DUI and Cannabis

Marijuana (Cannabis) DUI

The majority of DUI client’s I see are charged with driving under the influence of alcohol. Recently, my office has seen a noticeable rise in charges related to driving under the influence of marijuana. There are many questions surrounding the law related to driving under the influence of marijuana. Do the same DUI laws apply to marijuana like they do to alcohol? Does it matter if the driver was legally using marijuana at the time?

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.  It is common knowledge that there is a “legal limit” that if over, would result in being arrested for DUI. In Illinois that “legal limit” for a driver’s blood alcohol concentration is .08%.

Recent Changes in Cannabis Laws in Illinois

As recently as 2016, the state of Illinois decriminalized the possession of marijuana under 10 grams. As of 2016, individuals who are found in possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana will no longer be arrested and prosecuted. Now, if you are searched and found to be in possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana, a municipal ordinance violation is issued and is punishable by civil penalty only.

As a result of this “decriminalization” of marijuana, I have seen a marked increase in marijuana and cannabis related DUI charges. These changes have affected DUI laws in Illinois. It is still against the law to drive under the influence of marijuana, even if you have a medical marijuana card. (See the Secretary of State) Like alcohol related DUIs, an officer may charge a driver with DUI and prove the offense through chemical, observational and circumstantial evidence.

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.

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.

Possible Penalties for DUI

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

Purav Bhatt is a criminal defense attorney practicing in Cook, DuPage, Lake and Will counties. He is located in Chicago, Illinois near most Chicago and suburban courthouses including: Markham, Bridgeview, Skokie, Maywood and Rolling Meadows.

If you or a loved on has been arrested for a criminal offense please contact Mr. Bhatt at 773-791-9682 to discuss your matter.

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