When you drive, you face a serious and potentially life-threatening risk that there may be an impaired or intoxicated driver on the road. In Naperville, a drunk driver recently caused the deaths of two young DuPage County residents. While impaired driving also includes sleepy drivers and those impaired by illegal drugs or certain medications, drunk driving is a grave issue that needs to be addressed.
In Illinois, a driver is considered “intoxicated” if his or her blood-alcohol content (BAC level) is 0.08 or greater. However, if a driver’s BAC level is less than 0.08, he or she may still be charged with a DUI if additional evidence shows that the driver was still impaired. Drunk drivers that cause car accidents face serious criminal charges, but they may also be liable for civil damages. For example, for a first-time DUI conviction in Illinois, the maximum criminal penalties include at least one year of limited driving privileges, up to one year of imprisonment, and a fine of $2,500.
Illinois considers driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol (DUI) to be a violent crime. Therefore, victims of DUI are recognized as victims of violent crimes. People injured as a result of drunk driving or family members of victims who have been killed by drunk drivers may be entitled to compensatory and possibly even punitive damages. If a victim of drunk driving has been killed in a car accident, the victim’s family members may have legal rights under the Illinois Wrongful Death Act. Under the Illinois Dram Shop Act, victims may also have a claim for damages against a third party seller of alcohol, if the act of selling the alcohol contributed to the intoxication of the driver who caused the car accident.
According to Section 11-501.2 of the Illinois Vehicle Code, evidence of a driver’s blood-alcohol concentration, as determined by a blood-alcohol test, is generally admissible in trial. This blood-alcohol test must be performed by licensed medical personnel. Drunk driving victims can use results from a blood-alcohol test as evidence to establish that the at-fault driver was, in fact, intoxicated at an unsafe level at the time the accident occurred. This evidence may also be used when the victim seeks approval from the court to plead punitive damages, in addition to compensatory damages.