After enjoying a few drinks at Happy Hour, three adult friends got into one’s car. Can you fill in the rest of the story? In the best case scenario, they had been drinking responsibly, the driver was not impaired, and all got home safely.
But what if their driver had had one or two drinks too many? Whose responsibility was it to make sure that driver was not impaired? Obviously, if you feel impaired, you should not get behind the wheel. But what is your responsibility as a passenger or bystander if someone is driving under the influence ?
Adult Passengers Have No Legal Responsibility for Others’ DUI
Under Illinois law, you have no legal responsibility to stop another adult (over age 21, that is) from driving their own vehicle while intoxicated, unless you were involved in selling them the alcohol which caused them to become impaired. So, if you suspect a driver is legally intoxicated, you commit no crime if you let them drive away or if you ride along as a passenger in their car. Even if they end up arrested for DUI , you will not be charged with a crime, as long as you were just a law-abiding passenger.
That said, you take a big risk when you get into a car with a drunk driver. You could be seriously injured or even die as a result of their impaired driving. If the driver is pulled over by the police and some sort of dispute arises (for example, if you lie when questioned or get upset and start yelling), you could end up in jail yourself, charged with a crime such as obstructing justice or disorderly conduct.
Ultimately, you have to follow your conscience and use your best judgment. Make a reasonable effort to persuade a drunk or drugged friend to take a cab or to hand off their keys to a sober person to drive. If you believe someone poses a danger to themselves or others, you can always report a suspected drunk driver to the police by calling 911 and providing a description of the person and vehicle, the license plate number, and their location.
You Are Responsible if You Let an Intoxicated Person Drive Your Car
Illinois law does hold you responsible if you let an intoxicated person drive a motor vehicle that you own. According to statute 625 ILCS 5/6-304.1 , if you knowingly permit your own vehicle to be driven by someone under the influence (other than your spouse or a co-owner of the vehicle), you can be convicted of a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment for up to one year and fines of up to $2,500.
Most adults, at one time or another, have faced the impaired driving issue, either as a driver wondering “Have I drunk too much to drive safely?” or as a passenger questioning “Should I get into a car with this driver who seems intoxicated?” When in doubt, you will not go wrong by erring on the side of caution.
Protect Your Rights With an Experienced Joliet Criminal Defense Attorney
Mistakes happen. If you or a friend are facing criminal charges as a result of over consumption, do not compound your mistake by trying to go it alone. At the Law Offices of Jack L. Zaremba, we will investigate your case thoroughly to develop evidence that could get your charges reduced or even dismissed. Contact an experienced Will County DUI defense lawyer at 815-740-4025 for a free and confidential consultation; phone calls are answered 24 hours a day.