Illinois is a zero tolerance state, which means that any driver under the age of 21 caught with any measurable amount of alcohol in his or her system will face criminal and administrative sanctions. Illinois and other states have enacted these stringent underage drinking and driving laws because young people account for a disproportionate amount of drunk driving arrests and fatalities.
Underage Drunk Driving is a Problem
The number of underage drunk driving incidents has been steadily declining – likely because of the state’s efforts in educating underage drivers to the dangers of alcohol and punishing them when they do offend. Despite the decrease in underage drunk driving, which the authorities attribute to policies such as zero tolerance, recent statistics from the Illinois Department of Transportation show that it is still a significant public health and safety issue:
- 24 percent of young American drivers who died in a car crash had been drinking
- 710 underage Illinois drivers were suspended for driving with alcohol in their systems or for refusing a sobriety test
- 1,910 drivers were arrested for underage DUI in Illinois
Penalties for Underage Drinking and Driving
Fortunately, jail sentences are very unusual in underage drunk driving cases, except when the suspect is a repeat offender or the DUI resulted in serious injuries or the loss of life. While tough penalties are central to the concept of zero tolerance, the State of Illinois recognizes that sending more young people to jail is not good public policy. In fact, Illinois is joining several other states in the nation to find ways of reducing the number of criminals it incarcerates.
Instead of jail time, you may face the following penalties if you get convicted of underage drunk driving:
- Fines of up to $2,500
- Court fees
- Community service
- Participation in the Youthful Intoxicated Driver’s Visitation Program
- Driver’s license suspension for up to two years
Even if you don’t get convicted of drunk driving in criminal court, you may face administrative penalties for refusing or failing a breathalyzer test. These penalties are completely separate from any criminal proceedings resulting from your DUI. Your driver’s license may be suspended as follows:
- Three months for a first failed BAC test
- Six months for a refused BAC test
- One year for a second failed BAC test
- Two years for a second refused BAC test
How Can I Avoid Zero Tolerance Penalties?
By hiring a good Chicago underage DUI attorney to assist you with your case, you may be able to avoid all or some of the penalties associated with underage drunk driving. It’s essential that your lawyer reviews the evidence being used against you and determine whether any of it was obtained in violation of your rights. When there is evidence of abuse of authority – such as pulling you over without reasonable suspicion – there is a strong possibility that your charges may get dismissed.
Even if the odds are clearly stacked against you, a lawyer can help you get a good case outcome. By using his or her negotiating skills, your lawyer may be able to secure the guarantee of a lenient punishment or access to a deferred prosecution program. For more information about what options may be available to you, call O’Meara Law today at 312-909-0706 for a free and confidential consultation of your case.