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1. Dear Judge Tony: A drunk driver recently killed my little brother. Can you tell me what my family can expect to happen when the case goes to court?

Both the prosecution and defense will exchange information, i.e. police reports, medical reports, blood alcohol results. The defendant has the choice of either pleading guilty or contesting the charges by way of a trial. The defendant also has the right to elect either a bench trial or a jury trial.

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2. Dear Judge Tony: A drunk driver killed my aunt in 1995. The guy that killed her only got 7 years in jail even though before the accident he had a whole list of drunk driving and many other violations. How can a guy like this get such an easy sentence?

Reckless Homicide (Class 2) provides sentences ranging from probation to 3-14 years in the penitentiary. Many people would agree with you that the maximum sentence of 14 years is not adequate.

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3. Dear Judge Tony: What are as of today the usual sentences of convicted drunk drivers who kill someone?

I have seen sentences ranging from 5 to 7 years for first-time offenders; and as much as 14 years if there are aggravating factors involved. Under the current law, probation is also a possible sentence.

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4. Dear Judge Tony: Is there anything we can do in our community to change the laws so drunk drivers who kill someone get a stricter punishment?

You can contact your local legislators, join SADD [Students Against Drunk Driving] or contact programs affiliated with high schools and colleges and collect petitions to present to the lawmakers.

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5. Dear Judge Tony: Do you have any idea what the penalty could be for getting caught hosting a party where underage guests were drinking?

Penalties usually range from fines of $500 to $1,000 and may also include, probation or supervision depending on the background of the offender and the surrounding circumstances. Such hosts may also find themselves subject to civil lawsuits which can be very costly to defend and can possibly result in further monetary penalties.

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6. Dear Judge Tony: What is the most common penalty for an underage offender caught with alcohol in his/her possession with intent to consume?

Supervision, alcohol education classes through Traffic Safety School and a fine up to $500 are frequently imposed penalties for a first time underage offender.

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7. Dear Judge Tony: How long is the average first time DUI offender in jail? How long to repeat offenders usually have to spend in jail?

Sentences for DUI offenders vary depending on the facts of the case; however, repeat offenders may serve 6 months to a year in jail.

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8. Dear Judge Tony: What laws are there to prevent underage drinking?

Laws which carry various penalties including fines, treatment, supervision, probation and even jail sentences depending on the facts of the case have been designed to prevent underage drinking.

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9. Dear Judge Tony: Is there a difference between a DUI and a DWI? Is one more severe than the other?

No. Both DUI And DWI refer to the crime of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

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10. Dear Judge Tony: Can a person be charged with a DUI even if their BAC came back under the legal limit? My B.A.C. was tested at .07.

YES.

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11. Dear Judge Tony: Can a person be arrested for walking around town high, but not having any drugs with them?

No, unless you violate a law while walking around high.

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12. Dear Judge Tony: How long does an underage drinking offense stay on your record if you were charged with it when you were 18?

Indefinitely. You need to apply for expungement of your record. The process differs from state to state.

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13. Dear Judge Tony: Is it illegal for a minor to transport or carry alcohol if the container is closed? And if so, what is the penalty for this?

Yes it is illegal for a minor to possess alcohol. The penalty for this can include a revocation of permit or license and possible fine.

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14. Dear Judge Tony: What year was the legal drinking age changed from 18 to 21?

The legal drinking age was changed to 21 on January 1, 1980.

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15. Dear Judge Tony: I have a friend who went to a party with his kids, preceded to drink to much and , like an idiot, drove in his car with his children. He was arrested, and charged with 3 counts of Child Endangerment. His B.A.C. was 2.5 at the time of arrest. Do you have any idea what the penalty could be for this?

For a first child endangering conviction the sentence can be a maximum of 364 days in jail or a $1,000 fine. The minimum would be a period of probation. A second or subsequent violation is a felony carrying a maximum penalty of two to five years in the penitentiary.

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16. Dear Judge Tony: A few months ago I received probation before judgement on a D.W.I. What exactly does this mean? Did I get convicted, and will this ever appear on my record as a criminal charge?

