DUI Laws

Illinois Drunk Driving: DUI Laws and Penalties

DWI or Driving While Intoxicated laws in Illinois are governed by the state’s Vehicle Code. Driving under influence of alcohol or drugs has serious consequences, and we advise you to examine the law carefully and if in legal trouble, hire an experienced attorney.

Jump to:

  1. Summary
  2. Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)
  3. Medical Cannabis (Marijuana)
  4. Other Drugs
  5. Important DUI Laws
    1. Implied Consent Law
    2. Statutory Summary Suspension/Revocation
    3. Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device (BAIID)
  6. DUI Conviction
  7. DUI Penalties
  8. Related DUI Offenses
    1. Aggravated DUI
    2. Illegal Transportation of Alcohol / Open Container
    3. Operating Motorboat While Under Influence
    4. Parental Responsibility
    5. Driving With Suspended or Revoked License
    6. Contributing to DUI
  9. Drivers Under 21
  10. DUI Conviction Costs
  11. Tips & Advice
  12. Resources & Sources

Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of less than .08% is legal in Illinois.

Illinois driving under influence laws summary:

  • Alcohol: 0.08% Blood Alcohol Content
  • THC: 5 nanograms per milimeter of blood, or 10 nanograms or more of other bodily substance

DUI – Driving Under Influence is also referred to as Driving While Intoxicated (DWI). In Illinois these violations have serious and costly consequences, so take a look below for our basic overview of penalties and fines included.

Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)

Blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) is a measurement of the amount of alcohol in a person’s system based on a test of breath, blood, urine or other bodily substance. It is illegal to drive if a person’s BAC is .08 percent or more. However, a person can be convicted of Driving Under the Influence (DUI) when the BAC is less than .08 percent but driving ability is impaired.

BAC can be affected by:

  • The amount a person drinks — 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor contain the same amount of alcohol.
  • A person’s body weight or size. Usually, heavier people have more blood and body fluids to dilute the alcohol.

Other factors affect a person’s reaction to alcohol, including the food recently eaten, tolerance of alcohol and any drugs consumed. Time is the only way to remove the effects of alcohol. Food, coffee and showers do not speed up the elimination of alcohol from the body.

Medical Cannabis (Marijuana)

Illinois law allows for the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes. Individuals authorized to use cannabis must be registered with the Illinois Department of Public Health and secure a written certification from a physician licensed in Illinois. The Department of Public Health will issue a registry ID card, and a notation will be made on the registrant’s Illinois driving record.

A driver may not operate a motor vehicle while impaired by the use of cannabis prescribed for medicinal purposes and may not transport medical cannabis in a vehicle unless it is stored in a tamper-evident container and kept in an area that is inaccessible while the vehicle is in motion.

If a police officer stops a vehicle driven by a person who holds a medical cannabis registry card and the officer has reasonable suspicion to believe the person is impaired by the use of cannabis, the driver must submit to field sobriety testing. Refusal to submit to testing or failure of the field sobriety tests will result in the suspension of the person’s driver’s license.

Driving while impaired by the use of medical cannabis or driving with an open container may result in the loss of driving privileges as well as revocation of the driver’s medical cannabis card.

Other drugs

In addition to alcohol and cannabis, many prescription and nonprescription drugs impair safe driving. These drugs include but are not limited to: antihistamines, cold remedies, pain relievers, mood-changing drugs, hashish, LSD, heroin, cocaine, morphine, amphetamines (pep pills) and methamphetamines.

Mixing even small amounts of alcohol with other drugs is very dangerous. It is illegal to operate a motor vehicle on Illinois highways with a cannabis tetrahydrocannabinol concentration (THC) of either 5 nanograms or more per milliliter of whole blood or 10 nanograms or more per milliliter of other bodily substance.

It is illegal to operate a motor vehicle on Illinois highways with any trace of a controlled drug, substance or intoxicating compound in the blood.

Important DUI laws

Driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious offense that is classified in Illinois as a violent crime. If drivers are convicted of DUI, the offense will permanently remain on their driving record. If drivers are arrested and/or convicted, they may lose their driving privileges, vehicle registration, be fined and/or imprisoned.

When operating on Illinois roadways, a driver automatically consents to submit to certain tests. These can include breath, blood, urine or other bodily substance tests to determine if a driver has been drinking or using any other drug or intoxicating compound before or while driving. Illinois drivers may have a qualified person of their choice administer additional tests at their own expense.

