Common Misconceptions about Drug-Related DUI Charges

Interviewer: What would you say are some of the biggest misconceptions that people have when they meet with you and they talk about their pending drug-related DUI?

Illinois Is a Zero Tolerance State

Jerry Novak: With the marijuana cases, people will typically say to me, “I only had one joint,” or, “I didn’t even smoke that day,” or, “I only had one hit,” something like that. The problem is that Illinois is what’s referred to as a zero tolerance state.

If they arrest you for DUI drugs, and they get a saliva sample, a urine sample or a blood sample, they’re going to send that to the Illinois State Police Crime Laboratory. The Laboratory is going to analyze that and they’re going to be looking for the presence of THC, which is the active ingredient in cannabis.

The Presence of THC, the Active Ingredient in Marijuana, in Your System Is Sufficient to Prosecute You

The analysis of that specimen will reveal a concentration. However, Illinois does not break it down by concentration levels, like certain other states. Illinois doesn’t look that way. Illinois, again, is a zero tolerance state, so the presence of any THC is sufficient in Illinois to prosecute you for DUI drugs.

THC Remains in Your System for an Average of 30 Days

Even if you hadn’t even smoked that day, the THC will stay in the body for about thirty days. Everybody will metabolize it at a little different rate, so for some people it might be twenty-five days, and some people it might be thirty-five days. About thirty days is pretty average.

If you smoked on the first, again depending upon your concentration level and how quickly your body metabolizes that, twenty-five, thirty days later, it wouldn’t be shocking to me at all to find the presence of THC, especially if you’re a regular user of cannabis.

Again, you don’t want to give them reasonable grounds to stop you. You don’t want to fortify their position by making any admissions. The very last things you want to do areto get out of the car and undergo tests.

The Police Most Usually Request a Urine Sample from Drivers They Suspect of Drug Use

Interviewer: If you go in for a blood draw and they detect THC, but, however, they haven’t used marijuana for maybe a few days, is that going to count against you?

Jerry Novak: Yeah, absolutely. If drug use is suspected, the police would ask for a saliva sample, a blood sample, or a urine specimen.

Typically it’s a urine specimen, because it’s the least invasive, and they can get a fairly large quantity of sample. But, you’d still be facing charges even if you smoked a week ago.

It Is Important to Remember to Try and Avoid Providing the Police with Reasonable Grounds in Which to Request Chemical Testing

Again, they have to have reasonable grounds to ask you for that urine specimen. Let’s say you smoked a week ago, and you’re driving home, and you’d put in an eighteen hour day, and you’re fatigued. You’re tired.

Inattentive Driving Skills Often Lead to a Police Stop

Maybe your eyes hurt. Maybe you didn’t eat properly that day. You’re picking up your phone, and you’re looking at a text message or something. You start to weave within your lane.

The police officer pulls you over for improper lane use. He or she says, “Hey, have you had anything to drink today?” “No, I haven’t.” “Are you taking any medication?” “No, I haven’t.” “Have you smoked any marijuana?” “Well, not today.”

“Really? When was the last time you smoked marijuana?” “Well, I smoked like a week ago.” “Okay, great. Why don’t you get out of the car? We just want to make sure you’re safe to drive.” That’s code for, “We want to run you through some field tests.”

Like I said, if you had an eighteen hour day, you’re fatigued. You didn’t eat right. Now it’s late in the evening or early in the morning. There’s traffic going by. You’ve never taken these tests. Even if you’re in the best physical condition, you’re probably not going to do well, and he’s going to say that you admitted to consuming drugs, and that you failed the tests.

You go to the station. You give them a specimen. Then you just put the last nail in your coffin.

As of July, 2014, Illinois Police Cruisers Are Required to Have Video Cameras in Their Cruisers

Interviewer: Is there a typical story that your clients tell you about a DUI arrest?

Jerry Novak: Pretty much the typical story is, “I was stopped for some type of minor traffic violation.” Typically it’s speeding, and then the client, of course, says, “I wasn’t speeding.” That may be the case.

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