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Driving Under the Influence & You

Published on March 29th, 2018

You’ve been stopped and are asked to take a breathalyzer test; can you refuse? What happens if you do and what happens if you don’t?

There are a lot of dinner table debates on whether it is better to refuse a breathalyzer test if you’ve been stopped by the Police when you’ve been driving after drinking. This article is intended to give you the straight facts on Illinois Law on the subject and take all the myths out of your mind should you face this problem.

First driving is a privilege; not a right. You don’t license rights. When you apply for and receive a driver’ license in Illinois you give an implied consent every time you drive or take physical control of a motor vehicle on the public highways of Illinois as stated in the Illinois Compiled Statutes in Chapter 625 at Section 5/11-501.1. It further states in of that statute that if an officer has probable cause to believe you are under the influence of alcohol the officer will request you take chemical testing. If you take the test and the breathalyzer discloses an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher you will receive a statutory summary suspension for six (6) months from the forty-sixth day after your receive the notice of your statutory summary suspension. . And on the forty sixth day means at 12:01 AM on that day so don’t think you can drive during that day. The duration of the suspension is found in the Illinois Compiled Statutes in Chapter 625 at Section 5/6-208.1. Later in that same statute it tells you what happens if you refuse or fail to complete the requested chemical test you face a twelve (12) month summary suspension. Makes you think twice about the anecdotal advice to always refuse, doesn’t it?

This issue has come before the Illinois Supreme Court in People v. Wegielnik, found at Volume 152 of the Illinois Reports Second Series at page 418 decided in 1992 (152 Ill.2d 418). The Supreme Court faced a defendant who was not a native speaker of English and claimed he couldn’t read or write English and that the summary suspension should be vacates since he was not given his warnings in his native language. The Supreme Court said the implied consent statute promotes highway safety by assisting officers in determining whether drivers are under the influence of alcohol. It further stated that there is no due process right to understand the consequences of refusing to take a breathalyzer test and made the comparison to severely intoxicated persons making the same claim of not understanding and eliminating the deterrent effect of the implied consent.

If you hoped to follow anecdotal advice and refuse to take the breathalyzer test; get ready lose the privilege of driving for a longer period than if you had simply taken the test and disclosed you were above the statutory limit. Consulting an attorney on any matter where the Courts or the Government is involved is your best move.

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