If a person is involved in a personal injury crash or a crash resulting in the death of another person, law enforcement officers may have probable cause to believe a driver was impaired and must request a drug or alcohol test. If a driver refuses to take a breath test or if an officer believes that a blood test may disclose the presence of drugs, the driver may be held financially liable up to $500 for the costs of the blood tests if found guilty of DUI.

Refusing blood tests can be just as costly and with equal consequences as submitting to a blood screening test. If you had just a few drinks and think you may be near or even over the legal BAC limit, it’s still probably a good idea to never refuse a blood test.

Statutory Summary Suspension/Revocation Law

If a chemical test discloses a BAC of .08 percent or more, a THC level of either 5 nanograms or more per milliliter of whole blood or 10 nanograms or more per milliliter of other bodily substance, driving privileges will be suspended for six months.

This also applies to any amount of a drug substance or intoxicating compound resulting from the unlawful use or consumption of a controlled substance listed in the Illinois Controlled Substances Act, an intoxicating compound listed in the Use of Intoxicating Compounds Act or methamphetamine as listed in the Methamphetamine Control and Community Protection Act.

If a driver refuses to submit to chemical testing, driving privileges will be suspended for one year. Drivers who have a prior statutory summary suspension/revocation, court supervision for DUI or a conviction for DUI within the last five years are considered a second offender and will have their driving privileges suspended for three years for refusal of chemical testing or one year for failure of chemical testing. A test refusal may be used as evidence against a driver.

At the time of arrest, the officer will take the driver’s license and, if valid, provide the driver with a temporary receipt allowing the individual to drive for 45 days. The statutory summary suspension begins on the 46th day from the notice date provided by the police officer and will not be terminated until the driver pays the reinstatement fee and the driving record is updated.

If a driver refuses to submit to chemical testing after being involved in a crash where serious personal injury or death was involved, driving privileges will be revoked for a minimum of one year. Driving with already suspended or revoked license leads to more serious penalties.

Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device (BAIID)

All Illinois drivers who are a first-time DUI offenders, and wish to obtain and are eligible, may apply for a Monitoring Device Driving Permit (MDDP). An MDDP requires a Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device (BAIID) to be installed on their vehicle(s) at an approved installation site as a condition of driving relief during a statutory summary suspension period.

Unless declared indigent, the DUI offender is responsible for all costs associated with issuance of a permit and installation and monitoring of the BAIID. The Secretary of State’s office monitors the BAIID throughout the duration of the permit. The BAIID will alert the Secretary of State’s office if the driver attempts to start the vehicle after drinking alcohol or tampers with the device.

A first-time DUI offender may choose not to petition for a Monitoring Device Driving Permit and instead choose to refrain from driving during the suspension period. A DUI offender who chooses not to participate in the program and is subsequently caught driving a vehicle during the suspension period is guilty of a Class 4 felony.

DUI conviction

In addition to a statutory summary suspension/revocation, a driver may be convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol, other drugs and/or intoxicating compounds.

A DUI conviction results in a revocation of driving privileges:

  • First conviction results in a minimum one-year revocation.
  • Second conviction within 20 years results in a minimum five-year revocation.
  • Third conviction results in a minimum 10-year revocation.
  • Fourth and subsequent conviction results in a lifetime revocation.

A person convicted of DUI with a BAC of .16 percent or more, or DUI while transporting a child under age 16, is subject to enhanced penalties, including additional fines, community service and jail time.

A DUI conviction also requires a driver to file Financial Responsibility Insurance (SR-22) for three years. See more about car insurance in Illinois! Before driving privileges are restored, the person must undergo an alcohol/drug evaluation, successfully complete a rehabilitation or alcohol/drug education program, have an administrative hearing with the Secretary of State, pay a reinstatement fee and/or meet other requirements.

If an Illinois resident is convicted of DUI or refuses to submit to alcohol/drug testing in another state, the conviction or refusal will be reported to the Secretary of State’s office and be reflected on the person’s driving record. The offender will face administrative action against their driving privileges the same as if they were convicted of a DUI or refused chemical testing in Illinois.

