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Understanding Illinois’ Zero Tolerance Law

Under Illinois’ Zero Tolerance Law, minors may be charged with DUI if they are found operating a vehicle with any trace of alcohol in their system.

As a result of the 1984 National Uniform Drinking Age Act, all states in the U.S., including Illinois, were required to adopt 21 as their minimum legal drinking age, states the Mothers Against Drunk Driving organization. Not only are those under the age of 21 prohibited from consuming alcohol, but those who drink alcohol and then operate a vehicle may face penalties under Illinois' Zero Tolerance Law.

What the Zero Tolerance Law entails

According to the Illinois State Police, the state's Zero Tolerance policy went into effect in 1995. Under this law, any driver under the age of 21 who is found operating a vehicle with any trace of alcohol in his or her system may face having his or her driver's license suspended. In these situations, minors can be charged with DUI even if their blood alcohol content level is below the standard legal limit of 0.08.

However, there are exceptions to this law. For instance, minors found driving with alcohol in their system may not face penalties if they consumed alcohol as part of a religious service or if they ingested a prescribed dosage of medication containing alcohol.

The penalties for underage drinking and driving

The penalties minors face for drunk driving depend on the number of prior DUI convictions on their record. For example, the ISP states that minors charged with underage DUI for the first time may:

  • Completely lose their driving privileges for a minimum of two years
  • Face a possible prison sentence of one year
  • Be required to pay a fine that does not exceed $2,500

In comparison, minors charged for driving intoxicated for the third time may lose their driving privileges for a minimum of 10 years, be required to serve a mandatory 18 to 30-month prison sentence, be sentenced to up to seven years in prison and be fined no more than $25,000. Additionally, this offense is considered a Class 4 felony.

However, underage intoxicated drivers will automatically be charged with Aggravated DUI, which is also considered a Class 4 felony, if they cause a crash that results in serious bodily harm or permanent disfigurement. This offense carries a possible prison sentence of up to 12 years, the requirement to pay a maximum fine of $25,000 and the loss of full driving privileges for a minimum of one year.

Seek the assistance of an attorney

In addition to these penalties, those charged with underage DUI may struggle to find employment or secure educational opportunities. If you are facing charges for drinking and driving, contact an attorney to find out what legal steps you should take next.

Keywords: DUI, drunk driving, charges, arrest