Last night, you went partying on the town and had a few too many with friends. After leaving the bar, the police stopped you. Now you are charged with drunk driving. How can you defend your case?

In Illinois, the first offense of Driving Under the Influence may be punishable with up to one year in jail or up to a $2,500 fine. If you are charged with DUI, the State must prove two elements beyond a reasonable doubt: 1) Drinking and 2) Driving.

To prove drinking, the State must show that you were over the legal limit of .08, and that this impaired your driving. The first question is whether you took the breathalyzer. If you were wise, you may have refused. If you refused, did you then perform any field sobriety tests? If not, you could still be charged with a DUI based on what the police observed, but it may be that much harder for the State to prove your impairment at trial.

Suppose you turned down the breathalyzer but you performed the field sobriety tests? You may still have a defendable case. Many police cars now video their encounters with potential offenders. After watching the video, how well did you perform? Some defendants manage to hold their leg up fairly steadily and to walk a fairly straight line. If you did well, the state might have a tough time proving you were guilty of DUI.

What if you took the breathalyzer and blew over the limit? If you did not blow too far above .08 legal limit and/or your field sobriety tests looked good, you may still be able to defend your case. The state must show that your driving was impaired. If everything else looks good including your driving when the police pulled you over, then you might still win. Furthermore, in the State of Illinois, a breathalyzer machine is considered accurate if it registers within .009 of the actual result. Therefore, if you blew a .087, there may be some question about whether you or the breathalyzer device were over the limit.

What if your breathalyzer result was way over the legal limit? Then, you may still have a defense based on the element of driving. How were you pulled over? Did the police have probable cause to stop you? If you were obeying all traffic laws and you were the target of a random stop, you may be able to quash your DUI based on a lack of probable cause.

What if you were in an accident and the police were summoned after the crash? Someone has to testify that you were behind the wheel of the car. The state will have a harder time proving your DUI if no one actually saw you driving the car.

But what if the police legitimately followed you and observed you commit a traffic offense such as blowing a stop sign or weaving all over the lane? And then you blew a high breathalyzer and trashed your field sobriety tests? At this point, your case may no longer beatable. A skilled attorney, however, may help you negotiate a more favorable plea agreement.

If you have questions about a DUI or other criminal matter in the Skokie, Rolling Meadows, Maywood or other Chicago-area courthouse, please do not hesitate to contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or by emailing Also, visit our website at or our DUI blog

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves clients in the communities of Arlington Heights, Buffalo Grove, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Highland Park, Kenilworth, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Palatine, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Schaumburg, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

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