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How unimpaired drivers can be charged with a DUI in Illinois

"Draconian" zero-tolerance law leads to horrific experience for one Illinois father

Illinois' DUI laws, which are some of the toughest in the nation, are supposed to keep impaired drivers off the streets. A recent case, however, is showing that the state's laws are so strict that sometimes even people who are not impaired while driving can still be charged with-and convicted of-a DUI. According to WNIJ News, a bill has been put before state legislators by the State Bar Association to soften the worst aspects of Illinois' zero-tolerance DUI law.

Fatal accident leads to DUI

The case that has drawn considerable criticism of Illinois' DUI laws concerns a Northern Illinois man whose vehicle was struck by a distracted driver who had run a red light. The man's 10-year-old son, who was a passenger in the car that was struck, was killed in the accident.

Because the accident resulted in a fatality, blood samples were taken from the drivers, as per state law. Although the father was not impaired at the time and the accident was the fault of the distracted driver, his blood test showed traces of marijuana, which he had smoked a month prior to the accident. Marijuana can remain in a person's system for weeks or even months without causing impairment. Under Illinois' zero-tolerance law, however, any trace of a banned substance in a driver's blood can lead to a felony DUI charge. Horrifically, after losing his son to a distracted driver, the father then found himself facing criminal charges because of a law that many are calling "draconian" and "idiotic."

Law needs changing

While Illinois' zero-tolerance laws have been in place for decades, this case is showing just how strict and unfair they can sometimes be. During his trial, for example, the fact that the father was not impaired and that the other driver was at fault was not permitted as a defense, according to the NWI Times. The father eventually pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 30 months probation.

The Illinois State Bar Association has filed a bill with the Illinois Senate that would soften the state's DUI law. Instead of a felony, drivers who test positive for a banned substance but who are not impaired would be charged with a misdemeanor rather than a felony. The bill, which faces opposition from law enforcement agencies, prosecutors and some politicians, will likely come up for discussion in the spring.

Defending against a DUI

As this story shows, a DUI charge needs to be taken very seriously since Illinoisans currently face some of the toughest DUI laws in the country. Without adequate legal representation, people charged with a DUI increase their chances of a conviction, which could result in jail time, fines, and severe driving restrictions. An experienced and dedicated criminal defense lawyer is an invaluable and often necessary asset for anybody fighting against a DUI charge.