It depends on where you live. In the state of Illinois probation is a conviction and will appear on record as a criminal charge. You must comply with every condition of your probation sentence or risk a probation violation, which can carry a maximum sentence of 364 days in jail and a one thousand-dollar fine.

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17. Dear Judge Tony: I recently found out that my best friend, who is 16 years old, frequently drinks at a local bar with some of her older friends. We are all very upset that the proprietor allows this to happen and would like to know what we can do about it. What would happen to the bar if we reported this, and who exactly should we report it to? Thanks.

Report this violation to your local police department. You could also report this to the Liquor Control Commission if you have such a commission in your area.

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18. Dear Judge Tony: Iím at Penn State university and was caught with an open container and, being under 21, was written a citation. I was very honest and cooperative with the policeman. It was my first offense ever, including driving violations. What do you think will happen?

For this type of first offense you will probably be fined and required to attend classes.

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19. Dear Judge Tony: My son was in a house at the New Jersey shore, when they cops knocked on the door. They said that the kids had to let them in, and that it was against the law not to let them in. Is this true? My son was cited for possession of alcohol. He wasnít asked to take a breathalyzer or any other test to determine if he was drunk. He was just written a citation. The cops couldnít determine if he was drinking or not.

Depending on the information which the police had prior to knocking on the door, failure to open the door could be unlawful.

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20. Dear Judge Tony: If you are at a party where there is alcohol and you are underage, can you get in a trouble if the police show up and bust the party? Can an underage person get in trouble for being at a party with alcohol even if he or she is not drinking?

You can be arrested if you are underage and attending a party where alcohol is served.

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21. Dear Judge Tony: Two of my friends were recently killed by a drunk driver who was 21. What do you think will happen to a driver in the state of South Dakota?

In South Dakota vehicular homicide is a Class 3 Felony. Upon conviction for one count of vehicular homicide, the defendant can be sentenced to a maximum of fifteen years imprisonment in the state penitentiary and fined $15,000.

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22. Dear Judge Tony: How many teens were killed in U.S. because of drunk driving?

In 1994, 16,589 persons died in traffic crashes in which alcohol played a part. Nearly 300,000 persons were injured in alcohol-related crashes. Young adults are responsible for 50% of all drunk driving crashes. (Source: "Alcohol Involvement in Fatal Traffic Crashes 1994" NHTSA Tech Report from 1996)

In 1993, the female fatality rate per 100,000 population was approximately 18%. Male fatality rates per 100,000 population was approximately 43%. (Source: "Traffic Safety Facts 1993" NHTSA)

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23. Dear Judge Tony: Why is it that I at 18, I can buy a hand gun, vote, join the military and die for my country, get married and be judged as an adult - but it is still illegal for me to drink? What makes 21 the magic number for being able to drink alcohol? I’m 20 and plan to drink on my birthday, but I will have someone else drive for me. Isn’t this age discrimination?

When the voting age was lowered to 18, many states lowered their drinking age as well. In recent years, all states have reversed this, and motor vehicle accident rates have declined. Young adults ages 21-34 are responsible for more than half of all the alcohol-related fatal crashes. They also have the highest blood-alcohol concentration in fatal crashes. Law makers have taken these facts into consideration and for public safety reasons are allowed by law to set the legal drinking age at 21. This is not a case of age discrimination since the law allows different rules when the safety of the community is at risk.

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24. Dear Judge Tony: Does the law punish parents if their kids keep getting arrested for DUI?

Depending on the facts of the case, parents may under the law, suffer economic sanctions for children arrested for DUI.

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25. Dear Judge Tony: I am a second time offender of legal consumption of alcohol by a minor. What can possibly happen? I was driving, but the officer only gave me consumption and transportation.

If you are convicted the Secretary of State shall immediately revoke your license or permit upon receiving a report of your conviction. 625 ILCS 5/6-205 The loss of driving privileges can last a year or more at the discretion of the Secretary of State.

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26. Dear Judge Tony: What can happen to you if you are a minor and you have an open container with you in your car and are pulled over? Can I go to jail?

A passenger in a vehicle with open alcohol can be subject to a fine up to $500.00. An underage driver convicted of operating a motor vehicle with open alcohol in the vehicle, upon conviction can lose driving privileges for at least one year.

