Understanding Marijuana DUI Laws In Illinois

 Posted on November 13, 2014 in Criminal Defense

drug driving, driving under the influence, Illinois drug attorney, While medical marijuana is now legal in Illinois for patients who comply with state law, it is still illegal for anyone to drive under the influence of marijuana. Not many people understand, however, the far reaching impact of Illinois’ strict per se drugged driving law. The law forbids people from operating a motor vehicle if they have any detectable level of marijuana present in body fluids.

Strict Standards & Punishments

Opponents of per se legislation argue that just the presence of cannabinoids from marijuana in the bloodstream does not adequately measure impairment. Although ingestion of THC only has an immediate, measurable deleterious effect on performance for up to three hours after use, it stays in the body as a metabolized non-active and detectable substance far longer. Because cannabinoids remain present in both blood and urine for up to 30 days, it is theoretically possible to be charged with a per se marijuana DUI for a joint smoked a month ago (even if done so legitimately under the state’s medical marijuana program).

Therefore, any user of marijuana, no matter for what reason, is absolutely restricted from driving in the state of Illinois.

These laws operate very much like the idea of a zero drug policy in the workforce.

All 50 states have criminal laws on the books forbidding driving under the influence of cannabis. However, Illinois is one of 18 states plus the District of Columbia to have proceeded with the much harsher per se regulations that can lead to a marijuana DUI. Illinois is also one of 14 states to have imposed  zero tolerance per se law driving restrictions with regards to marijuana. There are no “medical exceptions” to this policy.

In addition, medical marijuana patients, or potential medical marijuana patients, in the state of Illinois are subjected to a routine background check as part of the process to enter the program. A record that includes a DUI conviction may be grounds for exclusion from the same.

Beyond the issue of driving, marijuana remains a major source of criminal convictions in Illinois. Despite the fact that medical marijuana is now legal for qualified users in the state, Illinois still has the fifth highest arrest rate nationally for marijuana possession. Penalties can include jail sentences of up to 30 days plus a fine of $1,500 for less than 2.5 grams of marijuana.

Collateral sanctions (penalties that continue to follow a user with a criminal record) in Illinois are also very harsh. They include:

  • A bar for life on some public sector jobs;
  • Access to overall employment, public assistance and housing;
  • Significant increased difficulty in obtaining loans, including student loans; and
  • Deportation for both legal and undocumented non-citizen residents (for a single marijuana-related misdemeanor).

Get Legal Help

While the laws are changing in Illinois, along with the rest of the country, and current legislation in the state Senate may end up decriminalizing small amounts for medical purposes, the use of marijuana is still an issue fraught with legal perils, particularly in Illinois.  If facing criminal prosecution for marijuana DUI or any drug conviction in the area, the first thing you should always do is contact a reputable, skilled criminal attorney to represent you. Reach out to an experienced Chicago criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of Hal M. Garfinkel LLC, Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney for immediate assistance.
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