Impaired drivers are a hazard of the road and cause thousands of fatal collisions each year. While alcohol has been the leading cause of impaired driving for decades, drugs recently surpassed alcohol as the leading cause of impairment in collisions involving an impaired driver. The increase in drug related collisions is likely due to several factors, including the opioid epidemic and legalization of marijuana. While many drivers are impaired due to the use of illicit drugs, drivers who are using legally prescribed medications still face the risk of impairment if they are unfamiliar with the side effects of their medication.
Presently, there is no national standard for testing a driver suspected of DUI for opioids, marijuana or other drugs, and police officers often struggle with recognizing the signs a driver is impaired due to drugs. Under the current law, Illinois DUI suspects can be subjected to testing of their blood, urine or breath if impairment is suspected. The currently available drug tests, which utilize a suspect’s blood and urine, can be costly and take a long time to administer, which may allow for the suspect’s body to eliminate some or all of the drug. As such, police departments have been searching for technology that would allow for quick, easy, and accurate testing of whether a suspect has ingested any prescribed or illicit drugs that would cause impairment, similar to the way a Breathalyzer test detects alcohol.
In the near future, the Police Department of Carol Stream Illinois will begin testing newly developed technology by administering drug tests via a mouth swab, which will allow them to test for opioids, marijuana, and amphetamines. The Carol Stream Police Department appears to be the first police department in Illinois to begin using driver drug tests. The tests not only give a positive result if the suspect has drugs in his or her system, but will provide measurements of the amount of drugs present. The Carol Stream police plan to conduct field tests to determine the accuracy of the mouth swab tests, by asking DUI suspects who submit to a blood test to submit to the mouth swab as well, so the results of both tests can be compared.
Even if the mouth swab drug tests prove to be accurate, prosecuting attorneys will still have to face the issue of whether the test results are admissible in court as evidence of DUI. Currently, Illinois has a zero-tolerance policy for drugs other than marijuana, which means a person can be convicted of DUI for having any amount of drugs in his or her system. While there are statutes defining what blood alcohol or marijuana level constitutes impairment, there are no similar statutes defining what blood level of any drug constitutes impairment; as such, issues will likely arise as to what level of each drug constitutes impairment.
Further, the tests would have to be approved by several administrative and law enforcement agencies. Even if the tests are approved, there would likely be a Frye hearing to determine whether scientists in the field of testing of substances in blood levels deem the tests reliable, before any test results could be used as evidence of DUI in court. Additionally, it is anticipated there will be pushback from civil rights and defense attorneys. As such, it may be years before any driver drug tests are approved for routine use in Illinois.
If you were involved in a drug or alcohol related motor vehicle collision and are now charged with DUI due to that collision, you should consult with an experienced Illinois DUI attorney as soon as possible to ensure your case is properly defended. Harvatin Law Offices, PC provides knowledgeable representation to individuals throughout Illinois. Contact our office at 217.525.0520 to schedule a consultation.
More Blog Posts:
State Supreme Court Holds That Non-Expert Witnesses May Not Testify as to Whether DUI Subject Was High On Marijuana Illinois DUI Lawyer Blog, November 30, 2017.
Pennsylvania Supreme Court Holds Defendant Acted With Malice When She Huffed Dust-Off Before Fatal Crash Illinois DUI Lawyer Blog, November 2, 2017.
Illinois Governor Signs Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Illinois DUI Lawyer Blog, September 1, 2016.