be suspended. Note that you can be subject to the field sobriety test suspension and the summary suspension simultaneously.

You can challenge the automatic suspension of your driver's license by requesting a judicial hearing. This request must be made within 90 days after being notified of the suspension.

The judicial hearing is not concerned with whether you are guilty or innocent of driving under the influence.

Rather, it focuses on the following questions:

  • Did the officer have reasonable suspicion to pull you over?
  • Did you refuse the field sobriety test?
  • If you took the field sobriety test, did it suggest impairment?
  • Were you lawfully arrested for driving under the influence?
  • Did the officer have reasonable grounds to believe that you were driving while impaired?
  • Did the officer inform you of the consequences for refusing or failing a DUI chemical test?
  • Did the chemical test indicate that you had a BAC of 0.08 or higher?
  • Were you involved in an auto accident?

The judicial hearing is different from the criminal process, and if your driver's license suspension is sustained, that does not exempt you from facing criminal penalties if you're convicted of the DUI. However, if your driving privileges are suspended, the duration of the suspension period you served will be credited to the revocation period for the DUI conviction.

Can I Drive at All During the Suspension Period?

Depending on your circumstances, you can be granted a permit to drive after a driver's license suspension. If this is your first time being charged with a violation, you may be eligible for a Monitoring Device Driving Permit (MDDP). Essentially, this allows you to drive anywhere and at any time so long as you have a Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device (BAIID) installed on your vehicle. You are eligible for the MDDP only if you were subject to a summary suspension. If your driver's license was suspended because you refused or failed the field sobriety tests, you do not qualify for an MDDP.

It is a Class 4 felony to drive while your license is suspended or to operate a vehicle without a BAIID installed when you are required to have one on any car you drive.

If you have multiple DUI convictions, you may be eligible to drive with a Restricted Driving Permit (RDP). Again, you must have a BAIID installed on your vehicle. However, unlike the MDDP, you cannot drive whenever or wherever you'd like. You are restricted to the terms of your temporary permit.

Note that CDL holders are not eligible for temporary driving privileges after the CDL has been disqualified. This means that they cannot drive a vehicle requiring a CDL, which can create a hardship.

If you have been charged with a DUI in Chicago, you need an attorney on your side ready to protect your rights and future. At the Law Office of Steven Fine, we have what it takes to fight for you.

To discuss your case during a free consultation, call us at (312) 436-0638 or contact us online today.