Getting caught driving under the influence is bad enough on its own. It’s all too easy to misjudge your level of intoxication and try driving home, only to receive a DUI charge when you thought you were fine. It gets worse, though.
In Illinois, DUIs are not just misdemeanors. Depending on the circumstances, a DUI can become a felony charge that carries significantly higher penalties upon conviction.
The easiest way to avoid a felony DUI is to understand and avoid the circumstances that result in those charges. Different situations can lead to different penalties. Here are the basics on how you might be charged with a felony DUI in Illinois.
When an Illinois Misdemeanor DUI is Elevated to a Class 4 Felony
There are many ways you can receive a Class 4 felony DUI charge. In general, first and second DUI charges are considered misdemeanors. However, the following aggravating factors can raise your charges to a Class 4 felony:
- A first-time DUI offender crashes, injuring a child under 16 in the car
- A second DUI offense is committed while transporting a child under 16 at all
- Any offender is driving a school bus carrying minors
- Any DUI results in great bodily harm
- Any DUI is committed without a valid driver’s license or insurance
The penalties for a Class 4 felony range from one to three years in prison plus fines of $25,000. You may also have your license revoked, and could be required to participate in a mandatory reform program.
How Your Class 4 Felony Could Turn into a Class 3 in Illinois
A Class 3 felony DUI charge is the next step up in Illinois. Class 3 felony charges are typically made when a Class 4 felony is further aggravated.
Say you have already been convicted of homicide while DUI, or an aggravated DUI that involved a death, then your next DUI will be a Class 3 felony.
If you are convicted, you face up to five years in prison and fines of $25,000, along with license suspension and additional reform program requirements.
The Most Severe DUI Charge in Illinois Is a Class 2 Felony
The most severe DUI charge is a Class 2 felony. These charges are aimed at particularly unsafe behaviors and repeat offenders.
A third DUI conviction is considered a Class 2 felony, full stop. This comes with mandatory 10-year license revocation and your car’s vehicle registration being suspended, along with the typical Class 2 felony penalties.
Other ways you can be charged with this felony include:
A simple Class 2 DUI felony can be penalized with up to seven years in prison. An aggravated DUI that leads to one death can result in 14 years in prison, while multiple deaths might mean 28 years’ imprisonment.
Any conviction on Class 2 felony charges can also include fines up to $25,000, along with license revocation, probation, and reform programs.
A DUI charge is always serious, but when aggravating factors exist, you might get more than you bargained for. Prior convictions can potentially lead to losing your license forever.
This is why it’s always better to play it safe. And when you are facing felony DUI charges, treat the situation with the caution it warrants. Find an experienced Illinois DUI attorney in order to secure the best legal outcome.
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.