Driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious criminal offense that carries penalties in every state. In Illinois, drivers under the influence are responsible for hundreds of deaths on the state's roads every year, and underage drivers cause around 17 percent of all these fatalities. As such, if your teen drives under the influence, he or she could get into serious trouble. Learn more about the problem and the penalties associated with DUI with the five following crucial facts for parents.
Many teens believe that alcohol improves their driving ability
If you have convinced yourself that your son or daughter would never drive under the influence, you may need to think again. Studies show that underage DUI is a serious problem, with widespread abuse of driving laws.
A survey in 2013 found that 23 percent of teens admitted that they had driven under the influence of alcohol. More worryingly, around 20 percent of the respondents said that they believed alcohol improved their performance behind the wheel. Surveys show that the end of the school year and the summer months are particularly dangerous, as excitement and peer pressure can cloud teens' judgement.
Illinois operates a zero tolerance policy to underage drinking
To combat the issue of underage DUI, Illinois operates a zero tolerance policy to drinking and driving. As such, if a traffic cop finds any trace of alcohol in your son or daughter's blood, he or she could fall foul of the law.
A traffic cop can stop a vehicle and request a chemical test if he or she has probable cause to believe that your teen is DUI. What's more, in many cases, the policeman's definition of probable cause will link to the behavior of the people inside the car. For example, a cop could pull your teen over for running a red light, but if he or she sees other unruly teens in the back of the car, the officer may request a chemical test.
Your teen could go to jail for a DUI offense
DUI penalties in Illinois are severe, and if a traffic cop catches your son or daughter drinking and driving, you shouldn't rule out a prison sentence. The penalty incurred will depend on the amount of alcohol in the teen's blood as well as how your son or daughter responds to the traffic cop. According to these factors, your teen could face a Zero Tolerance charge, a DUI charge or both.
A Zero Tolerance charge normally applies when the blood alcohol count (BAC) is no higher than 0.07. For a first offense, your teen will receive a 3-month suspension of driving privileges. For a second offense, that penalty will increase to a 1-year suspension. If the teen refuses to give a chemical test, those penalties can double.
If the BAC exceeds 0.08, a traffic cop may push for a DUI charge. In these cases, your teen could face a 2-year suspension of driving privileges (first offense), increasing to a 5-year suspension for a second offense. What's more, if the offense is serious enough, your teen could face a prison sentence of up to one year.
Your teen could lose his or her insurance
If your teen receives a DUI charge, the cost of his or her insurance is likely to increase significantly. Insurance companies will now treat your child as a high risk, and you can expect the premium to rise in line with this for up to five years. In many cases, insurers will refuse to renew the policy at the end of the year. Some insurers will even cancel the policy outright, after which your son or daughter may struggle to get another policy.
A DUI incident could lead to other charges
According to what has happened, a traffic cop could impose other charges. For example, if there are other underage drinkers in the car, the driver could face a charge of distributing alcohol to minors or even child endangerment. If the cop finds evidence of fake ID used to buy the alcohol, your teen could end up in even more trouble.
Underage DUI drivers cause many of the deaths that occur annually on Illinois roads, and parents should understand the severity of the problem. For detailed legal advice, contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer.