The use of marijuana for both medical and recreational purposes is completely legal in the state of Illinois. Individuals aged 21 years or older can legally buy marijuana from licensed dispensaries across the state. At the same time, Illinois law places strict restrictions on marijuana usage and the amount of marijuana an individual can possess. Particularly, it is a criminal offense to operate a motor vehicle under the influence of marijuana.
In this guide, we will take an in-depth look at marijuana DUI laws in Illinois, the impact of cannabis on your driving skills, the penalties and the consequences of a marijuana DUI conviction, and the steps you need to take if you are facing marijuana DUI charges in Illinois.
Contact The Law Office of Purav Bhatt today to discuss your marijuana DUI case with a skilled Chicago criminal defense attorney.
1. What Constitutes Marijuana DUI Under Illinois Law?
If you operate a motor vehicle while you are under the influence of marijuana or a combination of drugs including marijuana, you can be charged with marijuana DUI.
2. How Does Marijuana Affect Your Driving Behavior?
Studies show that THC – the psychoactive compound present in marijuana – can affect your driving skills significantly. It can affect your motor coordination, attention, concentration, visual function, and short-term memory. It can also slow down your reflexes, impact your reaction time, and affect your ability to complete complex tasks – including driving-related tasks like maintaining a safe distance from the vehicles in front, changing lanes, making turns, and taking evasive actions in case of an emergency.
3. Factors That Affect Marijuana Impairment
Marijuana does not have the same kind of effect on everyone. The effect can differ greatly from one person to another depending on a wide range of factors. These include:
- Age and health condition of the individual.
- Their tolerance for THC.
- Whether they smoked it or ingested it.
- Whether the individual used marijuana along with other drugs.
For example, if you smoke marijuana, you might be able to feel the effects in 10 to 15 minutes and they might last for 2 to 4 hours. On the other hand, if you ingest cannabis edibles, you might be able to feel the effects in 30 to 60 minutes and they might last for 4 to 6 hours or even longer.
Similarly, other things you ingest when you use marijuana can also impact the effects of marijuana. For example, chocolate is known to magnify the effects of cannabis.
4. Can I Be Charged With Marijuana DUI Even If I’m Not High?
Yes. Under the law, if you are found operating a vehicle with 5 or more nanograms of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) in your blood, you can be charged with DUI – even if you are not high. Similarly, if you have 10 or more nanograms of THC in your urine or saliva, you can be charged with DUI – regardless of your level of impairment.
It should be noted that you do not have to actually drive your vehicle in order to be charged with marijuana DUI. Merely being in physical control of your vehicle while you are impaired is considered a violation of Illinois DUI law.
5. Can I Be Charged with Marijuana DUI Even If I Am a Registered Medical Marijuana User?
Yes. Under the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act, individuals who are suffering from medical conditions like glaucoma, hepatitis C, epilepsy, Crohn’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, lupus, multiple sclerosis, and cancer can legally use marijuana in order to alleviate their symptoms. You can find the full list of medical conditions that are covered under the medical cannabis program here.
If you are suffering from one of the aforementioned conditions and you have a medical cannabis registry identification card, you can drive even with trace amounts of marijuana in your system.
The legal limit for THC (5 nanograms or more in blood or 10 nanograms or more in bodily fluids) is not applicable to medical marijuana users. Even if the amount of THC in your system exceeds the legal limit, you are still allowed to drive – as long as you are not impaired and able to drive your vehicle safely.
On the other hand, if you are impaired and unable to drive your vehicle safely, you can be charged with DUI – even if you have a valid medical marijuana card.
6. Types of Police Tests for Marijuana
The most commonly used tests to determine marijuana impairment include:
- Blood test
- Urine test
- Saliva test
7. Permissible Quantity of Marijuana You Can Possess
You are allowed to have up to 30 grams of weed, 5 grams of cannabis concentrate, and up to 500 milligrams of cannabis edibles on your person.
8. Am I Allowed to Have Marijuana in My Vehicle?
Yes, you can have marijuana in your vehicle – as long as you comply with the laws regarding the transportation of marijuana. Under the law, you are required to keep the marijuana in a tightly sealed container. If you buy marijuana from a dispensary, you should not open it while transporting it in your vehicle. Also, the marijuana container or package should be out of your reach.
It’s critical to note that under Illinois’s plain smell law, the police have the authority to conduct a warrantless search if they smell marijuana on your person or in your vehicle or if they find raw marijuana or an open container of marijuana in your vehicle.
This is one reason to keep your marijuana in a tamper-proof and odor-proof container. The rule not only applies to raw marijuana, but for cannabis concentrates and edibles as well.
9. Difference Between Marijuana DUI and Alcohol DUI
Determining whether an individual is under the influence of alcohol is a fairly simple process as breathalyzer tests and chemical tests can reliably detect the amount of alcohol in the system – assuming the instruments are properly calibrated and the tests are administered by an experienced officer.
Determining whether an individual is under the influence of marijuana can be difficult since there is no breathalyzer-type device that can detect the presence of THC in the system. Police officers have to determine whether someone is high based on physical symptoms like bloodshot eyes, slow reaction time, and lack of coordination as well as other factors like the smell of marijuana (on the individual or in their vehicle).
Based on this, the primary difference between alcohol and marijuana is that alcohol gets digested quickly and leaves the system quickly. Marijuana, on the other hand, can remain in the system for several hours, days, or even weeks after being consumed.
When you smoke or ingest marijuana, THC builds up in your fat cells. The more marijuana you consume, the higher the amount of THC buildup in your fat cells tends to be.
Depending on the amount of THC in your fat cells, it can take a long time for your body to flush it all out. If you are a regular smoker, THC might build up faster than your body can flush it out. Depending on how often you use marijuana, how much you use, and whether you smoke or ingest it, it is entirely possible for you to have more than 5 nanograms of THC in your body at all times. As a result, you might fail a drug test even if you have not used marijuana recently.
This is why marijuana DUI cases tend to be more complicated than alcohol DUI cases since it can be very hard to determine when an individual used marijuana.
10. Penalties for Marijuana DUI in Illinois
Under Illinois criminal law, a first-offense marijuana DUI is a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by a $2,500 fine and up to one year in jail. Your driver’s license will also be suspended for 6 months to 1 year – depending on whether you refused to take field sobriety tests or failed them.
Second-offense marijuana DUIs are also prosecuted as a misdemeanor in Illinois. The only difference is that you have to serve a mandatory minimum jail term of 5 days. You also need to undergo a substance evaluation and treatment program. Your driver’s license will also be suspended for a period of 5 years.
Your third marijuana DUI offense – as well as subsequent offenses – will be prosecuted as a felony. The penalties can include imprisonment (3 to 7 years including a mandatory minimum prison term of 18 to 30 months), fines (up to $25,000), and driver’s license suspension (10 years).
As is the case with alcohol DUI, the penalties for marijuana DUI can also be enhanced depending on a number of factors. These include:
- Causing an accident in which one or more people are injured or killed.
- Having a child passenger in the vehicle.
- Driving under the influence of drugs in a school zone.
- Driving under the influence of drugs without liability insurance.
11. Consequences of a Marijuana DUI Conviction in Illinois
If you are convicted of marijuana DUI, your auto insurance company might classify you as a high-risk individual and increase your insurance premiums significantly.
A marijuana DUI conviction can also affect your employment opportunities and make it harder for you to find a decent-paying job – even if you have the necessary qualifications. Additionally, your DUI conviction can prevent you from being eligible for several jobs – especially if the job in question requires you to drive.
Many employers in Illinois have a zero-tolerance policy against drug use. If you are convicted of marijuana use, your employer might decide to fire you – depending on the company policy.
If you are convicted of felony marijuana DUI, the consequences can be life-altering. A felony conviction can affect every aspect of your life – ranging from finding a place to live to getting a job. As a convicted felon, you will not be able to own or possess firearms and will not be able to participate in many state and federal welfare programs.
If you are divorced, a felony conviction can affect your custody and visitation rights as a parent and make it harder for you to be as involved in your child’s life as you would like to be.
12. Possible Defenses for Marijuana DUI in Chicago, IL
There is no perfect legal defense for a marijuana DUI charge. However, depending on the criminal charges you are facing and a number of other factors, your Chicago defense lawyer might use one of the following defenses to beat your charges:
- The chemical tests were not administered properly and the possibility of a false positive cannot be ruled out.