The Secretary of State is authorized to suspend or revoke the driving privileges of any person without preliminary hearing upon a showing or the person’s records or other sufficient evidence that the person driving was less than 21 years of age on the date of the offense and was convicted of transportation or possession of alcoholic liquor in an open container in a motor vehicle. 625 ILCS 5/6-206.

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27. Dear Judge Tony:  I am a second offender of illegal consumption of alcohol by a minor. What can possibly happen? I was driving but the cop didn't give me a zero tolerance, only consumption and transportation. I am in Illinois.

If you are convicted the Secretary of State shall immediately revoke your license or permit upon receiving a report of your conviction. The loss of driving privileges can last a year or more at the discretion of the Secretary of State.

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28. Dear Judge Tony:  What happens if you are riding (not driving) and you got beer in the truck? What could happen to the passenger and to the driver – both underage and legal age, please.

A passenger in a vehicle with open alcohol can be subject o a fine of up to $500. An underage driver convicted of operating a motor vehicle with open alcohol in the vehicle, upon conviction can lose driving privileges for at least one year.

The Secretary of State is authorized to suspend or revoke the driving privileges of any person without preliminary hearing upon a showing of the person’s records or other sufficient evidence that the person driving was less than 21 years of age on the date of the offense and was convicted of transportation or possession of alcoholic liquor in an open container in a motor vehicle.

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29. Dear Judge Tony: If members of a fraternity have a party in a house unrelated to the fraternity and three members are cited for serving alcohol to minors, is the entire chapter of  the fraternity liable?

Depending on the facts of the case, under some circumstances a legal argument can be made that the fraternity may be liable. 

Any person shall be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor where he or she knowingly permits a gathering and knows that persons under the age of 21 are in possession or are consuming any alcoholic beverage.

The maximum penalty for a Class A misdemeanor is a fine of $1,000 and 364 days in jail.

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30. Dear Judge Tony:  How do you determine what sentence you are going to give the drunk driver? How harsh is your normal punishment?

Before sentencing, I consider all facts in aggravation and mitigation. I also listen very closely to various treatment programs for purposed of addressing the alcohol problem of the defendant. I then try to fashion a sentence that will protect the community and rehabilitate the offender.

There is no "normal" punishment. Each sentence is determined on a case-by-case basis.

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31. Dear Judge Tony: Are there any cases where parents have lost their homes due to allowing underage drinking there?

There have been reported cases where parents under certain circumstances have been held financially liable, however whether they had to sell their homes to meet that financial liability is not mentioned specifically in the cases.

The law in the state of Illinois, for example, provides as follows: "The parent or legal guardian of an unemancipated minor who resides with such parent or legal guardian is liable for actual damages for the willful or malicious acts of such minor which cause injury to a person or property." 740 ILCS 115/3 (west, 1992).

Any parent or guardian who permits his or her residence to be used by minors engaged in underage drinking can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor. The maximum penalty for a Class A misdemeanor is a fine of $1,000 and 364 days in jail.

A parent or guardian is deemed to have permitted his or her residence to be used in violation of the law if he or she knowingly authorizes, enables or permits such use to occur by failing to control access to either the residence or the alcoholic liquor maintained in the residence. 235 ILCS 5/6-16.

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32. Dear Judge Tony: Can the policeman measure your BAC right when they find you, or do they have to take you to the police station? 

The policeman can measure your BAC as soon as they stop you.

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33.  Dear Judge Tony:  What is the penalty for possession of alcohol under the age of 21?

Being caught with possession of alcohol under the age of 21 on any street or highway or in any public place or any place open to the public is a Class A Misdemeanor. The sentence may include up to 364 days in jail and/or up to a $1000 fine.

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34.  Dear Judge Tony:  I am 17 and was recently caught for drinking and driving. I have not received any court letters as of yet, and was tested with a .117 blood alcohol level. It is the first time I have ever consumed more than one serving of alcohol to see what the effect is that everyone is talking about.

Being 17 and my first offense, would it be applicable for me to retain certain driving privileges to and from work and school? And, what is the probable time for license suspension?

