Before the legalization of medical marijuana, charges of driving under the influence of marijuana were relatively cut-and-dry. Following the passage of laws allowing the use of medical cannabis in Illinois, the state has had to re-evaluate its DUI laws pertaining to marijuana. If you have been charged with a DUI relating to medical cannabis, the Illinois criminal defense attorneys at Dolci & Weiland are dedicated to representing your best interests.
An Overview of Illinois' Medical Cannabis Laws
In 2014, Illinois passed the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act into law, allowing individuals who have been diagnosed with certain medical conditions to obtain access to medical cannabis for the treatment of these conditions. In order to gain access to medical marijuana, the individual must be a resident of Illinois, and have been diagnosed with a "debilitating medical condition." Conditions which Illinois recognizes as debilitating and thus eligible for use of medical marijuana treatment include:
- Alzheimer's disease
- Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease
- Crohn's disease
- Hepatitis C
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Spinal injuries
- Terminal illnesses with a prognosis of six months or less to live
- Tourette's syndrome
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
Once an Illinois resident has been obtained written certification from a physician diagnosing the individual with a debilitating medical condition, he or she must register with the Illinois Department of Public Health and obtain a medical cannabis registry identification card.
Those who have been issued a medical marijuana card in Illinois are eligible to purchase up to 2.5 ounces of medical marijuana every 14 days.
Driving Under the Influence of Medical Cannabis
Regardless of the legalization of medical cannabis in Illinois, it still remains illegal to drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol in the state. Being permitted to use medical cannabis due to a debilitating medical condition does not mean that a driver is immune from being charged and convicted of driving under the influence; being legally allowed to use the drug for medical treatment is no defense to driving while impaired. Furthermore, medical cannabis must be transported in a container which is tamper-evident and must be stored in an area which is not accessible while driving the vehicle.
When it comes to driving and medical cannabis, the key is impairment--you must have enough marijuana in your system to impair your ability to drive. The mere presence of any marijuana in your bloodstream doesn't necessarily mean that you will be charged with driving under the influence; you must have a blood concentration of 5 or more nanograms of cannabis in order to be charged with DUI for a controlled substance. The presence of 10 or more nanograms of cannabis in urine or saliva will also result in a charge of driving under the influence.
Penalties for DUI Medical Cannabis
The penalties for a DUI for medical cannabis are the same as for a DUI for a controlled substance. A DUI is generally a misdemeanor offense in Illinois. If you are convicted for driving under the influence of marijuana, the criminal penalties for a first-DUI may include:
- Suspended or revoked driver's license,
- Fees to reinstate your license,
- Suspended vehicle registrations,
- Fines and fees,
- Possibility of jail time or probation, and
- DUI on your criminal record.
Possible Penalties for Medical Cannabis Card Holders
If you are a registered medical cannabis cardholder and were pulled over under the suspicion of driving while under the influence, failing a test can result in a six-month suspension of your driving privileges.
While the use of medical marijuana can produce life-changing benefits for those suffering from a debilitating medical condition, being issued a medical marijuana card in Illinois does not come without consequences. Normally, a person who is suspected of driving under the influence is not required to perform a field sobriety test if stopped by a police officer.
Those who possess a medical marijuana card in Illinois, however, are required to submit to a field sobriety test if a police officer maintains a reasonable suspicion to believe that the individual is driving while impaired by cannabis. Refusing to submit to a field sobriety test has serious repercussions: the individual's driver's license may be suspended for one year, and his or her medical cannabis card may be revoked.
Defenses to a DUI Charge Involving Medical Cannabis
If you have been charged with driving under the influence of medical cannabis, certain conditions surrounding your arrest may exist which may help your case.
One of the most common defenses to a charge of driving while under the influence of medical cannabis is that the officer acted in a way that violated the 4th Amendment of the United States Constitution. The 4th Amendment protects American citizens by requiring law enforcement officers to have a reasonable suspicion that a crime is occurring when pulling someone over while driving.
Furthermore, a person who is pulled over has a right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures by an officer. If the officer who pulled you over searched you or your vehicle without any probable cause, the search may be unreasonable and may have a positive impact on your case.
Other defenses may be present in your individual circumstance--the penalties which you face for your charge may be lessened if:
- The field sobriety test which you were subjected to inaccurately reflected that you were impaired by marijuana; and
- A blood test which tested your blood for a specific level of marijuana produced an inaccurate result.
In some circumstances, these defenses can even result in your charges being dropped. Your attorney can help determine whether a defense exists which can help your case.
Facing a DUI Involving Medical Cannabis? We're Here to Help
If you have been charged with driving under the influence of medical cannabis, you deserve competent representation from an attorney with years of experience. The team of criminal defense attorneys at Dolci & Weiland have decades of experience providing clients who face DUIs with stellar service, working to achieve a result which is both favorable and fair. Don't wait until it is too late to take control of your charge--to schedule a consultation to speak with an attorney about your charge, fill out an online contact form or call (630) 261-9098 in DuPage or (312) 238-9007 in Chicago today.