Marijuana was legalized in the state of Illinois earlier this month, but according to the 2020 DUI Fact Book, published by the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office, driving while impaired by marijuana is still prohibited. Much like with a DUI stop for alcohol use, if an officer stops a vehicle and sees signs that the driver is under the influence of marijuana (e.g., red eyes, drowsiness, etc.), the officer will request that the driver submit to field sobriety tests. Based on the results, the officer may arrest the driver and take him or her into the station, where they will be asked to submit to a blood, breath or urine test within two hours of the traffic stop. If the driver is found to have more than 5 nanograms of THC, the main active chemical found in marijuana, per milliliter of blood, or more than 10 nanograms of THC per milliliter of any other bodily substance, they could lose their license and face criminal charges. However, there is concern that these results may not be solid proof of driver impairment as THC can remain in someone’s body long after the effects have worn off.
Motorists who drive under the influence may be charged criminally, but their actions can also be the basis of a civil lawsuit. For example, if one were involved in an auto accident caused by a driver under the influence of alcohol or marijuana, they may file a civil lawsuit against them for damages, including medical expenses and lost wages. If the driver was convicted of a DUI in criminal court, that can help the victim’s case in civil court. Keep in mind that the standard of proof is much higher for criminal cases than civil cases though, so even if the driver was not convicted, an accident victim may still have a good chance to recover damages civilly.
Accident victims can use the evidence presented in the criminal case in a civil lawsuit, including police reports, driver’s field sobriety, breath and chemical test results, witness testimony and photos and video footage from the scene of the accident. If proven by a preponderance of the evidence that the driver was impaired at the time of the accident and that their negligent actions caused the accident and injuries, accident victims can recover damages.