Is Driving Under the Influence a Misdemeanor or Felony in Illinois?

St. Charles DUI defense attorney

In Illinois, it is against the law to be in actual physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If a police officer suspects you of drunk driving, you will likely be asked to complete a field sobriety test or breath test such as a Breathalyzer. If your blood alcohol content is 0.08 percent or more, or you show obvious signs of impairment, you face arrest and possible DUI prosecution. Criminal penalties for an Illinois DUI depend heavily on the circumstances of the alleged crime. If you or someone you know has been arrested for DUI, a criminal defense lawyer can help ensure that your rights are fully protected.

First-Time DUI Is Typically a Misdemeanor Charge

Most first-time Illinois DUI charges are Class A misdemeanors punishable by driver’s license suspension for one year, a fine of up to $1,000, and a possible incarceration period of up to six months. Unless certain aggravating circumstances were present, the majority of first-time DUI convictions do not result in significant jail time. Furthermore, you may be able to regain your ability to drive before the driver’s license suspension period ends via a Monitoring Device Driving Permit (MDDP) that will require you to use a breath alcohol ignition interlock device (BAIID). 

In order to qualify for this permit, you must not have been convicted of DUI or received a statutory summary suspension in the past five years. You may also not qualify for an MDDP if death or major injury to another resulted from your intoxicated driving, you have previously been convicted of certain crimes, or if your driver’s license is invalid. A second DUI conviction is also usually a Class A misdemeanor, but the possible criminal penalties include a minimum jail sentence of five days and a maximum jail sentence of one year.

Felony DUI Convictions Carry Much Harsher Penalties

A felony DUI is punished much more severely than a misdemeanor DUI. A DUI can be elevated to a Class 3 felony if you have previously been convicted of aggravated DUI resulting in death or reckless homicide. You face a Class 4 felony if:

  • You do not have a valid driver’s license or were uninsured.

  • You were speeding in a school zone and caused another person's injury.

  • You were driving under the influence while transporting children on a school bus.

  • You caused an accident that resulted in major bodily harm, disability, or disfigurement.

  • You were driving a for-hire vehicle transporting passengers.

Your DUI charge may be elevated to a Class 2 felony punishable by up to seven years in jail and fines up to $25,000 if you meet any of the following criteria:

  • You caused an accident that results in another person’s death.

  • You caused an accident that injures a passenger under age 16.

  • You have previously received two or more DUI convictions.

  • This is not your first DUI, and there was a child under age 16 in the car at the time of the arrest.

Contact a St. Charles DUI Defense Lawyer

Drunk driving is taken seriously in Illinois, with stiff penalties for those motorists who are convicted. Whether you are facing a misdemeanor or felony DUI, an experienced Illinois criminal defense attorney can help. At the Law Office of Glenn M. Sowa, LLC, we will explore your options for driving relief programs and reduced jail sentences while ensuring your rights were not violated during your traffic stop. Schedule a free, confidential consultation by calling us today at 630-232-1780.