Not all DUIs are the same. Some drivers don’t think they’re past the legal limit and make a simple mistake. Others can’t control their drinking problems. Still others can be the victim of faulty equipment and overzealous policing.
Then there are the factors that can aggravate or mitigate a charge. These factors can seriously change the story of a DUI arrest, and make life a lot easier – or harder – for the person behind the wheel.
Case-in-point: earlier this month, a Chicago woman was arrested and charged with aggravated DUI. Just before 1 A.M. on a Monday, she was caught speeding and driving violently to avoid a police officer.
When the officer asked her for her license, she said that she had been arrested previously and was driving without one. Not a good start, but then things went from bad to worse. She failed multiple sobriety tests, police found open cans of beer in the car, and she was driving with two more intoxicated adults… and three children.
Due to all of these factors, the woman was arrested for felony aggravated DUI, endangering the life of a child, speeding, improper lane usage, having no Illinois driver’s license, and not having insurance.
Why a Felony Aggravated DUI?
Let’s focus on the aggravated DUI charge. First off, it is important to note that any felony DUI charge in Illinois is considered aggravated DUI.
If the woman had been driving alone and had a valid driver’s license, her .124 BAC may have gotten her a DUI arrest, but it might not have been a felony. If it was her first DUI, it is more likely that she would have been charged with a misdemeanor.
So why did she get a felony? Because misdemeanor DUIs are bumped up to felony charges if more serious factors are present, including:
- Having prior DUI convictions
- Reckless driving
- Driving on a suspended license/driving without a license
- Driving without insurance
- Causing injury to another person while driving under the influence
- DUI in a school bus carrying children
- DUI in a for-hire vehicle (including taxis, Ubers, etc.)
- Driving with children in the car
- DUI committed in a school zone
The factors in bold are the ones that she was accused of engaging in. These aggravating factors may also result in additional charges, including endangering the life of a child or speeding. Open beer cans or other types of alcohol containers will also result in additional charges.
Charges for aggravated DUI start at a Class 4 felony, but can be increased to a Class 2 felony if the driver has committed some sort of aggravated DUI in the past.
These felony offenses could results in years behind bars, but even if a driver gets probation or conditional discharge, Illinois still requires them to spend 10 days in prison or complete 480 hours of community service. Other consequences include license suspension, fines, alcohol education programs, and/or the installation of an ignition interlock device that drivers need to blow into before they can start their car.
How to Defend Against DUI Charges in Chicago
While aggravating factors may be present in your case, mitigating factors may exist as well. These factors can help you reduce the charges against you.
Possible mitigating factors include:
- Spotless driving record before DUI
- Prescribed medication contributed to BAC
- BAC was barely above .08
- The driver has agreed to, or started, a substance abuse program
Even if mitigating factors aren’t present, you have options for fighting DUI charges. Do not give up after you have been issued a DUI. If you can get your charges dropped, you will be able to avoid jail time now and avoid harsher DUI charges later. The most severe DUI charges and penalties are placed on drivers who have previous DUIs on their record.
Want to learn more about defending DUI charges? Reach out to a knowledgeable Illinois defense lawyer.
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.