The Illinois Zero Tolerance Law

Updated on 06/15/2022 / Under

While it is technically not illegal to drink alcohol and drive (only to drink too much and drive!), this is not the case for persons under the age of 21. In many places, there are laws against drivers under a certain age having even a minimal amount of alcohol in their system. These laws are known as zero tolerance laws.

In Illinois, the minimum age to drive under the influence of a minimal amount of alcohol is 21. If a minor has a blood alcohol concentration higher than 0.00 according to a breath or other test then they face a mandatory license suspension. The suspension can be from as little as three months to as much as two years.

What are the penalties for a zero tolerance violation?

The length of the suspension depends on whether or not the minor has a previous zero-tolerance violation and whether or not the minor refuses the blood alcohol test. Refusing to be tested will result in a longer suspension than failing a blood alcohol test.

Sometimes, a minor can successfully apply for a restricted driving permit that allows them to drive before the end of their license suspension. It is easier for a person to get a restricted driving permit if their blood alcohol was below 0.08, which is the legal limit for drivers over the age of 21.

Illinois Zero Tolerance Law

Zero Tolerance While Driving Penalties

  • First offense- 3-month suspension of driving privileges for a BAC of more than .00
  • Second Offense - 1-year suspension of driving privileges for a BAC of more than .00

Zero Tolerance While Driving Test Refusal

  • First offense- 6-month suspension of driving privileges for a refusal or failure to complete a BAC test
  • Second Offense - 1-year suspension of driving privileges for a refusal or failure to complete a BAC test

To acquire a restricted driving license, a driver must complete an awareness program for drugs and alcohol. The driver must also argue that they face serious negative consequences related to the loss of their driver's license.

Does a driver have to take a remedial driving course to get their license back?

Yes, even after the suspension is over, a driver must complete a remedial driving course to recover their right to drive. If a driver receives one zero-tolerance violation or two other driving violations within 24 months, they will have to complete a course before they can legally drive. The driver must pay a fee of $80 to attempt the remedial driving course.

What is the purpose of the Illinois zero tolerance law?

Zero tolerance laws are in place to reduce the number of accidents involving underage drinking drivers. Not all states have these laws. The minimum amount of blood alcohol allowed for drivers under 21 can be 0.02, 0.01, or in the case of Illinois 0.00. Driving under the influence laws, in general, are stricter than they used to be due to the commonness of drinking and driving deaths.

Since many drinking and driving deaths involve drivers under the age of 21, the law in many states does not tolerate even minimal drinking by drivers under this age.

Are zero tolerance laws effective?

Yes, the Illinois zero-tolerance law and similar laws have been proven to be effective. Accidents and deaths decrease in states that introduce zero-tolerance bills. While the effect is not very large, these laws do nonetheless prevent injuries and deaths. It may be the case that allowing even a minimal amount of alcohol for a person that is still developing their driving skills can result in accidents.

Alcohol is more dangerous for underage drivers than for other drivers. Persons charged with violations of zero tolerance laws are often given the maximum license suspensions and are not treated with leniency by the courts.

Related: Underage DUI Consequences & Penalties

Are laws against driving under the influence of marijuana just as strict in Illinois?

Yes, Illinois has strict laws against driving under the influence of any drug. If a blood test reveals a certain amount of marijuana in a driver's blood or saliva, they are guilty of driving under the influence of drugs.

The legal limit for marijuana is very low, too low to be equivalent to the laws for drinking. The driver will be convicted even if it is not the case that the drug was impairing their ability to drive. Therefore, even if one last used marijuana days ago, they may still be convicted. If you have 5 nanograms or more of THC in your blood or 10 nanograms of THC in your saliva, then you can be convicted of driving under the influence of drugs

The marijuana law, therefore, has its critics. Some people that could not realistically have been intoxicated nonetheless end up with charges. The law also does not allow users of medical marijuana to drive under the drug's influence.

Generally, it is legal to drive under the influence of other prescription medications. Only if the dose of the prescription medication is strong enough to impair the person's ability to drive safely are they charged.

What to Do if You Are Charged with an Underage DUI?

In order to get the best outcome possible for your case, you will need to contact one of our experienced DUI attorneys right away. A few things our law firm can help you with are:

  • Assess police procedures
  • Consider your overall record
  • Advocate for a reduced sentence
  • Protect your best interests

Time is short. A DUI conviction has the potential to ruin your life and freedom. Get started today and contact a DUI lawyer near you.