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Illinois Court Discusses Constitutionality of Prior Marijuana DUI Laws Following Recent Changes

As states throughout the country continue to decriminalize the use of marijuana, the laws regarding the operation of vehicles after ingesting marijuana continue to change as well. The changes in the law can drastically affect how marijuana-related DUI charges are prosecuted, as shown in a recent case arising out of an Illinois Appellate Court. If you are a resident of Illinois and are charged with a DUI arising out of your use of marijuana it is crucial to engage a proficient Illinois DUI attorney with experience handling marijuana-related DUI charges to help you set forth a defense.

Facts of the Underlying Case

Reportedly, the defendant was involved in a single-vehicle accident in which his car left the road, and his passenger was ejected from the vehicle. The passenger later died from his injuries. The defendant, who allegedly had marijuana in his system at the time of the accident, was charged with aggravated driving under the influence. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to twelve years in prison. He subsequently appealed, arguing that the DUI statute was unconstitutional, and his sentence was unjust. On appeal, the court affirmed.

At the time of the defendant’s conviction, the DUI statute prohibited a person from driving if he or she had any marijuana in his or her blood. Under the statute, any amount of marijuana use was criminal, and the State only had to prove that the defendant used marijuana prior to driving to obtain a conviction. The statute was later amended to remove marijuana-related offense, and a new provision was added that established the elements of marijuana-related DUI crimes.

Modification of Illinois Marijuana DUI Law

Specifically, the law was modified to criminalize the operation of a vehicle while under the influence of any drug, including marijuana, if the person under the influence of the drug is affected to the extent that he or she can no longer safely drive. Accordingly, a person can be arrested and charged with a DUI in Illinois if he or she operates a vehicle after ingesting marijuana, but only if he or she is deemed impaired due to the marijuana. Additionally, a person who operates a vehicle with a whole blood THC level of 5 nanograms will be presumed to be impaired. In instances where a driver’s THC blood level is below 5 nanograms, his or her THC blood level will be a factor weighed in determining whether the person was under the influence of marijuana, along with other relevant evidence.

Constitutionality of Prior DUI Law

The defendant argued that the version of the statute under which he was convicted was overinclusive and was not related to the goal of keeping marijuana-impaired drivers off the road and was therefore unconstitutional. The court was not persuaded by the defendant’s argument that a subsequent modification of the statute rendered the earlier version unconstitutional, noting that at the time the prior version was passed, science could not determine the amount of marijuana needed to render a person impaired. Thus, the court found that the flat prohibition of marijuana use was reasonably related to the goal of preventing marijuana-impaired driving and affirmed the defendant’s conviction.

Consult a Knowledgeable Attorney Regarding Your DUI Charges

Although marijuana use is legal in many states, its use is nonetheless regulated by law and people who use marijuana and then drive may face marijuana-related DUI charges. If you are faced with a DUI due to driving after consuming marijuana it is crucial to consult a knowledgeable Illinois DUI attorney regarding your charges and what defenses are available to help you avoid a conviction.  Attorney Theodore J. Harvatin, of the Harvatin Law Offices, P.C. is a skillful attorney who will vigorously pursue the best legal outcome possible under the facts of your case. Mr. Harvatin can be reached at 217.525.0520 to schedule a free and confidential meeting to discuss your case.

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