The Connection Between Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol, Driving Impaired, Driving Drugged and Driving Under the Influence of Legally Prescribed Medications and Other Opiates
When most people hear the term “DUI” they think of someone being charged with the offense of driving a vehicle with over a .08 BAC (Blood-Alcohol Concentration). This is just one option for a DUI, but there are so many more. The Illinois General Assembly’s statute states “Driving while under the influence of alcohol, other drug or drugs, intoxicating compound or compounds or any combination thereof.” This makes it very clear that the law covers a great deal more than just “over .08” BAC. In the State of Illinois there are six (6) different ways you can be charged with Driving Under the Influence.
DUI Type #1 – Alcohol (.08 or Greater)
A .08 BAC means that 8% of a person’s total blood content in their body is actually pure alcohol. For this type of DUI the State (or Municipal Prosecutor) must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that someone was in actual physical control of a motor vehicle with a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of .08 or greater. To prove this, the prosecution does not need to show any kind of bad driving, impairment or even that the car was turned on. A person can be found guilty of a DUI while pulled over on the side of the road with the vehicle off, the keys not in the ignition (but in control of the individual), with the individual asleep in the back seat so long as that individual is at .08 or greater.
DUI Type #2 – Alcohol (Any Amount & Unsafe to Drive)
This type of DUI offense is when an individual is found to be in actual physical control of a vehicle at a time when they are “under the influence of alcohol.” This means if there is any amount of alcohol and the individual is found to be unsafe to drive, then a person could be charged and convicted of a DUI even without any chemical testing. Without chemical testing, the case is more difficult for the prosecution in that it must tie any amount of alcohol and unsafe (impaired) to drive and prove those elements beyond a reasonable doubt. Any amount of alcohol can be proven by testimony that there was an odor of alcohol coming from the defendant’s breath or that the individual admitted that he or she had consumed even just one (1) beer or alcoholic beverage. Impairment is usually shown through a video of the police stop, field sobriety testing, testimony of the officer as to the performance on the tests, the demeanor of the defendant and any statements made by the defendant.
DUI Type #3 – Intoxicating Compounds
Another type of DUI is found in the Illinois Statute that states a person shall not drive or be in actual physical control of any vehicle within this State while under the influence of any intoxicating compound or combination of intoxicating compounds to a degree that renders the person incapable of driving safely. Intoxicating compounds can include huffing cleaning agents or gasoline and the use of other products to “get high” or alter one’s brain function.
DUI Type #4 – Legally Prescribed Medications
Although many may think they are protected from a DUI charge if their medication is prescribed, the truth is that if someone under the influence of any other drug or combination of drugs to a degree that renders the person incapable of safely driving, even if legally prescribed, the person can receive a DUI. This kind of DUI includes driving under the influence of legally prescribed and properly taken medications. For example, if a legally prescribed sleeping pill is taken at bedtime, but then a person goes out and drives under the sedation of that sleeping pill and is found to be unsafe to drive – that is a DUI. This is always a concern for prescription opioid users, those who take any kind of medications that could potentially affect reaction time, alertness or overall function.
DUI Type #5 – Combination of Alcohol and Drugs
A combination catchall provision that states that a person shall not drive or be in actual physical control of any vehicle while under the influence under the combined influence of alcohol, other drug or drugs, or intoxicating compound or compounds to a degree that renders the person incapable of safely driving. This type of DUI is another difficult charge for people who are properly taking prescribed medications. If a person takes the properly prescribed dose of an opioid for pain management and then has a glass of wine or other alcoholic beverage, that combination could lead to impairment. The person is NOT over .08 BAC and has only taken what was legally prescribed. However – the combination – on this particular day caused some kind of impairment. This is especially concerning when there is a traffic accident. Often times people will tell an officer, “I took my prescriptions, had only one glass of wine at dinner and was not under the influence.” The accident was caused when, for examples, an animal ran into the road, a person changed the radio station, looked at their phone, sent a text, etc…However, every prescription for an opioid comes with a warning label on the bottle that reads alcohol may increase the side effects of the medication. This is where the combination of fully legal behaviors can cross into a DUI.
DUI Type #6 – Cannabis & Controlled Substances
The final type of DUI uses chemical testing and states that a person shall not drive or be in actual physical control of any vehicle within this State while there is any amount of a drug, substance, or compound in the person’s breath, blood or urine resulting from the unlawful use or consumption of cannabis listed in the Cannabis Control Act, a controlled substance listed in the Illinois Controlled Substances Act, an intoxicating compound listed in the Use of Intoxicating Compounds Act, or methamphetamine as listed in the Methamphetamine Control and Community Protection Act. You will note that nowhere in this section does the statute require any kind of impairment. If a person used cannabis two (2) weeks ago, is NOT under the influence of the drug, but does not have a legal prescription for it – and there is a chemical test to confirm the presence of THC in that person’s body – that is a DUI. If there was a terrible car accident and all the individuals are taken to the hospital where blood and urine are collected so that the treating physicians can run tests and help the injured people – if a lab comes back with some amount of opioid from having taken a prescription pain killer 8 hours earlier where there is NO indication of any impairment or even that the crash was the fault of that driver – that driver can be charged with a DUI. Worse yet – if a death or great bodily harm results from the crash, that driver can be charged with an Aggravated DUI or even reckless homicide.
The Illinois State Bar Association has been working to get these laws changed to require that there be some kind of impairment, but this has not yet been accomplished. In 2014, an article about this very topic was published in the Illinois State Bar Association Journal citing the issue where trace amounts of illegal substance(s) is still a DUI and could be a reckless homicide or Aggravated DUI causing death or great bodily harm even if there is no impairment.
Keeping all of the above in mind, one drink of beer, wine or liquor can effect one person very differently than another depending on bodyweight. This is important to keep in mind when thinking about your BAC level. Below is a chart showing the correlation between blood alcohol and body weight:
If you or someone you know is facing a DUI of any kind, it is important to retain an experienced DUI attorney in McHenry County or an experienced DUI attorney in Lake County. For more information on this topic, or for a free consultation, please give us a call today at (815) 444-8700 or (847) 856-8700. KRV Legal has the experienced and highly reviewed attorneys to be your defense lawyer in McHenry County or your defense lawyer in Lake County.