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.)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

“I JUST PANICKED!”: WHEN YOU ARE CHARGED WITH LEAVING THE SCENE OF AN ACCIDENT

You honestly just never saw him until you heard the thud. Maybe you struck a pedestrian, or maybe it was another car. Startled, you drove away instead of stopping like you knew you should. Now, somehow the cops have found where you live. And what might have been a routine traffic ticket is now elevated to a misdemeanor or even a felony. What can happen to you? What can you do?

In Illinois, if you are involved in a motor vehicle accident resulting in personal injury or death, you must immediately stop at the scene of the accident and remain there until you have provided your name, address and registration to the person you struck. Furthermore, you must provide reasonable assistance to the injured, including, if necessary, carrying them to a doctor. You also must file a police report within one half hour of the accident or of being released from a hospital.

If you have only damaged the other person’s car, you must still immediately stop and provide your information to the other driver.

In accidents involving injury or death, a failure to stop can result in a Class 4 felony, punishable by one to three years in prison. If you fail to file a police report, you may be charged with a Class 2 felony, punishable by 3 to 7 years. If the other party died, you are now subject to a Class 1 felony, punishable by 4 to 15 years. When the accident only involves property damage, you may still be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail plus a fine.

If you are charged with leaving the scene, you must not speak about your situation to the police or anyone else. You should also refrain from discussing your problems through any electronic media such as Twitter, email or Facebook. Even though the police may have tracked down your vehicle, the state still has the burden of proving that you were the one driving beyond a reasonable doubt. Without your statements, the State may not be able to meet this burden.

If police are looking for you, contact an attorney immediately to help protect your rights. If you are in custody, ask to speak with an attorney and do not make any statements. Police may try to persuade you to confess by promising that they will give you a break. However, the police may not be authorized to reduce or drop the charges, and your statements can still be used against you.

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.)