Unfortunately, many in Illinois are still choosing to get behind the wheel of a car after consuming alcohol. Perhaps this is because they have driven while impaired in the past and no harm came of it, so they have an inflated perception of their own ability to maintain control of the vehicle.

It may also be that they do not realize just how negatively a DUI conviction, even a first offense, can affect their lives. Are you among those who think you will get off with a fine and a few hours of community service if police arrest you for drunk driving?

Immediate consequences

During the holiday season, you will probably have many opportunities to share good times with your family and friends. However, you should be aware that law enforcement does not take the holidays as an excuse if your blood alcohol concentration is over the limit while you drive. If you blow a .08 or higher on a breath test, fail field sobriety tests, or demonstrate signs of impairment, such as slurred speech, glassy eyes or confusion, police are likely to place you under arrest.

If a court convicts you on the evidence police present, you could face the following consequences:

  • Loss of your license
  • Significant fines
  • Potential jail time
  • Community service
  • Alcohol counseling
  • Driver education

You may also have to install an ignition interlock on your vehicle at your own expense. In fact, after paying fines and legal fees, you may find you have wiped out your savings or are falling deeply into debt.

Looking into the future

These are only the short-term penalties. There is a good possibility that your arrest and conviction will have far-reaching consequences, including:

  • Loss of your job
  • Disqualification from certain professions, especially those that involve driving
  • Significant hike in insurance premiums, if you can find an insurer who will cover you
  • A conviction on your criminal record for the rest of your life

Of course, these penalties refer only to a DUI without any enhancements. For example, if this is not your first DUI, you can expect the penalties to be much more severe. The same is true if you have a child in the vehicle, you are arrested in a school zone or if you are in an accident with property damage. In the worst-case scenario, having a DUI accident where someone suffers injuries or dies may place you at risk of years in prison.

While the best way to avoid charges is never driving after drinking alcohol, you may still find yourself facing DUI charges. Seeking the counsel of an experienced attorney may protect your future from the most severe penalties.