In Illinois, as in all states, it’s a crime to operate a vehicle with a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher. If arrested and convicted for this crime, judges typically apply a set of minimum and maximum sentencing guidelines. When determining the sentence, judges and prosecutors commonly weigh mitigating and aggravating factors.
Mitigating factors reduce the punishment because they may explain or excuse the bad behavior. For example, if impairment was the result of a lawfully prescribed medication, or the driver had an otherwise spotless Illinois driving record and the driver’s .BAC just barely cracked .08, or the driver has voluntarily completed a substance abuse program, courts and prosecutors may be more inclined to apply a minimum rather than a maximum sentence.
On the other hand, if there are aggravating factors present, prosecutors and courts are less likely to provide a lenient sentence. This may be for two reasons: public pressure in higher-profile DUI arrests and state laws requiring stiffer sentences. DUIs are a hot button issue for elected (and appointed officials) and the days when a judge or prosecutor could sweep a terrible DUI accident off the record have faded away in most jurisdictions. At the same time, recognizing that not all DUIs are the same, lobbying groups such as M.A.D.D. have applied to state legislatures to build aggravating factors into the law. Typically aggravating factors include prior DUI convictions, reckless driving or speeding, driving while a license is suspended, causing serious personal injury to another person, or a DUI arrest with a child present (ages defining a child vary from state to state)
In Illinois, any DUI offense resulting in felony charges is classified as Aggravated DUI. Any mandatory term of imprisonment or community service is not subject to suspension or reduction. Any person sentenced to probation or conditional discharge also must serve a minimum 480 hours of community service or 10 days imprisonment. Aggravated DUI includes the following offenses:
Although many DUIs can be handled without the assistance of an attorney, an attorney’s counsel is strongly recommended if arrested for a DUI with aggravating factors (such as an elevated BAC). That’s because when aggravating factors are present, the penalties are so much more severe and the effects can stay with you for much longer than a typical Illinois DUI.