illinois DUI Laws & Penalties

The state of Illinois has very strict DUI laws. It penalizes drunk drivers heavily to ensure that they will not repeat the same mistake again. Drivers who drive under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or the combination of both, pose a serious risk to the safety, health, and life of people on the road, as well as to their property.

Unlike many other US states, Illinois has no look back period. It means that all your previous DUI offenses anywhere around the country count as subsequent and bring heavier penalties.

If you or a close one have been charged with DUI, it is important to understand what an Illinois DUI offense is and how it may affect your or your loved one’s future.

What is an Illinois DUI Offense?

In Illinois, you must nor driver under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or the combination of both drugs and alcohol. Different amounts of alcohol impair the driving abilities of different drivers, but the Illinois DUI laws set a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) threshold that is the same for all drivers according to the “per se” doctrine.

These thresholds are:

  • 0.00% for drivers under 21 years of age
  •  0.04% for commercial driving license holders
  •  0.08% for all other drivers
  •  0.16% brings enhanced penalties

When it comes to driving under the influence of drugs, it is important to note that driving under the influence of medical marijuana or prescription drugs is a DUI if that impairs your driving abilities.


penalties for dui in illinois

Aside from being drunk and meeting or exceeding these thresholds, there are two other grounds to get charged with DUI in Illinois:

  • Implied consent law. You must submit to a chemical test when a police officer wants to determine your BAC level. He or she may request you to do a breathalyzer test, a blood or a urine test and you have to do it.
  • According to the implied consent law, every driver has expressed their consent to do the test by obtaining a driving license. The police officer cannot force you to do the test, but if you refuse it, you won’t avoid penalties. Moreover, your driving license may be suspended for a longer period of time.
  • Open container law. While operating a vehicle, you must not have an open container filled with alcohol in the passenger area. It doesn’t matter if the driver was drunk at all or not. As long as there is an open container there, you’ll get charged.
    For an example, if you are driving a car and you haven’t drunk at all, but the passengers on the back seat have an open bottle with beer, you be charged for DUI even if the passenger with the bottle hasn’t had a single zip yet.
    The mere fact that the bottle has been opened is enough for DUI charges.

Penalties for Illinois DUI Offenses

A conviction for a DUI offense in the Prairies State results in both administrative and criminal penalties. They include driving license suspension, fines, community service, and possible jail time, among others.

The severity of the penalties depends on multiple factors, such as the age of the driver, the level of impairment, whether there was a child in the car at the time of arrest, but the most important is how many previous DUI offense you have in your record. The more offenses you have, the heavier the penalties.

As mentioned above, Illinois has no lookback period and counts all your previous DUI offenses. Even the offense you’ve committed 20 years ago counts today.

First Illinois DUI Offense

Your first ever Illinois DUI offense is a misdemeanor. It results with the following consequences:

  • Jail time of up to 1 year with no mandatory minimum
  •  If there was a child under the age of 16 in the vehicle at the time of arrest, jail time of up to 18 months, along with 25 days of community service benefiting children and an additional fine of $1000
  •  Fines of up to $2500
  •  For a BAC of 0.16% or more, an additional fine of $500 and a minimum of 100 hours in community service
  •  Driving license suspension of at least 1 year
  •  Suspended vehicle registration
  •  Alcohol and drugs evaluation and risk education program

Second Illinois DUI Offense

Your second Illinois DUI offense, no matter how long ago you committed the first one, results in:

  • Jail time of at least 5 days to up to 1 year or up to 240 hours of community service
  •  Fines of up to $2500
  •  An additional fine of $1250 and additional mandatory imprisonment of 2 days for BAC of 0.16% or higher
  •  If there was a child under the age of 16 in the vehicle at the time of arrest, an additional 25 days of community service benefiting children and an additional fine of $5000 apply
  •  Driving license suspension of at least 5 years
  •  Suspended vehicle registration
  •  Illinois DUI Risk Education Class

