Recently, our Illinois accident attorneys read a report in the Chicago Tribune detailing a new Illinois Supreme Court decision that may affect drivers of all types of vehicles. The decision, ruled on in April, states that if a driver is found with any remnants of an illegal substance in their system – they will be charged with a felony if their bad driving caused a fatal accident. This means that even if a driver was not impaired at the time of the crash, they may be subjected to felony charges. For prosecutors, this means that it is no longer needed to prove in court that the illegal substance contributed to the crash, only that the substance was in the driver’s system.
While many commend the Supreme Court’s ruling in lowering the tolerance for drug use, defense attorneys believe the ruling to be an unfair advantage for prosecutors. They also claim that this new ruling may prove harmful against lawful prescription drug users. Even though this law applies to illicit substances, it also includes controlled substances that are used unlawfully – such as the use of expired prescriptions. Critics continue to argue that a driver may be unaware of how long a substance remains in their systems (which can last up to several days), therefore unknowingly operate a vehicle.
This ruling was recently upheld in the case of a fatal Illinois trucking accident. A 54 year old truck driver is currently serving a 14 year prison sentence as a result of a fatal crash that killed a 17 year old. Although the truck driver refused the administration of an alcohol and drug test, prosecutors were able to prove in court that he had marijuana in his system through the expert testimony of toxicology experts. Unfortunately, driving under the influence of an illegal substance is not an uncommon occurrence. In a report conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, found that 16.3% of drivers operated at night were under the influence of drugs – with marijuana being the most common.
Our Chicago accident attorneys know first hand the devastating effects that result from operating a vehicle under the influence. Recently, we obtained a $6.5 million settlement on behalf of a family who incurred catastrophic damages as the result of a semi truck accident. It was discovered that the operator of the semi truck was under the influence of marijuana at the time of the crash. We hope that this current decision prevents future accidents, such as this one, from reoccurring and encourages drivers to think twice before stepping behind the wheel.