Driving under the influence (DUI) is a crime in Illinois that also includes driving under the influence of drugs, not just alcohol. Marijuana is included even though presently medical marijuana is legal for anyone 18 years of age or older with a medical marijuana registration card – you cannot drive a vehicle under the influence of cannabis. Even when marijuana becomes available in 2020 for recreational use for persons over the age of 21, it will still be illegal to drive under the influence of it.
Motorists have many questions about what this means come the new year. We at Dolci & Weiland provide an overview of Cannabis DUI here. But if you still have questions or have been arrested for a DUI in DuPage County or Cook County, contact us immediately so that we can discuss the specifics of your case and get started on a strong, viable defense.
What is Cannabis DUI in Illinois?
Cannabis DUI is the unlawful operation of a motor vehicle under the influence of cannabis. You are considered unlawfully under the influence of cannabis if – within two hours of driving or being in actual physical control of a vehicle – you have:
- five or more grams of THC in your blood; or
- ten or more nanograms of THC in your saliva.
THC is tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive compound in marijuana that makes you feel high.
How is Marijuana Detected during a DUI Traffic Stop in Illinois?
The police may observe you:
- swerving the vehicle in the road;
- failing to use turn signals;
- failing to stop of a traffic light; or
- any other type of moving or non-moving violation of the rules of the road.
These violations give the officer probable cause to arrest you or ticket you for the moving violation and reasonable suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Once the officer pulls you over, he or she may identify signs of being high, like:
- the odor of marijuana
- paraphernalia or unsealed, accessible bags of marijuana in plain sight
- red eyes
- lack of concentration
As a result, you will be asked to conduct field sobriety tests. You must perform these tests; refusal means an automatic suspension of your driver's license. These tests may indicate that you have:
- delayed or decreased reaction times;
- decreased short-term memory;
- poor hand-eye coordination; and/or
- decreased perception of time and distance.
All of these are signs that you may be under the unlawful influence of marijuana. You will then be arrested. To note, a preliminary breath test cannot identify THC on your breath, but it may be given to you to make sure that alcohol is not the cause of these same symptoms.
Sometimes a drug recognition expert (DRE) may be called to the scene. These are officers with special training to supposedly recognize drivers believed to be impaired by drugs, like marijuana. The DRE conducts an evaluation that can take up to an hour to complete. Some of the tests the DREs use during this assessment have not been approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. And just like the field sobriety tests, the DRE assessment is highly subjective and produces inaccurate assumptions.
What are the Penalties in Chicago for a Cannabis DUI Conviction?
Penalties for a Cannabis DUI conviction are the same for a DUI involving alcohol. You must also undergo two processes: (1) the administrative hearing; and (2) the criminal proceedings.
Via the administrative process, you automatically lose your driver's license but can fight the process by requesting a hearing. Driver's license suspension occurs regardless of what happens to the criminal case.
Via the criminal process, you can expect imprisonment, fines, probation, drug treatment classes, community service, and additional driver's license suspension. With regard to imprisonment and fines specifically, you face:
- up to 1 year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500 for a first-offense or second-offense DUI, both of which are Class A misdemeanors;
- up to 3 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000 for a third or subsequent DUI offense, which is a Class 2 felony.
The penalties are enhanced when there are aggravating circumstances, like:
- you drove knowingly you were not covered by liability insurance;
- children were in the vehicle; or
- there was a car accident and serious bodily injuries or fatalities occurred.
In addition to the administrative and criminal penalties you face, you also – if convicted – face what is known as collateral consequences of a criminal record. These include things like difficulty finding a job, obtaining good housing, getting financial aid, among many other things in your life that a criminal record – especially one involving a drug crime – can negatively impact.
Are There Defenses in Illinois to an Allegation of Cannabis DUI?
Cannabis DUIs are defensible. The first thing to remember is this: you are innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and we at Dolci & Weiland intend to create that doubt. The second thing to know is this: tests to determine the THC level in your body are notoriously unreliable. These tests can and should be challenged.
Your defense may also include strategies like:
- arguing the police did not have reasonable suspicion to stop you;
- challenging the field sobriety tests or a DRE evaluation as faulty;
- alleging the testing procedures were not followed strictly to protocol;
- showing you were not actually in control of or operating the vehicle.
These are just a few strategies that could be used. Each case is different, and, as such, the defense will be developed according to the facts and circumstances.
Contact an Experienced Cannabis DUI Attorney in Chicago
Marijuana is becoming more and more prevalent, especially since soon it will be legal for recreational purposes in Illinois. The police will be stepping up its game to look for drivers under the influence of marijuana. It's important to retain an experienced DUI attorney to help you put forth the best defense possible. We at Dolci & Weiland are committed and will pursue every angle of your case to help you get the best outcome possible. Contact us today to discuss your DUI case.