DUI Charges and Penalties

Charges brought against violators depend on severity of the offense, and previous traffic law violations. Here are some of the possible penalties you are looking at if caught driving under influence in Illinois:

  • Class A misdemeanor – possible imprisonment of up to 1 year; fines of up to $2,500.
  • Class 4 felony: possible imprisonment of 1-3 years; fines of up to $25,000. Aggravated DUI involving injury has possible imprisonment of 1-12 years with fines up to $25,000.
  • Class 3 felony: possible imprisonment of 2-5 years; fines of up to $25,000.
  • Class 2 felony: possible imprisonment of 3- 7 years and fines of up to $25,000. Aggravated DUI with 1 death has possible imprisonment of 3-14 years and fines of up to $25,000. Aggravated DUI with multiple deaths has possible imprisonment of 6-28 years with fines going up to $25,000.
  • Class 1 felony: potential imprisonment of 4-15 years; fines of up to $25,000.
  • Class X felony: imprisonment of 6-30 years; fines of up to $25,000.

Charges brought against violators depend on severity of the crime, but also past offenses or additional violations that occur during the incident. In case of felony charges you absolutely must consult an experienced Illinois attorney to plead your case. Many charges can be reduced depending on circumstance.

The following is a list of other related offenses typically occurring during DUI violations. Any of these will carry additional fines and penalties.

Aggravated DUI

Drivers may be charged with Aggravated DUI if they:

  • Are involved in a death or personal injury crash while driving under the influence.
  • Have received a third or subsequent DUI.
  • Committed DUI while driving a school bus with children or operating a vehicle for hire such as a limousine.
  • Committed DUI without a valid driver’s license, permit or vehicle insurance.
  • Received a DUI after a previous history of reckless homicide or Aggravated DUI involving a death.

Illegal Transportation of Alcoholic Beverages/Open Container

It is illegal for anyone to drink alcoholic beverages in a vehicle. The driver and passengers may be issued a traffic citation. Passengers on chartered buses used for nonschool purposes, motor homes, mini motor homes and limousines are exempt. It is illegal to have alcohol in the passenger area of a vehicle if the container has been opened.

If there is a second offense within one year, a person’s driver’s license will be suspended for one year. Any driver under age 21 also faces the loss of driving privileges for one year for the first conviction and revocation of driving privileges for a subsequent conviction while under age 21.

Operating a Motorboat While Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs

It is illegal to operate a motorboat under the influence of alcohol, drugs or intoxicating compounds. Individuals who are involved in a motorboat crash where injuries or death occur may lose their driving privileges for refusing to submit to chemical testing to determine their BAC.

Driving privileges may also be lost for submitting to testing that discloses a BAC of .08; a THC level of either 5 nanograms or more per milliliter of whole blood or 10 nanograms or more per milliliter of other bodily substance; any amount of a drug, substance or intoxicating compound resulting from the unlawful use or consumption of a controlled substance listed in the Illinois Controlled Substances Act; or intoxicating compound listed in the Use of Intoxicating Compounds Act or methamphetamine as listed in the Methamphetamine Control and Community Protection Act.

Parental Responsibility

It is illegal for a parent or legal guardian to allow persons under age 21 to consume alcoholic beverages or fail to control access to alcohol on their private property or on any property under their control including a vehicle or water craft. If a death or personal injury occurs as a result of consumption, the parent or legal guardian may face criminal penalties.

Driving on a Suspended or Revoked License (for DUI, Reckless Homicide, or Leaving the Scene of a Fatal or Personal Injury Crash)

Drivers who are convicted of driving while their license is revoked or suspended for the above offenses will:

  • Be subject to criminal penalties including jail time
  • Have the suspension or revocation period extended
  • Have their vehicle seized and possibly forfeited

An Illinois driver whose driving privileges have been suspended or revoked due to a conviction for DUI, reckless homicide, or leaving the scene of a fatal or personal injury crash is not allowed to drive a motor vehicle in ANY state. If a suspended or revoked Illinois driver is arrested for driving on a suspended or revoked license in another state, that arrest will be reported to the Secretary of State’s office.

See also: Driving with suspended or revoked license – laws and penalties.

Contributing to a DUI

It is illegal for drivers to allow their vehicle to be driven by someone they know to be under the influence. If convicted of providing alcohol to a person under age 21, a person may be fined up to $2,500, be given a jail sentence of up to one year and have their driving privileges suspended.

Drivers under 21 – Zero Tolerance Law

In Illinois, the minimum legal drinking age is 21. Driver’s licenses for persons under age 21 are printed vertically with distinctive features.

