“Can I fight a DUI without a lawyer?” DUI legal practitioner Anisa Jordan is asked this question often. The answer is always the same; “Yes, you can. Should you? Probably not.” DUI law is a complex area of the law. However, if you choose to try it alone, the four steps discussed in this post will help you get started.
Can I Fight A DUI Without A Lawyer: The Very Basics
If you are brave enough to do this on your own, you need to understand three things. First, it is important to understand that a DUI ticket is NOT a basic traffic ticket. A DUI in Illinois is a criminal offense. This means that if found guilty, you could spend time in the county jail or the Illinois Department of Corrections.
Secondly, and this can be a bit confusing, you will usually have to fight two related, but separate issues in your DUI case. First, you may want to challenge the suspension or revocation of your license. Secondly, you have to fight the criminal charge of DUI. It is extremely important that you understand this distinction.
Thirdly, be sure to know the local rules of the court where you will fight your DUI. While all counties have to follow Illinois law, each county can make its own rules about how DUIs are handled procedurally. If you have a very good understanding of these basic points, then move on to the next steps below.
Step 1: Read the DUI Law for Illinois
The first thing you absolutely must do is read the law on DUI for Illinois. The bulk of the law can be found at 625 ILCS 5/11-501(a). This is where you will learn about the different types of DUI in Illinois. While most people only think of alcohol DUIs, you can also have a charge of DUI based on driving while under the influence of drugs like marijuana. Under this section, you will also learn the possible jail sentence for your case and if it is a felony or misdemeanor DUI.
Step 2: Read Statutory Summary Suspension Law
In Illinois, if you get a DUI your license will be suspended or revoked depending on several factors. For example, if this is your first DUI and you blow into the breathalyzer, your license will be suspended for a minimum of six months. This suspension is called a statutory summary suspension. However, you can fight the suspension and possibly get your license back. Fighting the suspension of your driver’s license without a lawyer will be challenging. You can find most of the law about statutory summary suspension at 625 ILCS 5/11-501.1.
Special Note: Notice of Summary Suspension
The officer is required to give you what is called a “Notice of Summary Suspension.” This notice will give you information regarding how long your driver’s license will be suspended/revoked as well as some other important details. You can see a sample of this notice here. On the 46th day after you receive this notice, your suspension or revocation should start. Official notice of your suspension/revocation start date will come to you by mail. NOTE: Make sure your address is up to date with the Secretary of State. This is definitely an area you want to focus on. An issue with the notice could result in you getting your license back on a technicality.
Step 3: File Your Petition To Request A Hearing On Your Suspension/Revocation
This is a big one! You want to learn about how you can fight against the Statutory Summary Suspension of your driver’s license. The area of law you want to focus on can be found at 625 ILCS 5/2-118.1. You have 90 days from the date of notice that your license is going to be suspended to file what is called a Petition to Rescind a Statutory Summary Suspension. You can find a sample of what the petition looks like in Cook county here. Each county’s petition may look a bit different than our example, but the main checkboxes should be the same.
Special Note: What Should You Say In Your Petition?
As you can see in the sample petition, there are five things you can argue to fight the suspension of your driver’s license. You are able to pick as many boxes that you think apply to your situation. PRO TIP: As a matter of practice, Attorney Jordan marks all five boxes. Why? If it is early in the case, Anisa may not have all the evidence when she files the petition to rescind statutory summary suspension on behalf of her client. You are required to give notice to the prosecutor. By checking all the boxes the prosecutor is notified that you may be challenging all grounds listed in the petition. It is always possible to ask the judge before the hearing to remove any boxes you do not need.
When you file your petition to rescind, you must give notice to the prosecutor that you have filed it. It is important that you follow the rules on how to give notice to the prosecutor. You can find those rules here.
Once you file the notice, the state has 30 days or the first court date to give you a hearing. If the prosecution does not give you the hearing within this time period, a judge may grant your petition.
Step 4: Prepare Documents
There are several documents you will need to prepare and file to represent yourself in a DUI. For example, in every DUI case, you must file an appearance. You can find an example of a Cook County appearance here. The appearance will include the name of your case, the case number, and your contact information. The other big thing you will need to prepare is a Motion for Discovery. A motion for discovery is a fancy way of saying, “Hey, prosecution, give me a copy of all the evidence you have that you plan to use in this case.” In your motion for discovery, you outline what specific information you are asking for.
What you ask for in your motion for discovery will vary depending on the facts of your case. Nevertheless, take a look at this sample for some guidance. Some other documents you may need to prepare and file include subpoenas, preservation orders, or answers to discovery.
Conclusion: Can You Fight A DUI Without A Lawyer?
Can you fight a DUI without a lawyer? Yes, you can. However, for most people, it is probably not a good idea. This post is a good starting point if you decide to do things on your own. However, it should be noted that the things discussed in this post are a high-level view of DUI defense.
In addition, there are a number of other things that you must consider. What county is your DUI located in? Is this your first or second DUI? What has the Illinois Supreme Court said about a particular issue in your case? For the average person who is not a local lawyer handling DUI cases, it will be quite a challenge to fight your DUI without an experienced DUI legal practitioner by your side. You should, at the very least, contact a DUI legal practitioner for a free consultation to discuss the facts of your case.
The information in this post is intended for informational purposes only and cannot and should not be construed as legal advice to any party.