Refusing a DUI breath test can have harsh consequences in Illinois

While most Illinois motorists are aware that the penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) are quite severe in the Land of Lincoln, many may be surprised to discover that the mere act of refusing to take a breath test if arrested for a DUI in Illinois has severe consequences all its own.

This particular notion – that Illinois drivers can face penalties for refusing to submit to a breath test – is rooted in Illinois’ implied consent law. Specifically, this law states that drivers are “deemed” to have given consent to be tested for alcohol or drugs by simply driving on Illinois roadways, and if a driver refuses to take such a test, they can face penalties.

In fact, every Illinois driver arrested for a DUI faces summary suspension of their driver’s license if they refuse to take a breath test. Under Illinois law, this suspension period is one year.

Also, it is important for drivers to know that this suspension, and its corresponding hearing, is considered remedial in nature and not criminal. Consequently, the outcome of a summary suspension hearing has no bearing on the criminal DUI case if one is filed – meaning the driver accused of a DUI may face a license suspension and a potential criminal punishment to boot.

In addition, given that these summary suspension hearings are not considered criminal in nature, the accused generally has no right to appointment counsel during them. But, that doesn’t mean an accused cannot get counsel of his or her own, which is often a wise decision.

Statutory summary revocation in Illinois

In 2011 Illinois lawmakers created a “statutory summary revocation” of a driver’s license if he or she refuses to submit to a breath test following an alleged injury-causing DUI accident. Basically, this provision results in an automatic revocation of a driver’s license for one year after a driver’s refusal in these circumstances.

In these instances, the driver can only get his or her license reinstated after obtaining approval with the Secretary of State, paying a reinstatement fee, submitting proof of financial responsibility and completing all required exams.

Interestingly, this automatic statutory summary revocation only applies if the driver refuses to take a breath test. For example, it would not apply if the driver actually takes the test and fails.

As this article illustrates, the laws surrounding DUIs and breath test refusals can be difficult to navigate in Illinois. As such, it is generally best to contact an experienced DUI defense attorney if you have been charged with a DUI. A knowledgeable attorney can advise as to what your options may be given your circumstances and help ensure that you get the representation you need.

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