Underage drivers beware! If you are below the age of 21 and are caught with even trace amounts of alcohol on your breath or with open containers in your car, you may face enhanced penalties involving the suspension of your driver’s license.

Under the Zero Tolerance policy, the Illinois Secretary of State will automatically suspend the license of any driver under age 21, who has been caught drinking or even carrying open alcohol in the passenger compartment of their car. Maybe you just had a couple beers at a party, and you know you’re not anywhere close to impaired. Any trace of alcohol in your system, however, even a breathalyzer reading as low as a .01, is enough to suspend your license.

If you are caught with your own bottle of open alcohol in your car, you can be charged with illegal possession. But what if it’s your buddy who opened a bottle in your back seat just before you got pulled over? You can still be charged with illegal transportation, causing the loss of your license for 12 months on a first offense.

If you are under the age of 21 and have been charged with an alcohol-related crime, you should immediately seek the advice of an attorney. Do not speak with anyone else, either in person or through electronic means such as texting or Facebook, about the charges against you. Statements made to a third party could end up hurting your defense.
An experienced attorney may be able to contest the charges both in Court and before the Secretary of State. For instance, did the officer have probable cause to stop you? At worst, an attorney may help you negotiate a more favorable plea agreement.

Even if you are convicted of an alcohol-related offense, all is not lost. You may be able to obtain a restricted driving permit. The Secretary of State allows you to request a hearing to determine if you have a sufficient hardship to grant the permit. Primarily, permits are granted to allow you to go to work or to obtain medical care.

If you have questions about your situation, feel free to contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email for advice.

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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