There are multiple issues when someone is charged with Driving Under the Influence. Villalobos & Associates handles hundreds or DUI cases per year and knows that every step, from before you get pulled over all the way through trial and summary suspension hearing, is extremely important. Many inexperienced or timid attorneys will not take the time to challenge the validity of the police stop and will jump at the chance to enter a plea and be done with it. Villalobos & Associates knows that DUI convictions should not be taken lightly and can have long-term consequences.

In Illinois, a person who has a blood alcohol content (BAC)of .08 or above is considered legally impaired and driving under the influence. However, a person whose BAC is between .05 and .08 may also be considered legally driving under the influence if other evidence shows that the person was impaired. Two common ways of showing this are with field sobriety tests and blood alcohol detectors (breathalyzers).

Officers employ a number of methods to determine if a driver is impaired. One of the most common are breath alcohol detectors, such as Breathalyzers, that officers give to drivers after they have been pulled over. A driver may refuse to take a breathalyzer test but should know that if he does refuse, his driver's license will automatically be suspended for a year. This is called summary suspension. If a driver does blow over the limit, it is one of the most damaging pieces of evidence for a driver and can easily lead to a conviction with almost no other evidence. Before a driver takes a breathalyzer, the officer must have probable cause to believe the driver is impaired. In order to find probable cause, the officer must ask the driver to perform a set of physical tests called field sobriety tests.

Field Sobriety Tests
Before an officer can ask a driver to take a breathalyzer test, the officer must ask a driver to perform a set of physical tests to determine if the driver is impaired. This set of tests is commonly called the field sobriety tests, or "fields." This set of tests was developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and consists of 3 main tests: the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test; the Walk and Turn test; and the One Leg-Stand test. Officers ask drivers to perform the 3 tests and record the driver's performance according to standards and procedures developed by NHTSA.

In court, an officer may testify that the driver's performance on the tests, and overall score, shows that he was impaired, even if he didn't take a breathalyzer or if he took a breathalyzer and his BAC was between .05 and .08. However, defense attorneys can attack the field sobriety tests in a number of ways including, by showing that the officer did not follow the correct procedures or did not give the correct instructions. In some cases, an expert witness may testify for the defense that the officer did not give the tests the correct way or that there were other flaws in the way that the officer administered the tests.

Types of DUI
Depending on the circumstances, a DUI can be either a misdemeanor or a felony. After a driver has 3 convictions for DUI, a driver cannot receive probation for any subsequent DUI convictions. In addition, some Felony DUIs are classified as Aggravated DUI due to the presence of at least one aggravating factor.

Misdemeanor DUI
A driver who does not have a prior DUI conviction may be charged with misdemeanor DUI. A conviction for misdemeanor DUI is a Class A misdemeanor and carries a maximum penalty of 364 days in jail. In addition, a court may order supervision for up to 2 years and also order the driver to complete a drug and alcohol evaluation.

Felony DUI
Felony DUIs can be either simple Felony DUI or Aggravated DUI. A DUI that could be charged as a misdemeanor may be charged as a felony for a number of reasons, such as if a passenger in the car is under the age of 16 and suffered bodily harm at the time of the incident or if the driver's license was suspended at the time. Felony DUI convictions can range from a Class 4 Felony, with a potential sentence of probation or 1-3 years in prison, to a Class 2 Felony with a possible sentence of 3-7 years in prison. Each Felony DUI is unique and requires experienced representation

Aggravated DUI
A person can be charged with Aggravated DUI if he would be charged with DUI but there is an additional fact that "aggravates" the offense. Some of the facts are: the driver does not have a valid driver's license; the driver is involved in an accident that causes great bodily harm or death to another; and several more. If convicted of Aggravated DUI, the driver must serve ten days in jail or do 480 hours of community service.

Summary Suspension and Getting Your License Back
After being arrested for DUI, the Secretary of State automatically suspends the driver's driver's license. This is called summary suspension and is a completely different proceeding in civil court. If a driver refuses to take a breathalyzer his license is automatically suspended for one year. If a drivers takes the breathalyzer and blows over .08, the Secretary of State suspends the driver's driver's license for 6 months. These suspensions are automatic and take effect even if the driver is never found guilty of DUI.

A driver may request a hearing to ask the Secretary of State to rescind the summary suspension. The Driver must submit his petition to rescind summary suspension within 90 days or he forever loses the ability to contest the suspension. A driver will then have a summary suspension hearing, often referred to as an SSS hearing. At the hearing, the driver must make a prima facia case that his suspension should be rescinded. Once he makes that showing, the State must show by a preponderance of the evidence that the suspension should be upheld. The preponderance of the evidence standard is NOT the criminal standard of reasonable doubt; it is a lower, more easily satisfied standard of proof. Villalobos & Associates has extensive experience succesfully handling SSS hearings.