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Underage Drinking In Illinois - Goodbye Driver's License

Brian L. Polinske
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Edwardsville Criminal Defense Trial Lawyer

In Illinois the legislature has created a penalty aside from a fine that results in your driver's license being suspended.  The suspension for a first time offender is either 3 or 6 months depending on whether you submitted to a breath test or refused, and whether you received court supervision or a conviction.  There are essentially two ways in which a police officer can begin a potential suspension if you are caught drinking underage.  The first is called a Zero Tolerance suspension.  This suspension is created after the police officer completes a form similar to a DUI Statutory Summary Suspension form that is sent to the Secretary of State.  A Zero Tolerance will result in a three month suspension of one's driver's license for a person who submits to a breath test and the results are over .00.  A Zero Tolerance refusal results in a 6 month suspension.  Second offenders face stiffer penalties: 12 or 24 months.  The important distinction is that a person must be driving an automobile in order for a Zero Tolerance suspension to apply.  

An underage drinking charge begins with a citation for which one must appear in court.  Driving an automobile is NOT an element to this offense.  Theoretically a person could be sitting in their living room watching TV and be charged with this violation.  If a person pleads guilty to this offense and receives court supervision as a disposition he suffers a 3 month suspension.  If the person is convicted they receive a 6 month suspension.  

Diversion programs exist in many different Illinois counties.  In such a program the offender completes classes designed for this type of offense.  When completed a certificate is generated.  An attorney can negotiate a full dismissal in this sitation.  The client will not experience a suspension of his/her driving privileges.  This is very important when dealing with these cases.  Most clients either have to work, go to school, or require driving privileges for another important reason.  Knowing all options available can greatly assist clients charged with this offense.     

The important distinction is that a person must be driving an automobile in order for a Zero Tolerance suspension to apply.  Not all counties have diversion programs that deal with this charge.  In those counties unfortunately a suspension may be placed against the client's driver's license.  

Lastly, it is important to note that if a suspension is imposed for Zero Tolerance or Underage Drinking charges no hardship permit is available.

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