You’ve never been in trouble before. This DUI is your first arrest of any kind. Doesn’t that help?

The answer is yes and no. A first offender may be eligible for a lighter sentence than a repeat offender. However, your otherwise good character doesn’t really matter when it comes to determining your guilt or innocence.

We’ve all seen the TV shows where the defendant looks for character references to prove he couldn’t have committed the crime. But it doesn’t work that way in real life. In the legal system, the fact you are a good person does not make it any more or less likely that you committed a crime than if you were a bad person. The state still has to show whether you are guilty of this particular DUI.

Contrary to TV law, a defense attorney will avoid the character issue until sentencing. At trial, putting on evidence of good character opens the door for the state to put on evidence of bad character. If you say you’re a good family person who goes to church and holds a job, the state can bring up the fact you’re mean to puppies and you party a lot.

Good character can be relevant once your guilt is established. While Illinois law imposes certain sentencing guidelines, the court may be more lenient on you if your offense is clearly a one-time deal.

Under Illinois law, a first-time DUI is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine. A second DUI leads to mandatory jail time or community service. Higher offenses result in even stiffer penalties.

If your breathalyzer reads more than twice the legal limit (over .16) on a first offense, you will be subject to a mandatory 100 hours of community service plus $500 fine on top of other penalties. A second offense mandates an additional two days in jail plus $1250 fine.

Furthermore, the length of your driver’s license suspension is shorter on a first offense and your level of required alcohol treatment will likely be lower.

If you have questions about this or another related criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

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

About mdkeenan

A criminal and school law attorney with over 17 years of experience, I have successfully represented clients all over the Chicago area. My practice includes DUI, felony, criminal, misdemeanor, homicide, internet crime, retail theft, traffic offenses, cyberstalking, drug crimes, weapons violations, domestic battery and juvenile crime. I also represent families involving school cases. My clients come from all over the Chicago area including Skokie, Wilmette, Niles, Northbrook, Glenview, Evanston, Winnetka, Highland park, Northfield, Park Ridge, Des Plaines and Mount Prospect. I am a member of the ACLU and the Illinois State Bar Association. I serve as a volunteer for First Defense Legal Aid. Se habla espanol.
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