If you agree to submit to the blood alcohol test and your blood alcohol concentration is over .00, your license can be suspended for 3 months. If you refuse to submit to the test, your license can be suspended for six months. You may be eligible for Judicial Driving Permit during this period for driving to and from work or school. If you are then convicted of a DUI or similar local ordinance, your license will be revoked for a minimum of 1 year.

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35.  Dear Judge Tony:  Could somebody please tell me the consequences for a minor who uses a fake ID and gets caught drinking alcohol in a bar?

Being caught with a fake ID and consuming alcohol in a bar when under age is a Class A misdemeanor. The sentence shall include, but is not limited to, a fine of not less than $500 plus 25 hours of community service.

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36. Dear Judge Tony: What is the penalty for possession of alcohol under the age of 21? 

A person under the age of 21 years may not consume or possess any alcoholic beverage on any street, highway or any public place. In Illinois, for example, a violation of this law calls for a penalty of up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500 (235 ILCS 5/6-16).

Please check the "Local Laws" section found in the Main Menu for similar laws, penalties and fines for your home state.

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37.  Dear Judge Tony: If I refuse a Breathalyzer am I automatically guilty?

No, you are not automatically guilty of the crime, driving under the influence. However, if you choose not to submit to breath or chemical testing when arrested for DUI, there are serious legal consequences that would affect your driving privilege. In Illinois, the penalty for refusing to submit to chemical testing for a first offender is a mandatory six month suspension of a person’s driver’s license. A second refusal will result in a mandatory three year suspension. (625 ILCS 5/11-500)

Please check the "Local Laws" section found in the Main Menu for similar laws, penalties and fines for your home state.

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38.  Dear Judge Tony:  I got arrested for DUI and my license was suspended! I thought I was innocent until proven guilty! How can I be punished before I am even convicted of anything?

What you are referring to is a statutory summary suspension, not a finding of guilt or a conviction. A statutory summary suspension is an administrative procedure which provides for the automatic license suspension of a driver arrested for DUI who fails chemical testing or who refuses to submit to or fails to complete testing.

In Illinois, Summary Suspensions are automatically imposed on the Secretary of State’s Office on the 46th day from the date of notification. For a first offender, that means no driving for six months and the necessity to apply for license reinstatement and to pay a fee to the Secretary of State’s Office.

Please check the "Local Laws" section found in the Main Menu for similar laws, penalties and fines for your home state.

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39.  Dear Judge Tony: If me and my buddies are going to a bar or football game and one of the guys in my car is drinking a beer when we get pulled over, can I get in trouble?
Signed, Innocent (?) Bystander

Dear Innocent Bystander: In Illinois, it is illegal for anyone to transport, carry, possess or have any open alcoholic beverage containers in the passenger compartment of a car. You as the driver are responsible if either you or your passengers are drinking a beer when you get stopped by the police. You and your passenger could be charged with the offense of illegal transportation. The penalty in Illinois, if convicted, is a fine up to $1,000.00. If you are convicted and are under twenty-one years of age, your driver’s license will be suspended for one year.

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40.  Dear Judge Tony: I just got a DUI and now I’m getting all this mail from lawyers offering their services. How did they get my name and who can I sue?

Signed, Un-wanted Attention Getter

Dear Un-wanted Attention Getter: The disclosure of the names of people arrested and charged with DUI is perfectly legal. DUI arrests are matters of public record, published in local newspapers and can be obtained from the Office of the Clerk of the Court under the Freedom of Information Act.

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41.  Dear Judge Tony: If I get my license suspended for DUI, will I be able to get my driver’s license after the suspension is over? If so, for how long?

Signed, Future Probationer

Dear Future Probationer: If you have been given a statutory summary suspension in Illinois, your driving privileges will be reinstated by the Secretary of States Office at the end of the suspension period upon the payment of a reinstatement fee of $60.00. If your driver’s license has been revoked as the result of a DUI conviction, you may apply for a driver’s license after the period of revocation. Because there are different periods of revocation and extensive license reinstatement requirements, I recommend that you contact the Office of the Secretary of State, Department of Administrative Hearings, 288 Howlett Building, Springfield, Illinois, 62756.

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