If you live in Illinois, you may be reluctant to drive days or even weeks after smoking marijuana—even after state legislative efforts to decriminalize the recreational use of marijuana and legalize medical marijuana. This is because Illinois's strict liability laws could result in an arrest for DUI if your blood or urine tests positive for THC metabolites, even if you show no other evidence of driving while impaired. A new legislative proposal seeks to change this and help avoid unnecessary DUI arrests for marijuana users. Read on to learn more about the proposed changes and how they could affect you.

What may happen under current Illinois law if you're pulled over after smoking marijuana? 

In order to pull your vehicle over, police officers must have a reasonable suspicion (or probable cause to believe) that you've broken one or more laws. This can include something as minor as a broken taillight to something more serious, like weaving across the center line. Once the officer has pulled you over, if he or she at all suspects that you may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, he or she can administer a breath test on the scene or require you to submit to a blood or urine test at the nearest hospital. Often, a failure to comply with this request can itself serve as probable cause for arrest and an automatic revocation of your driver's license.

If your breath, blood, or urine shows any trace of marijuana metabolites, you can be arrested and charged with driving under the influence—even if you were in no way impaired while driving. Fighting this charge can cost you a significant amount of time and money.

What changes are being proposed to this law?

A bill pending in the legislature would seek to eliminate this strict liability standard and punish only those whose blood or urine tests show THC levels high enough to indicate present intoxication. Rather than declaring all marijuana users per se intoxicated, this legislation prescribes a minimum THC level to indicate intoxication, similar to the the 0.08 blood alcohol content (BAC) standard used as the ruler for alcohol intoxication cases.

Should this legislation pass, Illinois residents can now expect to face only financial penalties for the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Illinois drivers can also expect something as minor as a traffic citation (rather than a criminal conviction) if involved in an at-fault accident with trace amounts of marijuana metabolites present. If you have more questions about this subject, consider speaking with a legal representative from Kirsten Swanson Atty.