In Illinois, the typical punishments for driving under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance are stiff. Thankfully, being charged is not the same as getting convicted.
A conviction hinges on two measures. First, the prosecution must be able to prove that you drove the vehicle involved in the situation. Second, they must prove that you were under the influence of a substance that prevented you from driving safely.
The job of your lawyer is to find ways to call those two things into question or argue that proper procedures were not followed in your arrest. Here are some ways you can succeed in fighting against DUI charges.
Ways to Defend against a DUI Charge in Illinois
Not observed actually driving. If a police officer did not observe you as the driver of the vehicle, the charges may be amended. The DUI charge does not apply if you were simply sitting in the driver’s seat of a vehicle that was idling. Depending on the details of your case, this rare defense may be used by your attorney to get your charges dropped.
Arrest made without reasonable suspicion. To make a legal arrest, the police officer must have reasonable suspicion that you were driving under the influence. You may be able to get charges dropped if you were stopped or detained merely due to your racial or ethnic background, or for any other reason that calls the officer’s reasonable suspicion into doubt.
Officer did not follow proper procedure. In Illinois, the arrest procedures for DUI charges are specific and detailed. The court may throw the case out if the arresting officer did not follow due procedure. Examples of such breaches in procedure include:
- Reading of your rights – Your Miranda rights should be read aloud by your arresting officer, who would have used phrases like “You have the right to remain silent” and “You have the right to an attorney.” If your rights were not read, or if they were improperly delivered, you may be able to fight against your charges.
- Mistreatment by police – Your charges may be challenged in court if your attorney can prove that you were mistreated, intimidated by, or inappropriately handled by police officers during the arrest.
Equipment or testing issues. There are all kinds of ways that the various tests and equipment law enforcement officials use to prove your level of intoxication can be mistaken.
- Inaccurate field sobriety test – Your case may be thrown out if the test results are proven to be inaccurate or if the test was improperly administered. The most common challenge issued is on the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, which can often be inaccurate.
- Portable breathalyzer failure – Blood alcohol test results may be inaccurate if the breathalyzer was incorrectly calibrated. If the arresting officer did not use the breathalyzer properly, the results may be off as well.
- Standard breathalyzer failure – Police officers use this equipment at the station during the booking. It may also be improperly calibrated.
- False results in blood testing – Your case may be dismissed if your attorney can prove that the If blood test was mishandled, or that the blood fermented or was otherwise compromised.
- Change in blood alcohol content levels – At the time of the stop, your blood alcohol content may have been within legal limits. However, it may have risen above legal limits when the test was administered while your body continued to absorb the alcohol.
False conclusions. Sometimes false conclusions can contribute to the arresting officer’s testimony. For example, you may receive reprieve if the officer thought he smelled alcohol on your breath, but the ketones from diabetes caused the alcohol-like smell.
If you can provide witnesses to testify that you were not driving under the influence, your charges may be dropped. Witnesses may have seen you enter a vehicle without having anything to drink. They may know that your erratic driving was caused by distractions in the vehicle instead of alcohol use.
A few less common defenses may get your charges reduced or dropped:
- Duress. Unless you complied with the person who was asking you to drive while under the influence, you were facing the threat of serious bodily injury or death.
- Necessary measures. If you needed to drive a relative to the emergency room while they were experiencing a stroke, the charges may be amended.
- Honest mistake. Maybe you were taking prescription medication that impairs your driving. But you mistakenly assumed that the drug’s effects had worn off before you operated the vehicle.
- Involuntary intoxication. You may be able to fight your charges with this defense if you drank punch at a party without knowing it contained alcohol.
Remember, DUI charges in Illinois are serious. An experienced attorney will be able to discuss the potential defenses for your unique situation and increase your chances at securing a positive outcome. Make sure to contact us as soon as charges are filed to begin building your defense and protecting your rights.
About the Author
Sami Azhari has been working as a lawyer since 2007, after receiving his Juris Doctor from the Michigan State University College of Law. He has handled numerous state and federal cases, and is known throughout the Chicago and Rolling Meadows area for providing his clients with high-quality, skilled representation. He has been recognized by SuperLawyers, the National Trial Lawyers Association, and other notable organizations, and has spoken at a number of legal conferences.