- The police officer made serious procedural errors and gathered the evidence against you through unlawful means.
- The amount of THC in your system was within the legally permissible limit and you were not impaired at the time of your arrest.
- You were not actually impaired and your driving was affected by a medical condition.
Steps You Should Take If You Are Stopped for Marijuana DUI
Do Not Exit the Vehicle
Do not try to exit your vehicle in a hurry. Remain in your vehicle until the officer approaches you and only get out if the officer asks. Turn the light on and make sure the officer can see both of your hands.
Provide The Necessary Documents to the Officer
Hand over your license, insurance, and registration documents to the officer. Do not reach into your pocket, reach behind the seat, or bend over to pick up anything. At this point, the officer does not know whether you are a threat to their safety. If you need to move in order to get the documents, tell the officer where the documents are and ask them if you can get them.
Do Not Answer Any Questions
If the officer asks you whether you know why they pulled you over, which they almost certainly will, tell them that you do not know or that you are not sure.
If the officer asks you whether you have been drinking or using drugs, remain silent or tell them that you would rather not answer the question. Remember – you are not legally required to answer the police officer’s questions – apart from telling them your name and confirming your identity. You may even say a lawyer has advised you that you do not need to answer any of their questions without them present.
Speak to the Officer With Respect
Be polite. Address the officer as “sir” or “ma’am” and answer their questions calmly. At the same time, do not try to be too friendly with the officer. Always remember that you cannot talk or charm your way out of a DUI arrest. If anything, by being too friendly, you might inadvertently blurt out something you should not say, which might be used against you by the prosecution. Remember to be respectful, but watch what you say.
Do not try to talk back or get combative. More importantly, do not make any sudden movements or walk toward the officer to argue with them. It can make the officer feel concerned about their safety, and they might decide to use force to subdue you. Even if you believe that the officer is being rude or if the arrest is unlawful, comply with it. You can hold the officer accountable for their actions with the help of your criminal defense lawyer.
Do Not Take Any Field Sobriety Tests
Do not take the field sobriety tests. Even if you have not been using marijuana, it’s still not a wise idea to take these tests, as these tests are not easy to perform – especially if you are suffering from a medical condition that affects your motor coordination and balance. Politely tell the officer that you do not want to take the tests and a lawyer has advised you that it is not required for you to do so.
Once you are arrested, tell the officer that you would like to invoke your right to remain silent. Do not tell the officer anything – regardless of how innocuous you think it is.
Contact a Lawyer
As soon as possible, call a reliable and skilled criminal defense attorney. Make sure you choose an experienced criminal defense attorney who has successfully defended individuals accused of a marijuana DUI. Until you consult with your attorney, do not talk to anyone regarding the marijuana DUI arrest, and do not accept any deal offered by the prosecution.
Get Strong Legal Representation From Proven Criminal Defense Lawyers in Chicago, IL
At the Law Office of Purav Bhatt, we know how a marijuana DUI conviction can affect someone’s life in a negative way. It is why we defend our clients aggressively and go above and beyond what most other criminal defense lawyers do in order to obtain the best possible outcome for our clients.
Our legal team is led by our founder – Purav Bhatt – who is among the highest-rated criminal defense lawyers in Chicago. He is licensed to practice in state as well as federal courts and has extensive experience in handling a wide array of criminal cases – ranging from drug crimes, marijuana DUIs, and alcohol DUIS to gun crimes, theft crimes, violent crimes, sexual assault, white-collar crimes, and other criminal offenses.
As a former prosecutor, Purav Bhatt knows how the criminal justice system works in Chicago and how prosecutors handle DUI cases. He can attack the prosecution’s case at its weakest point, challenge the evidence against you, and mount the most effective defense possible to obtain a positive outcome.
The Law Office of Purav Bhatt in Chicago, IL has one of the best criminal defense attorneys who has successfully defended countless individuals facing alcohol and marijuana DUI charges. We have a track record of obtaining positive outcomes even in complex cases involving serious charges. It is why we have emerged as a premier criminal defense law firm in Chicago in just over a decade.