Refusing a breath test in Illinois can lead to serious penalties
Illinois drivers know that if they are arrested for drunk driving, harsh penalties are likely to follow. However, fewer are likely to know that severe penalties can result if they are pulled over under suspicion of drunk driving and refuse to take a blood or breath test, whether or not they ultimately found to be over the legal limit.
The reason for these penalties is found in Illinois’ implied consent law. Under the law, all Illinois residents have agreed, by exercising the privilege of driving motor vehicles on the state’s roads, to agree to take a chemical test to determine the degree to which they are impaired, if suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Pursuant to this law, the legislature has enacted penalties for those who do not comply.
Under the implied consent law, any driver that refuses to take a chemical test automatically faces a summary suspension of his or her driver’s license. This means that the license may be suspended without a court order. The length of the suspension varies, depending on whether this is the driver’s first DUI or refusal. However, the minimum suspension is one year. The suspension goes into effect on the 46th day after the refusal.
Fortunately, drivers that have their licenses suspended under summary suspension have the right to request a hearing for their reinstatement. The hearing is separate from the criminal charges, so it is possible for a driver to have his or her license reinstated and still be convicted of the criminal charges (and vice versa). In addition, as the hearing is remedial in nature, the driver does not have the right to be represented by court-appointed counsel. However, the driver may be represented by an attorney at his or her own expense. Given the significant loss of freedoms at state, this is generally a good idea.
Stricter penalties following accidents
In 2011, Illinois lawmakers added a “statutory summary revocation” provision to the implied consent law. Under this provision, a driver who refuses to take a chemical test in cases where he or she is involved in an accident that has caused personal injury or death to another faces automatic license revocation by the Secretary of State. This provision only applies if the driver refuses the chemical test. In other words, it would not apply if the driver agreed to the chemical test and failed.
Drivers that have their licenses revoked under statutory summary revocation cannot apply to have their licenses restored until at least one year following the beginning of the revocation. Additionally, the driver may only apply for reinstatement only after undergoing a lengthy administrative hearing process with the Secretary of State. The process involves the payment of a reinstatement fee, the completion of exams, providing proof of financial responsibility and receiving reinstatement approval from the Secretary of State.
Consult an attorney
As the refusal of a chemical test can have dire consequences, it is important to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as early in the process as possible. An attorney can advise you of your rights and work to prepare a defense to mitigate the negative repercussions of your arrest.