Drivers who are under age 21 and convicted of DUI face the revocation of driving privileges for a minimum of two years for a first conviction. Novice drivers, i.e. drivers who are under age 21, stopped and issued a citation for a traffic violation and found to have any trace of alcohol in their system while operating a motor vehicle will have their driving privileges suspended for three months. Zero Tolerance Law went into effect in Illinois in 1995.

Table below displays a more clear breakdown of penalties for minors caught drinking and driving:

Under Zero Tolerance Law Under DUI Laws
If Test Refused If Test Refused
1st Violation 3 Months 6 Months 6 Months 12 Months
2nd Violation 1 Year 2 Years 1 Year 3 Years

If they refuse to submit to testing, driving privileges will be suspended for six months. If it is a second violation, their driving privileges will be suspended for one year if they fail, or two years if they refuse to test.

Minors who have over .08 Blood Alcohol Content will be tried under DUI laws, where their driver’s license will be suspended for 6 months for a first violation (12 if refusing breathalyser test), or 1 year for second violation (extended to 3 years if refusing breathalyser testing). Both violations include a $2,500 maximum fine and up to 1 year in prison upon conviction.

The driver’s license suspension begins on the 46th day from the notice date provided by the police officer and will not be terminated until the driver’s license reinstatement fee is paid and the driving record is updated. If the driver’s license was suspended prior to age 21, the driver will be required to successfully complete a driver remedial education course. In addition, the driver may be required to submit to a complete driver’s license examination to be re-issued a driver’s license.

It is at the discretion of the investigating officer and based on test results or a test refusal whether a traffic stop results in a Zero Tolerance or DUI charge or both. For BAC .01 you will typically be charged with Zero Tolerance Law penalties, but BAC of .08 or greater results in greater penalties under DUI laws.

Exceptions to Zero Tolerance Law include minors who consume alcohol as part of religious service, or minors with prescriptions to medicine which contain small amounts of alcohol.

All individuals under age 21 who are convicted of illegal consumption, purchase, possession or receiving alcohol as a gift will lose their driving privileges for a minimum of six months regardless of whether or not they are operating a motor vehicle at the time of the offense. Any person who receives court supervision for any of these offenses will lose driving privileges for three months.

Illinois DUI Conviction Costs

Table below gives you a breakdown of what an average DUI conviction in Illinois can cost you.

Illinois DUI conviction costs:
Insurance High-risk insurance, $2,000 per year required for 3 years $6,000
Legal fees Uncontested plea and hardship driving permit $2,000
Court costs Up to $2,500 fine and $750 in court costs. Reimbursements to law enforcement, towing and storage fees of $250. $3,500
Income loss 4 week income loss due to jail time or community service, evaluations and remedial education classes. (based on average annual income of $55,000). $4,230
Rehabilitation  Remedial substance abuse class, counseling fees, evaluations for courts and Secretary of State. $300
Driver License Reinstatement  $500 plus $30 for new license, and $50 for formal hearing fee. $580
BAAID  Installation $100, rental fee $80 per month, monitoring fee $30 per month. $1,420
Total potential cost: $18,030

There may be other expenses involved as well. Medical treatments for potential injuries sustained during a crash can rise up to $100,000. Compensatory damages awarded to crash survivors can easily start at $10,000. In-patient substance abuse programs can cost additional $3,500, and legal fees for jury trials and civil proceedings will likely be at least $5,000.


Tips & Advice

Illinois takes it’s DUI laws extremely seriously, with over 30,000 DUI arrests every year only in this state. In case you are caught driving under influence you can expect harsh sentences, and it’s highly advisable to hire a competent attorney to plead your case.

Illinois DUI penalties can be severe and repeat offenders may be looking at huge financial fines, felony charges, and even serious time in jail.

It may be possible to sometimes bring down your DUI charges and plead the court for reduced penalties. Again, consult a professional Illinois traffic or criminal lawyer and seek legal advice to learn more.

Resources and sources:

  1. Driving While Under the Influence, Transporting Alcoholic Liquor, And Reckless Driving – Illinois Vehicle Code, Chapter 11: Rules of the Road, Article V
  2. DUI Fact Book.pdf file, Illinois Secretary of State
  3. Influenced Driving – Illinois State Police
This article about Illinois Drunk Driving: DUI Laws and Penalties was last updated in 2018. If any of our information is incomplete or outdated please let us know. Thank you!