When an officer arrests a suspected drunk driver, the clock begins ticking toward a statutory license suspension. That's true whether the driver's Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) was over the legal limit or the driver refused to submit to chemical testing of the BAC via the Breathalyzer. In Illinois, a driver who is arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI) has only 46 days before the driver's license is automatically suspended.
It is important to understand that Illinois law includes dual process after a DUI arrest. One part of the process is the criminal proceeding. The criminal process after a DUI arrest provides the basis for a judge, jury or plea to determine the guilt or innocence of a DUI suspect.
The other process that begins after a DUI arrest affects the driver's license and is not dependent on a criminal conviction for a DUI. Under the Illinois Vehicle Code, a driver's license can be suspended 46 days after notice of a DUI arrest unless the DUI suspect challenges the license suspension.
Driver's License Suspension Basics
A driver's license suspension differs from a driver's license revocation. A suspension or a summary suspension occurs after a DUI arrest but is not dependent on a DUI conviction. A driver who is arrested for a DUI has 46 days to fight the driver's license suspension, whereas it's the conviction that will result in a driver's license revocation.
A driver's license revocation completely eliminates driving privileges for the period determined by an administrative hearing. The process to reinstate the driver's license after a revocation requires a more formal hearing, rather than just paying a fine. A Secretary of State hearing is required before a revoked license may be reinstated. License revocations last longer, and are permanent in some circumstances such as a fourth DUI conviction.
In general, if the driver is over the age of 21 and has not been convicted of a DUI in the past, the driver has only a 46 day window to challenge the license suspension. If the driver does not file a motion against the suspension, the driver's license will be suspended for six to twelve months.
The length of a driver's license suspension after a DUI arrest depends on several factors, including the following:
- The age of the accused drunk driver: If the driver is under-21 years of age, the Zero Tolerance license suspension will apply, and the driver's license will be suspended.
- The BAC level of the driver: In general, a higher BAC level usually increases the length of a driver's license suspension following a DUI arrest.
- The status of the driver as a first time or repeat offender: If the driver has been convicted of a DUI in the past, the driver's license may be suspended for a longer period of time.
After a driver's license is suspended, the driver will have to pay a fine to have it reinstated to regain driving privileges.
What To Do After a DUI Arrest to Protect Driving Privileges
After a DUI arrest, time is of the essence. The arrested driver must take action within the 46 day window; otherwise the driver's license will be summarily suspended. If the driver is proactive in fighting the driver's license suspension within the 46 days, it is possible that the driver will not lose his or her driving privileges.
To protect a driver's license from suspension following a DUI arrest, proper motions must be filed to stop the process. Filing the proper motions after a DUI arrest puts the responsibility of action on the State. If the State doesn't respond with a hearing to discuss the motions within 30 days of receipt of the motions, then the State cannot suspend the driver's license.
It is also highly recommended to consult with a knowledgeable DUI defense attorney who can help. A DUI defense attorney will be able to assist in filing the proper motions that will begin the 30 day period to trigger the need for a formal hearing. A defense lawyer will also be able to evaluate the likelihood of a driver's license suspension or revocation and the possible success of a petition for the limited right to drive.
Reinstating a Driver's License After a Suspension
If the State suspends the driver's license, the driver may still be able to regain limited driving privileges. First time DUI offenders may be able to petition the court for a judicial driving permit (JDP). A JDP would allow the offender to drive to and from work, school and medical facilities for medical treatment. Repeat offenders whose license was revoked may be able to petition the Secretary of the State for a restricted driving permit if they qualify.
If the request for a JDP is denied, then the driver must wait until the suspension period ends to request reinstatement of his or her license.
A DUI Defense Lawyer Can Help
If you have been arrested for a DUI, a defense attorney will help you file the proper paperwork to fight a driver's license suspension. To protect your right to drive to work, school and maintain your freedom, contact a DUI defense lawyer today.