Illinois State Bar Association to push to correct law that punishes unimpaired driving with traces of cannabis

I have written several times about the Illinois “zero-tolerance” laws that make it a crime to drive a motor vehicle with even a trace of a narcotic, such as cannabis, in one’s bloody system, even if that trace is metabolite residue that comes from usage days or weeks before.

Even worse, if there is a fatal accident, and a driver has a trace amount of a narcotic in his or her system, he can be charged with a DUI involving death regardless of his or her fault in the occurrence.

Here is a a real life example of this poorly thought out law:  Scott Shirey was prosecuted by the Lake County State’s Attorney after a fatal crash which occurred when his vehicle was stopped at a red light and a distracted driver crashed into his car, killing one of his sons and seriously injuring another.  Because it was a fatality, Mr. Shirey was required to take a blood test, and he tested positive for cannabis metabolite, i.e., he had used marijuana days or weeks earlier.  No one ever accused him of being impaired and no one believed that he caused the crash.  However, he was charged and faced up to 14 years in prison.  He was ultimately sentenced to 30 months probation.

Not everyone is so lucky.  I have written about people getting 18 months, 6 years and 15 years for similar offenses that did not involve impairment — merely the presence of cannabis residue in their system.

Now the Illinois State Bar Association is pushing legislation to correct these terrible laws and to put Illinois in line with 34 other states that require impairment for a driving under the influence of drugs case.  There is no good reason to support the existing law, and none has been offered, except that “drugs are bad.”  That may be enough for Mr. Mackey, but that should not be enough for the rest of us.

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