Marijuana DUI in Illinois remains suspect given nature of THC processing

In many states, including Illinois, drivers will face DUI charges if they are pulled over and found driving with a BAC, or breath or blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher. However, DUI charges aren’t given to drivers who’ve just consumed too much alcohol-drivers can face DUI charges for driving under the influence of drugs as well, like marijuana.

In many cases, determining whether a driver is under the influence of alcohol is fairly straightforward-the driver is given a breath, blood or urine test. However, determining whether a driver is under the influence of marijuana is a bit more complicated.

Some experts claim that proving impairment from pot consumption at the time of the stop by utilizing these same tests is nearly impossible. But why?

Difficulties with detecting marijuana use at “time of arrest”

Unlike marijuana, alcohol doesn’t remain in the human body very long after being consumed. Therefore, in most cases, tests conducted on drivers who are pulled over for suspected drunk driving are usually accurate. However, a chemical compound found in marijuana known as THC can remain in a person’s body up to weeks-or even a month-after ingestion.

So, a person “suspected” of driving under the influence of pot and pulled over can technically test positive-even if that person hadn’t smoked marijuana in days.

This becomes problematic when proving if that driver is actually impaired at the time of the stop-and thus should be charged with a DUI.

Court rulings on the issue

Understanding this unfairness, some courts throughout the country have ruled that the simple presence of only THC in a driver’s body at the time of the stop is insufficient to support a DUI conviction.

Courts in other states, however, like Illinois, have ruled just the opposite. In Illinois, any detection of marijuana in a driver’s blood or urine at the time of the stop is enough to establish DUI. The law states that:

“A person shall not drive or be in actual physical control of any vehicle within this state while there is any amount of a drug, substance, or compound in the person’s breath, blood, or urine resulting from the unlawful use or consumption of cannabis listed in the Cannabis Control Act.”

The law, however, does make an exception for lawful medical marijuana users.

It remains to be seen whether Illinois or other states will gain a more liberal acceptance of the use of the pot-particularly given the recent legalization of recreational use of the drug in Colorado and Washington.

Many other states are expected to include similar laws on ballots in 2014 and move forward with marijuana legalization.

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