A common-sense editorial about DUIs based on drugs in one’s system

The Pekin Times had a terrific editorial this week about DUIs that are based on drugs in one’s system.  You might recall from previous posts, that in Illinois a person can be charged with DUI if a blood or urine test disclosed any trace amount of narcotics in their system — no matter how long ago they consumed it and regardless of whether the person was under the influence while driving.  (If you don’t recall, here are three great posts:  one about Alia Bernard; one about Richard Strum; and one about a reader of my blog).

Here is an excerpt:

We are in full agreement that drivers with illegal drugs in their body are violating the law. We aren’t in full agreement that those who happen to be involved in an automobile accident while marijuana is lingering in their body but isn’t affecting their reflexes or judgment should be punished as if they were impaired by the drug.

Take two scenarios. Joe is a pot smoker and Bob is an occasional heroin user. Each of them in involved in fatal car accidents several days after last using drugs. Bob is in the clear, because his last dose of heroin is long gone from his body. Joe, however, will likely go to prison.

Marijuana can be detected in the urine for long periods after it is ingested — possibly for months, according to some sources. Nobody believes that somebody who smoked pot days or weeks ago is still under the influence of the drug. So why do we ignore this fact?

The purpose of the DUI laws should be to punish people who drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. We don’t see any justice in punishing people who aren’t under the influence….

There may be better tests, such as a saliva test that detects recent cannabis use, as opposed to a blood or urine test that picks up cannabis use from weeks ago. That’s something we’d like to see investigated as a possible tool in the future.

Beyond changing the law to require that people be proven to be actually under the influence of a drug before punishing them for that, we think there’s another issue here.

We can’t even guess how many casual marijuana users are in our readership, people who have come to the not-uncommon conclusion that their private marijuana usage is their own business. This law, as unjust as it is, should be a wake-up call to these folks. You never know when you might be involved in a fatal auto accident, perhaps one that is not even your fault, but for which you could be sent to prison if you have smoked marijuana even weeks before. This is something to think about, and to warn teenaged children about.

Read the full editorial at:  http://www.pekintimes.com/article/20131115/OPINION/131119363/-1/News

Thanks to Springfield attorney Theodore Harvatin for pointing out this piece.

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