Experienced Chicago Criminal Defense Attorneys Answer Frequently Asked Questions About Illinois Criminal Law and Procedure
The criminal defense lawyers at Johnson, Westra, Broecker, Whittaker & Newitt, P.C. provide the following answers to frequently asked questions regarding criminal law and procedure in Illinois. If you have other questions or need help with a DUI or other criminal law matter, please contact our offices in Chicago and surrounding areas for immediate assistance.
What is the legal limit for DUI in Illinois?
You can be arrested for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) if a test reveals your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to be .08% or higher. However, it is important to know that you can also be arrested with a BAC between .05% and .08% if there is other evidence that your driving is impaired, such as if you are observed weaving or drifting out of your lane.
The legal limit is also different for certain types of drivers. For instance, if you hold a commercial driver’s license, then the legal limit for DUI is .04%. School bus drivers and drivers under the age of 21 can be arrested for DUI for having any amount of alcohol at all in their system.
Can I refuse to take a blood alcohol test?
If an officer has reason to believe you may be intoxicated, you can be required to submit to a chemical test of your breath, blood or urine. If you refuse this test, your license will be suspended for 12 months, or three years if you have a previous DUI conviction. In contrast, if you take the test and are arrested for DUI, you can lose your license for 6 months for a first offense or one year for a subsequent offense.
Don’t confuse the chemical test with a preliminary breath test or field sobriety test, such as being made to walk a straight line or follow a pen with your eyes. You can lawfully refuse these tests without having your license suspended. Although the prosecution can use your refusal as evidence against you, your attorney can offer persuasive reasons why you refused these often subjective and inaccurate testing methods.
Do I have to let the police search me? Can they search my home or car without a warrant?
All searches must be reasonable, and in most cases they must be supported by probable cause and/or a warrant. However, there are many exceptions. For instance, the police may conduct a limited search of your person for weapons if they stop you for questioning (a “stop and frisk”) or if they arrest you. A search of the car is also allowed without a warrant in many instances. A warrantless search of the home, however, is limited to only a few very specific situations, such as if police are chasing a suspect into a home.
The police can always conduct a search if you give them your consent, but you always have the right to withhold that consent. Make sure you understand whether the police are asking your permission to conduct a search. You do not want to obstruct the police from conducting a lawful search, but it is almost never in your best interests to give them your permission to search. If the search is unlawful, your lawyer can have the evidence excluded or even get the charges dropped and the case dismissed.
Is it okay to talk to the police?
The police may lawfully stop you and ask you to identify yourself and explain your presence if they have reason to believe you may be guilty of a crime in the area, but beyond that, you are not under any duty to answer questions from the police. Even though you may have nothing to hide and want to be helpful and cooperative, the goal of police questioning is to turn up evidence that incriminates you. For instance, if they can get you to make contradictory statements, those statements can be used against you. The police are well-trained in interrogation techniques; they are professionals at getting you to make incriminating statements.
Always request to speak to an attorney before answering any questions, whether you have been arrested or not. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can advise you on your rights and may even accompany you during any questioning. Your lawyer may be able to clear your name before any charges are ever filed. If charges are filed, your lawyer may be able to influence what charges are brought and keep you from being arrested at your home or workplace. However, the ability of an attorney to help you can be greatly diminished if you have already given statements to the police.