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Marijuana Breathalyzers in Development

Posted on in New Illinois Laws

breath testing, Crystal Lake criminal defense attorney, DUI, field sobriety testing, marijuana breathalyzerOne of the biggest issues with the recent tide of marijuana legalization across the country, including medical marijuana in Illinois, is how to handle people driving under the influence of marijuana. While that was a problem before the drug was made legal, the increased access to it will likely mean a spike in people driving while high. The current Illinois law is murky on the subject. There is ordinarily a zero tolerance policy for people driving under the influence of marijuana in the state, but if the person is a registered medical marijuana user, they are only guilty of a DUI if his or her driving is “impaired.”

This system sets up a highly subjective standard where police and the courts have to determine on a case by case basis what "impaired" means. Compare this with a DUI for alcohol, where there is a clear legal limit of 0.08 blood alcohol content. While the law is still some ways away from implementing a bright line rule like that for cannabis, researchers may already be moving in that direction by designing a marijuana breathalyzer.

What is being Developed

Multiple researchers, including Cannabix Technologies and Washington State University, are working on developing devices that can detect the presence of marijuana in a person's blood via breath testing. The idea is to develop an analog to the alcohol breathalyzer that police can deploy at the site of the traffic stop. This will allow a more objective test for marijuana in a person's system rather than relying on field sobriety testing or the officer's judgment.

Why They Are Needed

These breathalyzers would be a major step forward for two reasons. First, they would make it much easier to test for the presence of marijuana in a driver's system. Right now, the only way officers have to do that is through a blood draw or a urine sample. These sorts of fluid tests can take a considerable amount of time to get done, and they are also highly invasive. Additionally, they involve the collection of the driver's DNA, which gives rise to serious privacy concerns.

These breathalyzers would also make traffic stops fairer for drivers. The current regime, in which officers look for impaired drivers, check for symptoms of marijuana and administer field sobriety tests is highly subjective. This can result in drivers being detained and invasively tested when they do not have any cannabis in their system. These new breathalyzers would provide a faster, easier way for innocent drivers to avoid unnecessary delays.

DUIs are a serious crime regardless of whether they involve marijuana or alcohol. If you have recently been charged with a DUI or some other crime, contact a Crystal Lake criminal defense attorney to learn more about your rights.

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