This Labor Day season, Chicago cops are hosting a different sort of end-of-summer event—a widespread crackdown on DUI offenders. The department is partnering with the National Highway and Traffic Safety Association and Illinois Department of Transportation for their “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign. It began on August 23 and continues through Labor Day on September 7, so currently we’re right in the middle of it.
How does it work?
Along with roughly 10,000 police departments nationwide, Chicago police are adopting a zero tolerance approach for anyone with a BAC over the .08 legal limit. During these two weeks, police will set up roadside safety checks and increase the number of officers on the road, in a concentrated effort to catch and prosecute drunk and drugged drivers. You might have already noticed the change.
In addition to increased police presence, the campaign has been raising awareness through the media for the past few years. Advertisements feature police officers and cars camouflaged in the background of photos, with the tagline, “They’ll see you before you see them.” The obvious message to drivers: If you’re intoxicated behind the wheel, we will catch you.
The US Transportation Secretary echoed the statement on the NHTSA website. “With the help of law enforcement around the country, we’re getting the word out – if you’ve been drinking, don’t drive, because if you do, you will be stopped, you will be arrested and you will be prosecuted.”
The Most Dangerous Time of Year for Drivers
Known as the “100 Deadliest Days,” the period of time between Memorial Day and Labor Day sees the highest number of drunk driving fatalities – especially among teenagers. According to the NHTSA, the summer months see nearly twice the number of deaths on the road than all the other months combined.
The road is especially dangerous around holidays – when people get together for festivities, they are more likely to be driving home from parties while drunk. Thus, summer holidays, like Labor Day and the Fourth of July, are some of the most dangerous times of year to be on the road. This increased danger is likely the driving force behind the campaign.
Drunk Driving Laws in Illinois
In Illinois, as in many other states, those arrested for driving while intoxicated face harsh penalties. While the legal limit is a blood alcohol content of .08%, drivers with a BAC as low as .05% can be charged with a DUI if their behavior suggests they are impaired – for example, if they are involved in an accident. If the BAC percent is between .05 and .08, the citation does not automatically trigger a suspension of their license. Instead, the punishment for the DUI will depend entirely on the outcome of their trial.
But if an officer pulls you over for a moving violation and then determines your BAC is above .08%, the officer will immediately suspend your license. Illinois also has an Implied Consent law, so if you refuse to take the test, you are subject to automatic license suspension and fines.
Even first time offenders face steep fines and the threat of jail time for a DUI conviction. The State of Illinois estimates the cost of a first DUI conviction is roughly $16,850—a bottom line that includes court ordered assessments, remedial education or treatment programs, and insurance premiums.
If you’ve been charged with a DUI in Chicago or the surrounding area, you could face tens of thousands of dollars in fines, jail time, and a suspended license. To strengthen your defense, it is imperative you work with an attorney who has a strong background and successful track record in DUI cases.
About the Author:
Andrew M. Weisberg is a former felony prosecutor who now serves as a defense attorney in the greater Chicago area. He has extensive experience in handling all types of criminal cases, from sex offenses and domestic violence to retail theft-related crimes, Murder, and drug crimes.