Articles Posted in Marijuana DUI

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As marijuana use becomes increasingly legal throughout the country, legislatures and courts are slowly establishing laws, further defining and limiting its use. For example, an issue that keeps arising is whether the smell of marijuana emanating from a car provides probable cause for the police to believe the driver of the car is operating the vehicle while intoxicated. This issue was recently addressed by a California court that ultimately found that the smell of marijuana alone was insufficient to effectuate a stop. Conversely, the issue of whether the smell of marijuana is adequate grounds to stop a driver is before the Illinois Supreme Court, with a ruling likely to be issued in the near future. If you are faced with marijuana-related DUI charges, it is in your best interest to consult a seasoned Illinois DUI defense attorney to discuss your potential defenses.

The California Ruling

It is reported that a California appellate court recently issued a ruling stating that the smell of marijuana in a vehicle is not sufficient grounds for the police to conduct a search of the entire vehicle. In that case, the police were on DUI patrol when a car without a front license plate drove by. The police stopped the car, and after approaching the vehicle, smelled marijuana. The police questioned the driver who admitted to having marijuana in his console. The police then searched the entire vehicle and found a loaded gun under the driver’s seat. The defendant was charged with possession of an illegal weapon. During the trial, the search of the defendant’s vehicle was deemed legal, but on appeal, that ruling was overturned. The court stated that marijuana use is legal, and the only evidence the police relied on as grounds to search the car was the smell of marijuana, which the court stated was not evidence of a crime.

Illinois’s Standpoint on the Issue

The issue of whether the smell of marijuana is adequate to provide a police officer probable cause to stop a motorist and search his or her vehicle was recently argued before the Illinois Supreme Court, but a ruling has not yet been issued. That case arose under similar circumstances as the California case, in that the officer stopped the defendant because he smelled an odor of marijuana coming from the defendant’s car. The defendant’s car was searched, and during the search, the police found crack cocaine, which led to the defendant being charged with drug crimes. While the stop occurred prior to the legalization of marijuana in Illinois, the argument before the Illinois Supreme Court was held after marijuana use was legalized.

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Although the recreational use of marijuana is now legal in Illinois, people who ingest marijuana must nonetheless do so responsibly. Thus, people who drive after smoking or ingesting marijuana may be charged with DUI if they are too impaired to operate a vehicle safely. The police cannot legally stop a person for suspicion of DUI or any other crime unless they have reasonable grounds to believe that the person is intoxicated. Recently, the question arose as to whether the smell of marijuana emanating from a vehicle is sufficient cause for the police to conduct a warrantless search of a vehicle, now that the use of marijuana is legal. The Illinois Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments on the issue, and an answer should be forthcoming in the near future. If you are charged with a DUI due to the use of marijuana, it is advisable to consult a proficient Illinois DUI attorney regarding your case.

The Illinois Case on Appeal  

It is reported that the stop and search that was conducted by an Illinois officer occurred prior to the legalization of marijuana. The officer allegedly smelled marijuana coming from the vehicle, and when he walked up to the vehicle saw a bud of marijuana in the backseat. Thus, the officer believed he had probable cause to search the vehicle. During the search, the officer did not find marijuana but found crack cocaine, which led to the defendant being charged with possession. The defendant’s attorney argued that the smell of marijuana is not sufficient grounds to believe a crime is being committed, and therefore, the police officer lacked probable cause to search the defendant’s car. Thus, the issue before the court is, now that the use of marijuana is legal, whether an officer has probable cause to search a person’s vehicle when the smell of marijuana is coming from the vehicle.

Laws Regarding Warrantless Searches and Marijuana Throughout the Country

Other states have grappled with the subject issue as well. In Pennsylvania, Colorado, and Massachusetts, the courts have ruled that the smell of marijuana, in and of itself, does not provide an officer with probable cause to search a vehicle, as it no longer indicates a person is committing a criminal act. Conversely, in Maryland, the courts have ruled that a search conducted based on the smell of marijuana is permitted because marijuana is contraband. The Maryland court stated that simply because the use of marijuana was decriminalized, it did not mean that the use was necessarily legal, as most people did not have the right to use marijuana at that time. Notably, Maryland and Pennsylvania both permit the use of medicinal marijuana but arrived at different conclusions on the same issue.

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While the use of marijuana for recreational purposes is legal in a handful of states, many of their conservative neighboring states are not inclined to legalize marijuana. Additionally, many states that neighbor states where marijuana use is legal have expressed concerns regarding how the legalization of marijuana use outside of their jurisdiction could affect the crime and accident rates within their state. For example, Oklahoma and Nebraska brought a suit against Colorado, alleging that the dangerous repercussions of legalizing marijuana would leak into their state. Similarly, Idaho voiced displeasure with Washington’s recent legalization of marijuana, implying it would cause the rate of criminal activity and collisions to increase in Idaho.

A recent study suggests, however, that the legalization of marijuana use in Washington actually led to a decrease in alcohol-related car accident rates in Idaho. Although Illinois recently passed laws legalizing the use of marijuana that will become effective in 2020, the use of marijuana is not legal in any of the states neighboring Illinois. Thus, Illinois’s neighbors may experience a decrease in DUI related crashes as well. If you reside in Illinois and are faced with DUI charges, it is advisable to speak with a seasoned Illinois DUI lawyer regarding your case.

Impact of Legalization of Marijuana in Washington on Idaho DUI Crashes

It is reported that an economics professor at Utah State University analyzed data regarding car crashes in Idaho for the four years before and after the legalization of marijuana in Washington, as well as data regarding internet searches in Idaho for places to buy marijuana in Washington, and data pertaining to police search and seizures of people who were caught with marijuana in Idaho. Ultimately, the professor’s study indicated that the rate of alcohol-related collisions in Idaho decreased by 18% overall after the legalization of marijuana in Washington. Additionally, the decrease in accidents was greater in counties that bordered Washington than in those that were farther away. Thus, it was reported that the study suggests that as people have greater access to marijuana, there are fewer alcohol-related accidents.

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While the use of marijuana is legal in many states throughout the nation, it has not been permitted for long, and the effects of the legalization of marijuana have only recently begun to be apparent. For example, Washington reporters recently assessed the consequences of the legalization of marijuana and laws regulating the use of marijuana, noting that there are pitfalls to prosecuting marijuana DUIs, and that the legalization may not have had the impact on crime rates that was anticipated. Illinois recently decriminalized the use of marijuana, though the law will not go into effect until 2020, and the results of decriminalization are likely to be the same as those experienced in Washington.  If you live in Illinois and were recently charged with a marijuana-related DUI, it is prudent to meet with a skillful Illinois DUI attorney to discuss your case.

Crime Following Washington’s Legalization of the Use of Marijuana

It is reported that Washington allows a person to be charged with a marijuana-related DUI if the person is impaired or has a whole blood THC level of 5 nanograms or higher. It appears that many prosecutors and law enforcement officers are dismayed by Washington’s current 5 nanogram limit, stating that it places pressure on them to produce test results at a trial arising out of a marijuana DUI charge, but blood tests are not administered in each case. Further, many people do not want evidence of marijuana-related impairment used as a basis for DUI, but would rather stick to the defined blood level. Marijuana is not processed the same way as alcohol, however, so testing methods that work for alcohol may not work as well for marijuana. Thus, entities in Washington continue to pursue more accurate tests.

The article also noted that not accounting for a decrease in marijuana-related arrests, crime rates in Washington did not change after marijuana was legalized. Further, there was no reduction in black market sales of marijuana. As such, studies regarding the effect of the legalization of marijuana on criminal activity were being pursued as well.

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