If you are suspected of Driving Under the Influence (DUI) in Illinois, you have decisions to make. If you have been drinking and or are nervous, you may not make the wisest decisions.
This is an important time because DUI has two different consequences, although they are, somewhat confusingly, related. DUI is a crime that even for a first offense with no aggravating circumstances, is a Class-A misdemeanor, just one step below a felony charge. It is a crime because you can be sent to jail for up to 364 days and you can be fined up to $2,500.00 (625 ILCS 5/11-500)
There is another part to a DUI arrest, which involves not only efforts by the police to gather evidence against you to convict you of DUI but also to get you off the road temporarily while the DUI case is going on in court. The evidence gathering comes in three general forms.
First of all, the police officer, just like any other person, can observe behaviors that suggest intoxication. You will see these described in the police reports as bloodshot, glassy eyes, slurred speech, unsure walking, poor balance, difficult following directions (such as retrieving your driver’s license, registration and insurance card) and other things we all notice about someone whom we suspect is intoxicated.
The officer will additionally have the benefit, in many cases. of observing your driving behavior. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has developed a list of driving-related actions that are indicative of alcohol impairment. The most common is a wide turn.
The police also use specific NHTSA-approved tests that they will testify help determine if your BAC level is .08, which in Illinois is the legal limit. These tests are known as the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFST). There are three of them.
The first is the Horizontal Gaze Nystagimus (HGN). In this test, the officer moves a pencil in front of your face. By observing the movement of your eyes, some claim he can tell if you are physically impaired by alcohol.
Test number two is the walk-and-turn. In this test, you are asked to walk a straight line in a very specific and awkward manner for 9 steps, turn around in an uncommon way and walk this imaginary line 9 steps back towards from where you started.
Finally is the one-legged stand. Lift one foot six inches off the ground and hold it there while counting to 30. Do not use your hands for balance.
The officer scores each of these tests and determines if you passed or failed. If you failed, you will be asked to take breath tests.
If you take the breath tests and have a positive result (at least .08), your driver’s license will be suspended, which is the second consequence of the DUI stop. If you refuse to take the test, your license will be suspended for a longer period of time than if you had taken it. 625 ILCS 5/6-206.1
Think about it: if a cop stops you and suspects you are under the influence, the chances are good that he will find a reason to arrest you, including scoring you as failing the SFST. There is no penalty for refusing to do these tests; taking them (cooperating) would only seem to work against you.
Is DUI court different from a driver’s license suspension hearing at the Illinois Secretary of State? December 14, 2012, Illinois DUI Lawyer Blawg
Illinois Driving Under the Influence (DUI) and standardized field sobriety tests, February 11, 2010, Illinois DUI Lawyer Blawg