In this article, we will explain whether a DUI arrest is charged as a felony or misdemeanor in Illinois. In short, a DUI in Illinois can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the circumstances surrounding the arrest. To go into further detail, we will discuss when a DUI is a misdemeanor and when a DUI is a felony, aggravating factors that lead to additional penalties for DUI, the Illinois summary suspension process, and DUIs under age 21.
A driver can be arrested for a DUI if he or she is operating a vehicle on a public road with a blood-alcohol level of .08 or above. A first or second-time DUI offender is usually charged with a Class A misdemeanor in Illinois. Other circumstances involving a first or second DUI can merit a harsher charge, however, and will be discussed later in this article. The maximum punishment for a Class A misdemeanor in Illinois includes up to one year of jail and a fine up to $2,500.
An individual’s third DUI arrest results in being charged with a Class 2 felony, in which he or she can face up to three to seven years in prison, probation lasting up to 48 months, as well as additional fines, fees and mandatory treatment and/or meetings. For subsequent arrests, the charges and penalties become harsher.
A fourth DUI offense carries a three to seven-year prison sentence and is non-probationable. A fifth DUI offense is a non-probationable Class 1 felony including a four to 17-year prison sentence. A sixth DUI offense is also non-probationable, and is a Class X felony carrying a mandatory six to 30-year prison sentence.
If the DUI offense results in the death of another person, the offender will be charged with a Class 2 felony – regardless if it’s a first, second or subsequent offense. The individual could face three to 14 years in prison for one death, or a six to 28-year prison sentence for two or more deaths. The individual may be eligible for probation, but the court would have to find extraordinary circumstances to avoid imposing a prison sentence, making it very rare for an offender responsible for the death of another to not face any jail time.
Illinois has additional penalties for offenders whose blood-alcohol content is well above the legal limit. For example, a blood-alcohol level of .16 or above merits a mandatory jail sentence of 90 days. Drivers also face additional penalties if a minor under the age of 16 years old is in the car at the time of the arrest.
For more on other factors that may cause a DUI to carry additional penalties, check out our article, Illinois Aggravated DUI Explained.
In addition to criminal penalties, Illinois also imposes administrative penalties in all DUI cases. This is generally referred to as the Statutory Summary Suspension process. Perhaps the most common penalty under the Statutory Summary Suspension process is the suspension of driving privileges for an individual arrested for a DUI. The Statutory Summary Suspension process is separate from the criminal consequences of the DUI (such as a misdemeanor or felony) as it follows its own set of rules, but typically the process will proceed in conjunction with the criminal DUI case.
For those under 21 years of age, Illinois has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to drinking and driving. This means that if a driver under 21 years old is found having any alcohol in their system – regardless of the legal limit – he or she will be arrested for committing DUI.