Driving under the influence of drugs: a summary of Illinois laws

by Sami Azhari on November 15, 2010

DUI Based on Drugs | Illinois Law | Cannabis | Cocaine | Prescribed Meds

In Illinois, the offense of driving under the influence can be based on alcohol, drugs, or even prescribed medication. Some refer to this as drugged driving, as opposed to drunk driving. This offense of DUI is prosecuted under the same statute as a DUI offense where the driver was intoxicated on alcohol, 625 ILCS 5/11-501.

The vehicle code statute says a person can be guilty of DUI in six ways:

Sec. 11-501. Driving while under the influence of alcohol, other drug or drugs, intoxicating compound or compounds or any combination thereof.

(a) A person shall not drive or be in actual physical control of any vehicle within this State while:

(1) the alcohol concentration in the person’s blood or breath is 0.08 or more based on the definition of blood and breath units in Section 11-501.2;

(2) under the influence of alcohol;

(3) under the influence of any intoxicating compound or combination of intoxicating compounds to a degree that renders the person incapable of driving safely;

(4) under the influence of any other drug or combination of drugs to a degree that renders the person incapable of safely driving;

(5) under the combined influence of alcohol, other drug or drugs, or intoxicating compound or compounds to a degree that renders the person incapable of safely driving; or

(6) 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, a controlled substance listed in the Illinois Controlled Substances Act, an intoxicating compound listed in the Use of Intoxicating Compounds Act, or methamphetamine as listed in the Methamphetamine Control and Community Protection Act.

A charge for drunk driving is prosecuted under sections (a)(1), where the driver’s blood or breath alcohol concentration is 0.08 or higher, and (a)(2) where there is no chemical test of 0.08 or more, but the driver was intoxicated.

The remaining sections of the Illinois DUI statute, (a)(3), (a)(4), (a)(5), and (a)(6), concern driving while intoxicated on drugs.

If a person drives while taking prescribed medication that causes dizziness, drowsiness, poor balance, poor depth perception, or otherwise impairs his ability to drive, that person is DUI. It is not a defense that the medication was legal, purchased over the counter, or prescribed. See 625 ILCS 5/11-501(b).

The issues in a trial are different for cases involving legal drugs, such as prescribed medication or over-the-counter pills, and cases involving illegal drugs, such as cannabis, cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, LSD, or any other drug.

When it comes to illegal drugs, the prosecution can prove the defendant is guilty of DUI only if it can prove the defendant violated sections (a)(3), (a)(4), or (a)(5).

In prosecutions involving legal drugs, such as prescriptions, the defendant is guilty only if the evidence shows he was operating a motorvehicle:

(3) under the influence of any intoxicating compound or combination of intoxicating compounds to a degree that renders the person incapable of driving safely;

(4) under the influence of any other drug or combination of drugs to a degree that renders the person incapable of safely driving;

(5) under the combined influence of alcohol, other drug or drugs, or intoxicating compound or compounds to a degree that renders the person incapable of safely driving.

See 625 ILCS 5/11-501.

A person is guilty of Illinois DUI based the effects of prescription medication if the medication causes him to be unable to drive safely.

The issue in trial is whether the person could safely drive a car.

An analysis of a case involving prescription medication should involve these questions:

Was the driver involved in an accident? If so, was the driver the cause of the accident, or was he unable to avoid the accident that was caused by another person’s negligence?

Did the driver commit any traffic violations? If the driver did get a ticket, were any of the moving violations of such a nature that someone was endangered?

A prosecution for driving under the influence of illegal drugs can be prosecuted based on section (a)(4):

(4) under the influence of any other drug or combination of drugs to a degree that renders the person incapable of safely driving.

But unlike prescribed medications, a prosecution for DUI based on illegal drugs can also be brought under the per se law. Section (a)(6) is the per se violation of the DUI statute, and it applies like the legal limit of 0.08 alcohol concentration. It says it is a violation to drive if,

(6) 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, a controlled substance listed in the Illinois Controlled Substances Act, an intoxicating compound listed in the Use of Intoxicating Compounds Act, or methamphetamine as listed in the Methamphetamine Control and Community Protection Act.

Here, the prosecution does not need to prove that the person was incapable of safely driving. Rather, it is any amount of cannabis, a controlled substance, or methamphetamine, in the person’s blood, breath or urine that results in a DUI.

Even if the person smoked cannabis more than two weeks ago and was sober when he got pulled over, if there was any amount in his system, then it is a DUI.

A positive test for cannabis (marijuana), cocaine, heroin, morphine, peyote, LSD, mushrooms, barbituric acid, amphetamine, methamphetamine, pentazocine, ketamine, methaqualone, PCP, speed, or ecstasy means the driver is guilty of DUI.

The definitions of controlled substances and methamphetamine are found at 720 ILCS 570/102 and the schedules of controlled substances are listed under sections 204 through 218. Cannabis is defined in 720 ILCS 550/3.

Despite the overwhelming odds, the defendant can win these cases in court. Consult with qualified legal counsel.

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