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Court Process For A DUI in Illinois

Being charged with a DUI criminal offense can be a scary and confusing time. The penalties for driving under the influence can have severe impacts on your life. From jail time, expensive fines and fees, loss of employment opportunities, a criminal record, and potential harm to your reputation and relationships a drunk driving conviction can hinder your future. If you are currently dealing with a DUI criminal charge you may have many questions about what to expect in the process. Here we will answer some of the basic questions about the court process for a DUI charge. 

For questions about your specific case or to help create a strong defense, contact a drunk driving defense attorney today. At DUI Lawyers 24/7, our experienced DUI lawyers can discuss your legal options for the best possible outcome. You don't have to do it alone. 

DUI Court Process

The DUI Arrest

A law enforcement officer can pull anyone over under the suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or other illegal drugs. This is the very first moment that the DUI legal process begins. A police officer may suspect impaired driving after witnessing a traffic violation or a motor vehicle accident. Factors like swerving, impaired speech, running a red light, loud behavior, or physical appearance may lead an officer to believe a driver is intoxicated. 

The police officer may then direct the driver to submit to a series of sobriety tests. This could include a breathalyzer to test the Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) to see if the driver is over the legal limit or a series of standardized field sobriety tests. The results of any tests that law enforcement officers perform may lead to a DUI arrest. A driver does not have to consent to chemical testing, but the state of Illinois has hefty consequences for those who refuse to test and are convicted. 

If arrested, the driver will be transported to a police station where they may be subject to further chemical testing to determine blood alcohol concentration. These tests may be admissible evidence in court as long as the officer follows the proper arrest procedures. Drunk driving offenders are typically released on bail or after a holding period. 

FAQ: Do I have to take a breathalyzer in Illinois?

At any point after the arrest, a person may request the presence of a lawyer. You do not have to speak to a police officer without a lawyer present. Everything that happens from the moment an officer suspects impaired driving is part of the court process as this is evidence against the driver. However, any error or mistakes found during the arrest could lead to a dismissal of your charges. 

A qualified DUI defense lawyer will be able to review the specifics of your case and help you build a strong defense.

Petition For Your License

In the state of Illinois, there is an automatic statutory summary suspension for any individual arrested for a drunk driving offense. The loss of driving privileges begins 46 days after the arrest. For a first-time DUI offender with a BAC over the legal limit of .08, the minimum suspension time is 6 months. For first-time offenders who refused a test, the minimum suspension is one year.

For repeat offenders with a BAC over the legal limit, the minimum suspension time is one year, and three years for a breath test refusal. All reinstatement fees and minimum suspension time must be met before regaining driving privileges.

A driver can petition the court for a hearing to rescind the automatic license suspension within 90 days of the arrest. A judge will grant a hearing on the initial court date or within a month of filing the petition. 

A first-time offender can apply for a restricted driving permit or a Monitoring Device Driving Permit (MDDP). This allows a driver to keep their driving privileges by having a Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device (BAIID) installed on their vehicle. The driver is responsible for all fees associated with the installation and maintenance of the device.

DUI Court Appearances

You will be given notice of your first court date (arraignment) upon your release from jail after your drunk driving arrest. Typically this date is between 30 and 60 days after the arrest. With the notice of your hearing, information about the formal charges, a copy of the police report, and chemical test results will be provided to you.

Court Process For A DUI in Illinois

At the initial court appearance, you will notify the court if you have legal representation by a DUI criminal defense attorney or if you need a court-appointed public defender. You will also be given the opportunity to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. If you have not yet enlisted the services of a lawyer, it is best to plead not guilty. 

A DUI case will usually have between 1-3 court appearances. Except for in rare cases, you will need to attend all of them. These DUI hearings are opportunities for the prosecutor to submit evidence against you or for your attorney to present evidence in your defense. The court appearances are also an opportunity for your DUI attorney to negotiate sentencing or a plea bargain. They may recommend pre-trial intervention programs, alcohol education classes, or options like community service. 

All of this culminates in a trial where all evidence is presented before a judge. Evidence can include footage from the arrest, dispatch tapes, testimony from the arresting officer, witness testimony, police reports, insurance reports, and more. The prosecutor and the defense will make final arguments to the criminal court judge or jury. 


Post-trial the judge or jury will decide if the defendant is guilty or not guilty. The defendant is then brought to a sentencing hearing to close the criminal justice process. If not guilty, the person charged in DUI arrest will be dismissed from all charges and have the license reinstated. If guilty, the driver may be subject to criminal penalties like loss of driving privileges, jail time, hefty fines, and substance abuse treatment under a drunk driving conviction. With a DUI lawyer with extensive experience, you may be able to negotiate a punishment as small as a number of days of community service.

How to Prepare For DUI Court

It's important to prepare evidence to disprove impairment or to show a strong character for more lenient sentencing. The burden of proof rests on the defendant. An experienced attorney can help you gather and prepare the following documents to prepare for court after a drunk driving charge. 

  • Driver History Record/ Traffic Background
  • Criminal History
  • Alcohol Evaluation or Drug Evaluation Report
  • Proof of DUI Risk Education
  • Character References
  • Drinking Habit Documents
  • Self-Help Group Documents
  • Counseling or Treatment Documents

FAQ: How to get your license back after a DUI?

The purpose of these documents is to prove your level of risk to public safety. The goal is to develop a convincing testimony to prove you are at minimal risk and eliminate the possibility of proving intoxication beyond a reasonable doubt to avoid a DUI conviction altogether or negotiate a favorable plea. 

How an Attorney Can Help You With a DUI

An experienced DUI criminal defense lawyer will help you build the strongest defense possible to obtain a favorable outcome and avoid additional penalties. They will be able to help you file any necessary petitions, gather any documents, organize appearance times, look for any evidence on your behalf and any improper police procedures and provide effective representation.

The DUI legal process can be long and complicated. For your best chance at returning to your life, you should enlist the services of a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney. Contact our DUI Lawyers 24/7 to begin your defense today. 

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