Marijuana DUI Attorney2024-04-23T23:06:30+00:00
  • woman rolling a marijuana joint inside a car | The Law Office of Purav Bhatt

Marijuana DUI Attorney


As recently as 2020, the state of Illinois has legalized the use of marijuana for both medicinal and recreational purposes. Now, individuals who are found in possession of fewer than 30 grams of marijuana flower and 5 grams of THC concentrate will no longer be arrested and prosecuted.

As a result of this legalization of marijuana, there has been a marked increase in marijuana- and cannabis-related DUI charges. These changes have affected DUI laws in Illinois, which have led to many questions surrounding the law related to driving under the influence of marijuana. Do the same DUI laws apply to marijuana as they do to alcohol? Does it matter if the driver was legally using marijuana at the time? Let’s take a look at some of these questions below.

Marijuana DUI FAQs

What do the police need to charge me with a marijuana DUI?2022-07-13T19:47:31+00:00

Similar to an alcohol-based DUI, the strongest evidence in a DUI case is a blood or saliva test. It should be emphasized that these tests are voluntary and you should not take them. 

An officer may also make observations of impairment in the driver. DUI charges may be based on evidence of impairment such as poor performance on the standardized field sobriety test (SFST), slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, delayed response or committing traffic violations.

Does it matter if the driver was legally using marijuana at the time?2022-07-13T19:29:26+00:00

No. In Illinois, driving under the influence of marijuana is a crime. Regardless of whether you have a medical prescription or were using marijuana legally, you can still be charged and convicted of driving under the influence of marijuana.

What is the limit before I am in danger of a marijuana DUI?2022-07-13T19:28:10+00:00

Similar to driving a vehicle while having a BAC of .08% or more, in marijuana based DUIs the prosecutor would present blood test results establishing the driver was over the legal limit. In marijuana based DUIs, the court must determine whether the driver has a certain level (greater than 5 nanograms of THC (marijuana’s psychoactive chemical)) in his blood or 10 or more nanograms of THC in a driver’s saliva while driving. Any amount below 5 nanograms of blood does not create a violation of the law. If that concentration is met, no matter how well the driving, the driver has violated the law and has committed a marijuana-based DUI.

What are the penalties for a marijuana DUI?2022-07-13T19:25:46+00:00

Penalties for marijuana-related DUI offenses similar to alcohol related DUI offenses.

The penalties for a first-time DUI offense are:

  • Up to 365 days in the county jail
  • License suspension up to a year
  • Court costs, fees and fines up to $2500.00
  • Substance abuse treatment programs
  • Drug testing

For second-time DUI offenses (applies within 20 years of 1st DUI):

  • Up to 365 days in the county jail
  • Minimum five-years suspended license
  • Mandatory minimum of 5 days to be served
  • 240 hours of community service
  • Court costs, fees and fines up to $2500.00
  • Substance abuse treatment programs
  • Drug testing

For third-time DUI offenses

  • 3 to 7 years served in the Illinois Department of Corrections
  • Mandatory 18-30 months in jail
  • Court costs, fees and fines up to $25,000.00
  • Minimum 10-year licenses suspension

Marijuana DUI Laws in Illinois

You can be charged with driving under the influence of marijuana in Chicago under two different laws:

  1. Driving under the influence of cannabis alone or combined with other drugs means that you are incapable of driving safely. A cannabis DUI arrest is usually made on the observations of a law enforcement officer.
  2. Illinois law prohibits driving with more than 5 nanograms of THC concentration in the blood or 10 nanograms in any other bodily substance (urine, saliva, etc.). The test for THC levels is similar to blood alcohol concentration sobriety tests. You can be charged with DUI cannabis if chemical testing reveals amounts of THC above the legal limit within 2 hours of having actual physical control of a motor vehicle.

In Illinois, a police officer cannot arrest you for driving with excess THC levels in your system if you hold a valid medical marijuana card. You should also be a registered user of medical marijuana. In this situation, you can still be held for breaking marijuana DUI laws by a police officer based on their observation. For instance, the officer may observe slurred speech, red eyes, and lack of concentration after pulling you over for failing to stop at a traffic light, speeding, failing to use turn signals, and other violations.

Medical Marijuana Law and DUI Charges in Illinois

On January 1, 2014, the medical marijuana law came into effect. It allowed people with certain conditions to legally possess and use medical marijuana for alleviating their symptoms. These medical conditions include arthritis, cancer, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, spinal cord injuries, Parkinson’s disease, limb pain, brain injuries, post-concussion syndrome, and more.

Individuals that have a qualifying medical condition are granted a Medical Cannabis Registry Card, which allows the lawful consumption of marijuana. These individuals are also provided driving privileges which allows them to be in control of a car with THC in their system.

Taking this into account, you can still be held on DUI charges if your use of marijuana caused an actual impairment that makes you unable to drive safely. In addition, medical marijuana users can be subject to statutory suspension if they drive in an impaired condition.

Possible Defenses Against Marijuana DUI in Illinois

There are different types of DUI defenses that our experienced marijuana DUI attorneys at The Law Office of Purav Bhatt can use to have your DUI charges dropped or reduced. It’s critical to understand that just as in the case of an alcohol-based DUI, you are innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Marijuana DUI attorney Purav Bhatt will do everything possible to prove that reasonable element of doubt.

Standardized field sobriety tests are notorious for their unreliability. Most cannabis-related DUI charges get dropped when such testing methods are challenged.

The particular defense strategy employed will depend on whether you are a first offender or not. Here are a few common defenses we might use for averting a DUI conviction:

  • Claiming the DRE evaluation to be faulty.
  • Challenging the field sobriety testing.
  • Arguing that law enforcement did not have reasonable suspicion to pull you over.
  • Alleging the blood test or saliva test procedures to prove impairment was not as per protocol.
  • Showing that you were not operating or in actual control of the car.

Every DUI case is different and requires a defense that is developed as per the specific facts and circumstances.

Pulled Over for a DUI Offense? Here’s What You Need to Do

If you are a marijuana user, you should always be prepared in case you get pulled over. This is important whether you are a recreational or medicinal marijuana user. Make sure to carry your medical cannabis card if the marijuana use is for medical reasons. Keep your THC products in the glove box or elsewhere out of sight. They should never be in any place that is visible from outside the car.

It’s best if you avoid both medicinal and recreational use of marijuana if you expect to drive in the next 4–5 hours.

Furthermore, you don’t need to allow police officers to search your car, even if you are pulled over on probable cause. You don’t need to answer any questions without having your DUI lawyer present. In fact, you don’t need to submit to any urine or blood test either. However, you will be arrested immediately if you refuse the tests.

Recently, the “plain smell” law has been adopted in Illinois, which means that the smell of cannabis is enough for a warrantless search by police officers. The same holds true if marijuana and other paraphernalia are visible in the car. The most important step to take if facing a cannabis DUI charge is to consult with an experienced attorney – someone who has extensive experience with marijuana DUI laws and a proven track record of success.

A Knowledgeable Marijuana DUI Lawyer

The testing surrounding DUIs is voluntary and need to be administered precisely to be valid in court. An experienced marijuana DUI attorney, like Purav Bhatt, can help you reduce or avoid high fines, potential criminal charges, or even the loss of your license.

If you’ve been charged with a marijuana DUI, call (773) 791-9682 for legal representation.

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