Third Illinois DUI Offense

The third Illinois DUI offense is a Class C felony, hence it is punishable by heavier penalties, such as:

  • Jail time of at least 10 days to up to 7 years or up to 480 hours of community service
  •  Fines of up to $25.000
  •  An additional fine of $2500 and additional mandatory imprisonment of 90 days for BAC of 0.16% or higher
  •  If there was a child under the age of 16 in the vehicle at the time of arrest, an additional 25 days of community service benefiting children and an additional fine of $25.000 apply
  •  Driving license suspension of at least 10 years
  •  Suspended vehicle registration
  •  Alcohol education program

Fourth and Every Other Subsequent Illinois DUI Offense

The fourth and every other subsequent Illinois DUI offense is also a felony. All of them are penalized as follows:

  •  Jail time of at least 10 days to up to 7 years or up to 480 hours of community service
  •  Fines of up to $25.000
  •  An additional fine of $5000 and additional mandatory imprisonment of 90 days for BAC of 0.16% or higher
  •  If there was a child under the age of 16 in the vehicle at the time of arrest, an additional 25 days of community service benefiting children and an additional fine of $25.000 apply
  •  Driving license revocation for life
  •  Suspended vehicle registration
  •  Alcohol and drugs evaluation treatment program

Illinois DUI Penalties for Test Refusal

Refusing the chemical test in Illinois means a violation of the implied consent law. It leads to the following driving license suspensions:

  • 1 year for the first offense
  •  6 months for the first offense for underage drivers
  •  2 year for the second offense
  •  3 months for the second offense for underage drivers
  •  2 year for the third offense
  •  3 months for the third offense for underage drivers

Illinois DUI Penalties for Underage Drivers

Due to their age, the Illinois DUI laws treat drivers under the age of 21 differently. The prescribed penalties for the DUI offenses committed by them are:

  • 3-month driving license suspension for the first offense
  •  1-year driving license suspension for the second offense

However, if the BAC of the underage driver is 0.08% or more than the penalties are harsher:

  • All the penalties that apply to drivers of the age of 21 or older, including jail and fines
  • Attending the Youthful Intoxicated Driver’s Visitation Program

Illinois DUI penalties for Commercial Drivers

Illinois courts are obliged to punish commercial driving license holder by the nation-wide established penalties for commercial drivers. If a commercial driver is convicted of DUI, whether for operating under influence a commercial vehicle or a private one, in addition to all the other penalties will be subject to:

  • A commercial driving license suspension for 1 year for the first offense
  • If the driver usually drives hazardous materials, the license suspension for the first offense is 3 years
  • The second DUI offense will result in permanent revocation of the commercial driving license 

This means that in addition to all the other penalties, commercial drivers are likely to lose their jobs if drink and drive.

Illinois DUI Offense Due to Medical Marijuana

It is legal to have marijuana in your organism while driving in the state of Illinois, but only as long as your driving abilities remain intact.

If you use marijuana due to medical reasons, however, it doesn’t exempt you from the duty to drive only if your driving abilities are not impaired. Medical marijuana has the capacity to impair them, therefore it may lead to an offense and DUI penalties.

To avoid penalties, the following criteria have to be met:

  • You must be a registered user of medical marijuana
  • Your driving abilities must not be impaired

Determining the impairment is tricky. According to the law, the police officer may request you to submit to a field sobriety test to check out whether you can drive safely or not. However, the same police officer may not be able to testify against you due to lack of the necessary certification.

Therefore, if you have been charged with DUI due to the use of medical marijuana, ensure to challenge it. You may have fair chances to win.

Reinstating Your Illinois Driving License

Driving license reinstatement in Illinois is not as simple as in most other US states. Here you’ll have to go through a hearing.

The reinstatement procedure starts with you contacting the Secretary of State hearing officer to determine your eligibility for getting the license back. If you are eligible, you’ll schedule a court hearing on which the court will decide on the request.

If the court’s decision is in your favor, you have a clear path to reinstating your license back.

Additional Illinois resources you may need: