If this is your first Illinois DUI arrest, things may not be as bad as they could be. The sentence that celebrity playwright and actor Sam Shepard received for his Bloomington, Illinois DUI arrest is fairly typical for first offenders.
The term “first offender” has two very different meanings for someone arrested for an Illinois DUI. That is because an Illinois DUI takes two related but different tracks.
At the time of the DUI arrest, the police will almost certainly ask you to take a breath test. Unless you take the test and register less than .08, your license will be suspended. The length of the suspension will depend upon whether you took or refused the test and whether or not you are a first offender.
Before I go any further, you should understand the difference between an Illinois driver’s license suspension and an Illinois driver’s license revocation.
A suspension is for a limited amount of time. When the suspension ends, your license is automatically returned to you upon payment of the appropriate fee.
A revocation is for a specified period of time during which you cannot drive, just like a suspension. However, unlike a suspension, a revocation ends only after you have an Illinois driver’s license reinstatement hearing with the Illinois Secretary of State. In other words, it is not automatic.
Remember that a driver’s license suspension occurs if you refuse the breath test or take and fail it. A driver’s license revocation occurs if you are convicted of DUI.
For purpose of the suspension, you are a first offender if you have not had a DUI arrest in the previous 5 years. If you have had a DUI arrest in the previous 5 years, you are a non-first offender.
As a first offender, your Illinois driver’s license will be suspended for 6 months if you take the test. If you are a first offender and refuse to take the test, your Illinois driver’s license will be suspended for 12 months.
During the period of your first offender suspension, you are entitled to receive a Monitoring Device Driving Permit (MDDP). The MDDP allows you to drive at any time for any reason and anywhere. However, you must at all times operate a motor vehicle with a Breath Alcohol Interlock Ignition Device (BAIID). As the article states, you must pay for this device. Furthermore, if you decline the MDDP and are caught driving, you will be facing a felony charge if convicted, and your original suspension will be doubled.
If you are a non-first offender and you take the breath test and register over the legal limit, your Illinois driver’s license will be suspended for 12 months. If as a non-first offender you refuse the test, your Illinois driver’s license will be suspended for 3 years.
In neither situation will you be allowed to drive for any reason, not even on a restricted basis. Moreover, if you are caught driving, you will be facing a felony charge if convicted, and your original suspension will be doubled.
For purposes of the DUI charge itself, you are a first offender only if you have not had a previous DUI conviction, court supervision or a reckless driving charge that was the result of a plea agreement. Mr. Shephard was apparently a first offender because according to the article, he received court supervision.
Court supervision as a result of an Illinois DUI arrest is important because it avoids an Illinois driver’s license revocation and the need to have a driver’s license reinstatement hearing with the Illinois Secretary of State. In addition, supervision avoids any jail time that might be imposed (up to 364 days for a first offense) if you are convicted of DUI.
DUI supervision is available only once in your lifetime and only if you have never been convicted of DUI. Because of its once-in-a-lifetime nature, it is important that you consult with an Illinois DUI lawyer before you blindly accept a supervision offer. You may have a defensible case today but if you burn up the one time supervision, you might wish you had it later if you ever face a second DUI charge that is not defensible.