Going to Trial for an Illinois DUI

Going to Trial for an Illinois DUI So, you’ve been charged with a DUI in Illinois and you’re considering taking your case to trial. First off, it’s totally understandable to feel overwhelmed and unsure of what to do next. But don’t panic – you’ve got options and there are steps you can take to navigate this process. In this guide, we’ll break down everything you need to know about going to trial for a DUI…

Going to Trial for an Illinois DUI

So, you’ve been charged with a DUI in Illinois and you’re considering taking your case to trial. First off, it’s totally understandable to feel overwhelmed and unsure of what to do next. But don’t panic – you’ve got options and there are steps you can take to navigate this process. In this guide, we’ll break down everything you need to know about going to trial for a DUI in Illinois, from the legal process to practical tips for mounting your defense. Let’s dive in.

Understanding Illinois DUI Laws

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of going to trial, it‘s important to have a basic understanding of Illinois’ DUI laws. In Illinois, you can be charged with a DUI if you’re caught driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher, or if there‘s any amount of a controlled substance in your system.The penalties for a DUI conviction can be pretty steep, even for a first offense. You could be looking at up to a year in jail, a fine of up to $2,500, and a revocation of your driver’s license for a minimum of one year. And those penalties only go up for repeat offenders or in cases with aggravating factors like a high BAC or an accident resulting in injury or death.

Should You Take Your Case to Trial?

Okay, so you’ve been charged with a DUI. What now? One of the biggest decisions you’ll need to make is whether to take a plea deal or take your case to trial. There‘s no easy answer, and the right choice will depend on the specific facts of your case. But here are a few things to consider:

  • The strength of the evidence against you
  • Whether you have any viable defenses
  • The potential penalties you’re facing
  • Your personal tolerance for risk

In general, taking a plea deal can be a good option if the evidence against you is strong and the prosecutor is offering a reasonable deal. Plea bargains often come with reduced charges or lighter sentences compared to what you might face if convicted at trial.On the flip side, if you have a strong defense or the evidence against you is weak, rolling the dice at trial might be the way to go. You‘ll have the chance to present your case to a judge or jury and fight for an acquittal. Just keep in mind that trials can be unpredictable, and there’s always the risk of a conviction and harsher sentence than what was offered in a plea deal.At the end of the day, the decision to go to trial is a personal one that should be made in close consultation with your DUI defense attorney. They can help you weigh your options and make an informed choice.

The DUI Trial Process in Illinois

So, you‘ve decided to take your DUI case to trial. What can you expect? Here’s a high-level overview of how the process typically unfolds in Illinois:


After your arrest, you’ll be formally charged with DUI at an arraignment hearing. This is where you’ll enter an initial plea of “guilty,” “not guilty,” or “no contest.” If you plead not guilty, the judge will schedule your case for trial and may also set conditions for your release, like posting bail.

Pre-Trial Motions

Before trial, your attorney may file various pre-trial motions to shape the case in your favor. Some common pre-trial motions in DUI cases include:

  • Motions to suppress evidence that was obtained illegally, like the results of a blood or breath test administered without probable cause
  • Motions to dismiss the charges altogether, if there are legal or factual deficiencies in the prosecution’s case
  • Motions to compel discovery, i.e. to get access to evidence in the prosecution’s possession

Jury Selection

If you’re having a jury trial (as opposed to a bench trial decided by a judge), the first step will be selecting a jury. During jury selection, the judge, prosecutor, and your defense attorney will question a pool of potential jurors to assess their ability to be fair and impartial. Your attorney will try to identify and remove jurors who may be biased against you.

Opening Statements

Once the jury is seated, the trial begins with opening statements from the prosecutor and your defense attorney. These statements preview the evidence and arguments each side plans to present. The prosecutor goes first and will try to paint a compelling picture of your guilt. Your attorney then has the chance to outline your defense and plant seeds of doubt.

Witness Testimony

After opening statements, the prosecutor will begin calling witnesses to testify against you. These may include the arresting officer, eyewitnesses, or expert witnesses like toxicologists. Your attorney will have the opportunity to cross-examine each witness and try to undermine their credibility or poke holes in their testimony.Once the prosecution rests, it’s the defense’s turn to call witnesses. Your attorney may call witnesses to support your defense, such as an expert who can challenge the reliability of the BAC testing equipment. You also have the right to testify in your own defense, but you’re not required to. Your attorney can help you weigh the pros and cons of taking the stand.

Closing Arguments

After all the evidence has been presented, the prosecutor and your defense attorney will make their closing arguments. This is their final chance to sway the jury. The prosecutor will argue that the evidence proves your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, while your attorney will highlight the weaknesses in the prosecution‘s case and argue for acquittal.

Jury Deliberations and Verdict

After closing arguments, the jury will deliberate in private until they reach a unanimous verdict. If they find you guilty, the judge will schedule a sentencing hearing. If they acquit you, you’ll be free to go. In some cases, a jury may fail to reach a consensus, resulting in a “hung jury” and a potential mistrial.

Defending Against a DUI Charge in Illinois

Facing a DUI charge can feel daunting, but remember, you have the right to defend yourself. Here are some common defense strategies that may be available in your case:

Challenging the Traffic Stop

For a DUI arrest to be valid, the officer must have had probable cause to pull you over in the first place. If the initial traffic stop was illegal, any evidence gathered thereafter (like failed sobriety tests or a high BAC reading) may get thrown out. Some examples of unlawful stops include:

  • Pulling you over based on a hunch rather than a reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing
  • Stopping you for a minor traffic violation that wouldn’t typically justify a stop
  • Prolonging the stop beyond what’s necessary to address the initial reason for pulling you over

Challenging the Field Sobriety Tests

Field sobriety tests (FSTs) are a battery of physical and cognitive tasks, like walking a straight line or reciting the alphabet backwards, that officers use to assess impairment. But these tests are often subjective and unreliable. Your attorney may be able to challenge the validity of the FSTs by arguing that:

  • The tests were not administered properly according to standardized protocols
  • The officer lacked sufficient training to administer and interpret the tests
  • Your “failing” performance can be explained by factors other than impairment, like fatigue, nervousness, or a medical condition

Challenging the Chemical Tests

Chemical tests, like breathalyzers or blood draws, are considered the gold standard for measuring BAC. But these tests are not foolproof. Depending on the facts of your case, your attorney may be able to challenge the chemical test results by arguing that:

  • The testing equipment was not properly calibrated or maintained
  • The officer did not follow proper procedures in administering the test
  • Your BAC reading is unreliable due to factors like medical conditions, acid reflux, or residual mouth alcohol

Introducing Alternative Explanations for Impairment

Even if the prosecution has evidence that you were impaired, that doesn’t necessarily mean alcohol or drugs were to blame. Your attorney may be able to introduce alternative explanations for signs of impairment, such as:

  • Fatigue or sleep deprivation
  • Allergies or illness
  • Legally prescribed medications
  • Neurological conditions like ADHD or autism

The key is to cast doubt on the prosecution‘s theory that your impairment was the result of intoxication.

Tips for Mounting a Strong DUI Defense

If you’re facing a DUI charge in Illinois, here are some practical tips to give yourself the best shot at a favorable outcome:

Hire an Experienced DUI Attorney

First and foremost, you‘ll want to hire a skilled DUI defense attorney who knows the ins and outs of Illinois DUI law. Look for an attorney with a track record of success in DUI cases and experience taking cases to trial. A knowledgeable attorney can assess the strengths and weaknesses of your case, advise you on your options, and craft a tailored defense strategy.

Be Honest With Your Attorney

Your attorney can only mount an effective defense if they have all the facts. Be upfront and honest with your attorney about what happened, even if parts of your story are unflattering. Attorney-client privilege means that anything you tell your lawyer in confidence can’t be used against you. Withholding information will only undermine your defense.

Gather Evidence to Support Your Defense

Start collecting evidence that may be helpful to your case as soon as possible. This may include:

  • Names and contact information of any eyewitnesses
  • Photos or videos of the scene of your arrest
  • Medical records documenting any health conditions that may have affected your behavior or chemical test results
  • Receipts or time-stamped documents that can establish a timeline of your whereabouts and alcohol consumption

The more evidence you have to support your defense, the better.

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