When you hear “Driving Under the Influence,” you are most likely thinking that it is referring to alcohol. In fact, the first statute under 625 ILCS 5/11-501 states that “the alcohol concentration in the person’s blood, other bodily substance, or breath is 0.08 or more.”
However, DUI laws in Illinois include statues that refer to driving under the influence of drugs as well. This includes marijuana, cocaine, etc.—any drug that impairs the driver’s ability to control a vehicle.
According to a Gallup poll, recreational marijuana use in the United States increased from 7% in 2013 to about 16% in 2017. This number will likely to continue to grow as more states legalize the drug and stigma attached to marijuana usage dissipates.
As the number of users rise, it is likely the number of DUI arrests for cannabis will increase as well.
We recently represented a young man charged with 625 ILCS 5/11-501(a)(4) entitled Driving Under the Influence of Drugs. This statute reads: “A person shall not drive or be in actual physical control of any vehicle within this State while under the influence of any other drug or combination of drugs to a degree that renders the person incapable of safely driving.”
It is important to note that the alcohol DUI statute language (“under the influence of alcohol”) and the drug DUI statute language (“incapable of driving safely”). Though the statute about alcohol contains a very specific number about the amount of alcohol that can be in the blood, it explicitly excludes language about a person’s ability to drive safely.
In addition to the fact that the officers had not established beyond a reasonable doubt that our client had consumed any drugs, we urged the trial court to focus on whether the evidence introduced by the State actually showed that our client was “incapable of driving safely.”
We noted that the legislature likely appreciated that certain drugs did not necessarily impact a person’s mental or physical impairment in the same way as alcohol. For instance, a driver can have six cups of coffee and remain capable of driving safely to work.
Therefore, the State needed to show evidence that the Defendant was “incapable of driving safely.” The Judge agreed that the State did not meet their burden of proof and our client was found not guilty.
We encourage you to consult with an attorney if you are charged with driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol in the state of Illinois. Call or email Richard Fenbert at Fenbert & Associates, LLC for a free consultation.