Driving Under the Influence (DUI) of Marijuana
In 2019, Illinois became the 11th state to legalize recreational marijuana use. Since January 2020, Illinoisans—and out of state visitors—are allowed to purchase marijuana for personal use from state-licensed retailers. Legalizing recreational marijuana is not a simple process. To protect public health and safety while also legalizing marijuana, legislators have to address public health and safety questions in their legislation.
One of the most important public health questions is how to protect the public against individuals driving under the influence of marijuana. Many believe that driving under the influence of marijuana isn’t as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol. This is not true. Marijuana slows down reaction times, affects visual perception, and can act as a distraction itself, so driving under its influence is just as dangerous as driving after drinking.
Read on for a breakdown of Illinois’ cannabis DUI laws, including driving under the influence penalties.
Can I Get a DUI for Driving on Marijuana in Illinois?
Because it is dangerous to drive under the influence of marijuana, it is illegal to do so in Illinois. In fact, if you are caught driving high in Illinois, the state can charge you with a driving under the influence (DUI) infraction. A DUI is a Class A Misdemeanor in Illinois. If convicted of DUI, the consequences can include jail time for up to a year, a fine of up to $2,500, or both. As a result of the harsh penalties, anyone facing a marijuana-related DUI charge should retain the services of an experienced local attorney handling DUI cases as soon as possible.
How Do They Test for Marijuana?
If Illinois police pull someone over during a traffic stop and suspect that they are under the influence of marijuana, they can administer a chemical sobriety test. A traditional breathalyzer test cannot test for the presence of marijuana like it does with alcohol. Instead, Illinois police use two different methods to chemically detect marijuana. Both methods look for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in the body.
The first method is a blood test. If someone is suspected of driving under the influence, the police can administer a blood test to look for THC in their bloodstream. A positive test result of more than 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood supports a DUI charge. The second method is the testing of other bodily substances for the presence of THC. Most often done through a urinalysis, a positive result of 10 nanograms of THC per milliliter of other bodily substance also supports a DUI charge. Readers should note that as with alcohol, driving with an open container of marijuana in the car can trigger a DUI charge.
What If I Refuse the Test?
If you refuse to take a sobriety test, there are consequences. If the police suspect you of driving under the influence of marijuana and you refuse a sobriety test, your driver’s license is subject to an administrative suspension.
Like all states, Illinois has an implied consent rule attached to its driving regulations. In Illinois, this means that by driving in the state, you automatically consent for police to administer chemical tests when they suspect a DUI. According to this set of rules, known as the Statutory Summary Suspension Rules for suspected DUI, anyone who refuses a chemical test is subject to driver license suspension for some time. The summary suspension is an administrative penalty, so it is entirely separate from any related criminal offenses. However, prosecutors can use someone’s refusal of a chemical test and subsequent summary suspension as evidence for a criminal DUI charge.
How Long Do Special Statutory Summary Suspensions Last?
The length of an Illinois statutory summary suspension for suspected DUI depends on two factors. First, it depends on whether the suspected individual is a first time offender. Second, the suspension length hinges on whether the suspected individual failed or refused testing.
If someone has no prior DUIs or summary suspensions from any state in the last 5 years, they qualify as a first offender. If someone has a summary suspension but does not have a criminal DUI charge, they are not a first offender.
First offenders who fail a chemical sobriety test face a 6-month license suspension. On the other hand, first offenders who refuse a chemical sobriety test face a 12-month license suspension.
Summary suspension periods for repeated offenders are harsher than those for first offenders. Someone who is a repeat offender and fails a chemical sobriety test faces a 12-month administrative license suspension. Finally, a repeat offender who refuses a chemical sobriety test is subject to a 36-month administrative license suspension. Anyone facing a summary suspension for DUI can appeal the decision in Circuit Court by filling out the form on the back of the summary suspension notice that they receive in the mail.
You Can get a Marijuana DUI Even If You Are Not Stoned
Because of the way marijuana works in the body, you can end up with a DUI charge even when you are not high. The threshold amounts of THC for a marijuana DUI are microscopic. A nanogram is one billionth of a gram, so you can see how easily the concentration of THC in your blood can reach the threshold. THC is fat soluble and remains detectable in the body for hours or sometimes days after someone uses marijuana. Many different factors affect how long it is detectable in the bloodstream, including your overall health, metabolism, and body fat percentage, as well as how often you use marijuana. People who use marijuana regularly often have detectable THC in their blood a few days after the marijuana’s effects have worn off. Thus, even when you do not feel marijuana’s effects, if you regularly use marijuana and drive, a DUI is a constant risk. You can cite not feeling marijuana’s effects at the time of a traffic stop as grounds for an appeal or reduced sentence, but by the letter of the law, such a defense will not always work.
What Are the Penalties for a Marijuana DUI?
As noted, Illinois prosecutes most first-time DUI charges as Class A misdemeanors. A conviction for a Class A misdemeanor in Illinois brings up to one year imprisonment, a fine of up to $2,500, or both. For repeat offenders, and those who injure others while driving under the influence, the penalties increase. Second offenders can expect a mandatory minimum of five days imprisonment on top of other penalties.
In the third and fourth instance, a DUI aggravates to a Class 2 felony, which brings three to seven years imprisonment, up to $25,000 in fines, or both. Finally, fifth and sixth offenses are Class 1 felonies that bring 4-15 years imprisonment and 6-30 years imprisonment, respectively, alongside the same fines as a third or fourth offense. The best way to mitigate any of these penalties is to hire an experienced local attorney handling DUI cases to fight the charge.
Trying to avoid fines, jail time, and license suspension is not the only reason to fight a marijuana-related DUI offense. There are countless penalties aside from those imposed by the state that a DUI can cause. Here are just a few of them:
- Social stigma;
- Job loss due to the criminal charge;
- Job loss due to an inability to drive to work;
- Job loss due to missing work for jail time;
- Increase in car insurance rates;
- Difficulty finding future employment;
- Difficulty getting a loan or a mortgage; and
- Jeopardization of child custody.
These are just a few of the many ways that a DUI can negatively impact your life. Despite its recent legalization, the negative social stigma surrounding marijuana use is still prevalent in many social circles. Thus, any marijuana-related criminal charge can have ancillary penalties entirely separate from those that the state imposes.
If You Find Yourself Facing a Marijuana-Related DUI Charge
If the police are charging you with a marijuana related DUI, don’t wait to find legal help. Call us at The Jordan Law Firm today. The Jordan Law Firm has considerable experience in defending clients against DUI charges specifically, so we know the ins and outs of Illinois DUI rules. Furthermore, the DUI legal practitioner at our Arlington Heights and Waukegan locations closely followed the development of Illinois’ marijuana DUI laws long before the state implemented them. For these reasons, our lawyer can offer an unmatched level of service and expertise to our clients affected by Illinois’ marijuana DUI laws. Don’t wait for someone else to protect your freedom and constitutional rights. Instead, take things into your own hands and call us at The Jordan Law Firm today for the white glove legal service you deserve.