Wednesday, March 10, 2010

"THEY SUSPENDED MY LICENSE!": ALCOHOL AND THE UNDERAGE DRIVER

Now that you have your own set of wheels, you feel really cool. So after school, you thought you’d take your friends for a night on the town. You were watching the road, so you didn’t realize your buddy in the back seat had popped open a beer. You yourself had a beer, but you figured you were way under the state’s .08 alcohol limit.

Unfortunately, an officer pulled you over. Now, you are charged with an alcohol-related driving offense and face 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. You need not be anywhere close to the .08 breathalyzer limit to lose your license. Any trace of alcohol in your system is enough, even a .01 reading.

You may also lose your license for having open alcohol in the passenger section of your car, even if the bottle wasn’t yours. If it is your bottle, you face a charge of illegal possession. But if it is not, 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. You may be able to contest the charges against you. Maybe the officer lacked the probable cause to pull you over. Maybe you can negotiate a plea to a lesser offense.

Even if you are convicted of an alcohol-related offense, 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 been charged with a crime, it is essential that you not speak about these charges with anyone, either in person or through electronic means such as twitter or Facebook. Any statements you make to the police or a friend can come back to hurt your defense.

If you have questions about your situation, feel free to contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com

See our related DUI blog at http://duilawyerskokie.com.

(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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