A DUI can be a life-changing experience, and anyone’s first conviction is certain to be one. It's important to understand the gravity of the situation and the potential consequences that could follow. While it may seem like an isolated incident, one mistake can potentially have long-term repercussions in many areas of your life.
In addition to facing legal fines and possible jail time, getting your first DUI can also impact your current employment, ability to find employment, and even housing. You can also expect your insurance carrier to jack-up your premium – or even cancel your policy. Getting a DUI can also affect your relationships with friends and family members, and some individuals may be required to enter alcohol abuse treatment programs that take time away from your family and friends.
Getting Pulled Over for DUI for the First Time
If a police officer suspects you are driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they may perform a traffic stop to investigate. An investigation for DUI technically begins as soon as a police officer notices strange or erratic driving behaviors that causes them to suspect a driver is intoxicated, but it’s only when you and the officer meet face-to-face that those suspicions are either elevated or relaxed.
You aren’t obligated to answer any of a police officer’s questions, but you must confirm the biographical information on your driver’s license (such as your name, age, and address). A police officer performing a DUI investigation will probably ask you to tell them some of this information to assess how quickly and well you can recall and recite information.
When You Step Outside of Your Vehicle
If the officer’s suspicion of DUI is deepened, you may be asked to step outside of the vehicle. The police officer will look for problems with your coordination or ability to move.
You may be asked to perform one or more field sobriety tests that involve physical activity, such as walking paces, standing on one leg, or following an object with your eyes. You shouldn’t do these tests, however, because they’re unscientific and more or less designed for people to fail them. Things such as a physical disability or injury, for example, can make it difficult or impossible for a person to “pass” a field sobriety test.
You may also be asked to take a preliminary breath test to determine your blood alcohol content (BAC), but you can and should decline this test. As with the field sobriety tests, its purpose is to provide the police with probable cause to arrest you – at which point you may be required to take a second breath test that may be used as evidence in the prosecution against you.
Detainment vs. Arrest
If you are neither detained nor under arrest, you are free to go. That being said, a police officer can detain you without placing you under arrest.
Detainment typically begins at the beginning of a traffic stop. This is the time the police officer spends with you to conduct their DUI investigation. You aren’t under arrest at this point, but the police officer doesn’t want you to leave until they complete their investigation and determine whether to arrest you or not. You should always ask a police officer if you are being detained or placed under arrest.
If you are arrested for DUI, it’s important to invoke your Constitutional right to remain silent. Don’t answer any questions or offer information to police investigators – you will not be able to talk yourself out of an arrest. Upon your arrest, you are required to submit to a chemical test of your breath or blood; if you decline this test, the DMV will suspend your license regardless of the outcome of your DUI case.
Penalties for a First DUI Conviction in Illinois
As a Class A misdemeanor, even a first DUI conviction is a serious matter. The potential penalties available for a first-time DUI conviction in Illinois include a sentence of up to a year in jail and up to $2,500 in fines. That said, it’s rare for someone to face a full year (or even several months) in jail for their first DUI conviction. A judge can also decide to impose only the mandatory minimum fine of $500 instead of the full $2,500.
The possible penalties that you may face in the event of your conviction depend on the circumstances of your DUI arrest. Additional penalties may also apply, such as mandatory community service hours or probation. Ultimately, a judge will exercise their discretion during sentencing.
Contact Us Today for DUI Defense Legal Services
At the Law Office of Steven Fine, we understand how a first-time DUI charge can be stressful and overwhelming. Our experienced attorney is here to help you navigate the process and achieve the best possible outcome in your case. We have extensive knowledge of DUI laws and procedures and can use our resources to build a comprehensive defense strategy designed to protect your rights.
We understand that this can be an intimidating process and are committed to providing compassionate and personalized service throughout.
For more information, contact the Law Office of Steven Fine and request a consultation with our team.