Defendants who are charged with driving under the influence under Section 11-501 of the Illinois Vehicle Code will almost always benefit from a reduction of the charge from DUI to reckless driving under Section 11-503.
Both offenses are Class A misdemeanors for which the sentence can be up to one year in jail and a fine of $2,500. But the consequences for each offense are not the same.
A DUI conviction has the result of a mandatory revocation of your driver’s license by the Secretary of State under Section 6-205. A conviction for reckless driving, however, does not result in a revocation.
The only exception is where the defendant has two prior convictions for reckless driving in the same year. A third conviction for reckless driving in 12 months will result in a revoked license under Section 6-205.
The fact that reckless driving will not revoke your license is primary reason for pleading guilty to reckless driving when charged with DUI. Court supervision is available on a first DUI offense, but not the second. Therefore, a reduction to reckless driving is critical for a second DUI offense.
Another important issue for a DUI reduced to reckless driving is that, even for a first offense, reckless driving is preferable to court supervision for DUI. The reason is, when you are on court supervision, any violation of the sentence can result in re-sentencing and a conviction. That conviction will, of course, revoke your driver’s license. Therefore, while court supervision for DUI may seem like a good deal, you are constantly at risk of losing it due to some innocent mistake such as a traffic offense or failure to pay the fine because you are financially unable to do so.
If you violate your sentence for reckless driving, however, the Secretary of State generally cannot take any action against your driver’s license. The court may sentence you for up to one year in jail, but the Secretary of State cannot revoke your license. There is one exception, though, where the defendant fails to pay all the fines and court costs associated with a reckless driving charge. This will cause the Secretary to refuse to renew your license for failure to pay (e.g., there will be an FP notation on your driver’s abstract).
Last, the issue of your criminal record is important. A reckless driving offense on a driving record may not look bad, but a DUI is always negative.
The sentence for a DUI reduced to reckless driving will be generally almost exactly the same as a sentence for DUI. A substance abuse evaluation will be required and the defendant will be ordered to complete all recommended treatment. Also, the defendant will be ordered to attend a Victim Impact Panel where DUI victims discuss the ways in which drunk drivers have affected their lives. A fine will be imposed that is typically higher than average (to compensate for the fact that the DUI has been reduced).