There are a number of criminal penalties that you face when charged with a DUI in Illinois, including the loss of driving privileges and heavy fines. However, the possibility of jail time is likely the most intimidating penalty. Not only does it cost you your liberty, but being locked behind bars carries a stigma that isn’t associated with a suspended driver’s license.
If you’ve been arrested for drunk driving, it is important to be represented by an experienced Chicago DUI lawyer who can help you avoid jail time. Contact O’Meara Law today at 312-909-0706 to let us evaluate your case for free.
Potential Jail Sentences for Drunk Driving
Even a first DUI offense in Illinois can potentially lead to time in jail, and the sentences quickly become more severe for repeat offenders. A first DUI in Illinois is considered a Class A misdemeanor, which can lead to a sentence of up to one year in jail. The second DUI offense is still considered a Class A misdemeanor, but the penalties become harsher and include a mandatory five days in prison or 240 hours of community service.
Any offenses past a second DUI offense lead to felony charges. The third offense is considered a Class 2 felony, which carries a prison sentence of not less than three years and not more than seven years. Further DUI offenses lead to more severe felony charges and even more mandatory time in prison.
Avoiding Jail Time by Avoiding Conviction
The surest way to avoid jail time if you’ve been charged with a DUI in Illinois is to avoid being convicted of the charges. An experienced Chicago DUI attorney will know the numerous ways that a charge can be challenged. If the evidence against you includes field sobriety testing, it is important to remember that the three most commonly used tests have been found to be less than 90 percent accurate when used individually and still only 94 percent accurate if all three are used. Chemical testing evidence can be challenged based on the timing of the test, violations of testing procedure or possible contamination of the testing samples. Even your original arrest can be challenged if law enforcement cannot establish probable cause for pulling you over in the first place.
Court Supervision is an Option
If it is not possible to challenge your DUI charge or avoid conviction, Illinois provides for the potential of court supervision as an alternative to the criminal penalties. Under court supervision, the imposition of any criminal penalties is withheld for a set period of time. The court will instead impose conditions such as drug treatment, and if you meet the court’s conditions while avoiding any further legal issues during the supervision period your DUI can be dismissed.
Court supervision is a one-time option, however. According to the Illinois Secretary of State, judges are allowed to grant court supervision only once in a lifetime for a DUI offense and it can only be granted if there have been no prior convictions.
Plea Bargaining to Avoid Jail Time
If court supervision is not an option in your DUI case, another option would be to negotiate a plea bargain where the sentence does not include jail time. Illinois prisons are some of the most overcrowded in the United States and the state is seeking to reduce its prison population by 25 percent, so a prosecutor may be open to recommending a sentence that keeps from adding to the prison population. The judge still has final say on sentencing, but Illinois provides for the option of what is called a 402 conference that would include the judge in the plea bargaining process and would provide more certainty on the final sentence in your case.
How a Chicago Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help
Drunk driving puts the lives of everyone on the road at risk, and the potential for time in jail on a first offense reflects how seriously it is viewed by law enforcement. There are options for avoiding jail time if you’ve been charged with a DUI, but you will want the assistance of a knowledgeable Illinois DUI attorney who will be able to make the most of all the options that are available.
Attorney Michael O’Meara has more than 20 years of legal experience and has defended many of clients on DUI charges. O’Meara is a former Cook County prosecutor, so his experience on both sides of criminal cases can help to provide you with the best defense possible. Call O’Meara Law today at 312-909-0706 for a free and confidential consultation regarding your case.