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DUI and Recreational Vehicles

When you imagine a scenario involving driving under the influence, you likely think of driving a car, truck, or other automobile. However, anyone operating other forms of recreational vehicles while intoxicated can be arrested for a DUI charge. This includes operating a boat, snowmobile, or ATV under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If you have been arrested for DUI while operating a recreational vehicle, the attorneys at Dolci & Weiland can help.

Driving Under the Influence Defined

The state of Illinois prohibits a person from driving any vehicle under the following conditions:

  • A blood alcohol content of 0.08;
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol;
  • Driving under the influence of an intoxicating compound to a degree that renders the person incapable of driving safely;
  • Driving after taking any amount of controlled substance or drug such as methamphetamines or opiates; or
  • Having THC in your system up to two hours after driving (with the exception of those who hold a medical cannabis card).

If you are pulled over by an officer while operating a recreational vehicle and any of these situations apply to you, you may be arrested for driving a recreational vehicle under the influence.

Types of Recreational Vehicles and Potential Penalties

Forms of recreational vehicles which can lead to a DUI charge in Illinois include:

All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV), Golf Cart, and Dirt Bike DUIs

Under 625 ILCS 5/11-1426-1, it is a crime for a person to drive or be in actual physical control of a non-highway vehicle on a roadway while under the influence. A person who is convicted of this charge is subject to the same DUI charges one would face if driving a car. For example, as a first offense DUI, the individual could face a license suspension for 6 months, possible jail time, and a fine of up to $2,500.

Boats, Watercraft, and Snowmobile DUIs

Charges of operating a boat or snowmobile while under the influence are regulated by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (DNR). If you are operating a boat, jet ski, or other watercraft with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 or higher, you may be charged with boating under the influence (BUI). If you are operating a snowmobile with a BAC of 0.08 or higher, you may be charged with snowmobiling under the influence (SUI).

Those who are convicted of boating under the influence can face up to a year of imprisonment along with hefty fines. BUI accidents resulting in serious injuries or previous convictions of BUI can result in a charge of a Class 4 Felony, which can land you in prison for up to 3 years or earn you a fine of as much as $25,000. BUI charges can also have serious effects on your driver's license, and heighten the penalties you may face if you face a subsequent alcohol-related offense. Conviction of an SUI charge can lead to similar penalties.

In addition to the penalties listed above, new laws in Illinois can result in additional penalties for juveniles--effective August 11, 2017, public officials must report to the Secretary of State any time a juvenile has been convicted or received court supervision for driving under the influence while operating a snowmobile or watercraft.

In addition to the penalties listed above, a charge of DUI involving a recreational vehicle can also result in mandatory community service and enrollment in a drug and alcohol abuse class.

Defenses to Recreational Vehicle DUI Charges

Depending on the circumstances, a defendant may have a number of defenses to charges of driving a recreational vehicle under the influence. A strong criminal defense could mean your charges could be reduced, or even dropped altogether. Examples of defenses to a recreational vehicle DUI include:

  • Challenging the Breath Test: a breath test is often the prosecutor's most critical piece of evidence in a DUI case. While breath tests can often provide an accurate analysis of your blood alcohol content, at the end of the day they are still machines and are prone to errors. You may be able to prove that the breathalyzer was improperly calibrated, was not properly maintained, or was used by an officer who was not adequately trained in how to use the machine.
  • Challenging the Field Sobriety Tests: A field sobriety test can also inaccurately suggest that you were impaired while driving. You may have a medical condition that causes you to fail a field sobriety test while entirely sober. For example, if you have a balance condition or brain injury, you may not be able to balance well enough or track an object smoothly enough with your eyes to pass a field sobriety test. Your attorney can help you evaluate whether you have any grounds on which to challenge a field sobriety test.
  • Fourth Amendment Violations: the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution gives every individual the right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure by an officer. In order to pull you over, an officer must have probable cause that you are committing a crime; he or she cannot stop you for no reason in hopes of discovering that you have done something wrong. If you were pulled over without probable cause, then, you may be able to challenge your arrest by asserting a violation of your Fourth Amendment rights.

While these are the most common defenses to a charge of driving a recreational vehicle under the influence, they are not the only defenses; a skilled criminal defense attorney may be able to assert another form of defense even if the above scenarios do not apply.

Facing an ATV or Boat DUI Charge? Let Us Help You Today

If you are facing a charge of driving under the influence while operating a recreational vehicle in Illinois, such as an ATV, snowmobile, or boat, don't wait until it is too late to retain an attorney who is on your side. The team of criminal defense attorneys at Dolci & Weiland have decades of experience defending individuals against DUI charges like yours. To schedule an appointment to speak with an attorney about your charge, fill out an online contact form or call the office closest to you today. For our DuPage office, call (630) 261-9098, or for our Chicago location, call (312) 238-9007.

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