A judge recently found "extraordinary circumstances" in the case of an East Peoria man who pled guilty to aggravated driving under the influence of marijuana after a fatal accident that that killed a Sparland motorcycle rider last year. He later pleaded guilty to charges of aggravated DUI in exchange for a prison sentence limited to no more than 12 years. He was sentenced recently to 180 days in jail, drug treatment, and four years of probation.
At sentencing, the judge cited a medical diagnosis for hypoglycemia as justification for the decision, reasoning that the medical condition could have been responsible for the driver losing control of his vehicle prior to the crash that killed the 63-year-old motorcyclist. However, the judge cautioned others accused of driving under the influence of marijuana not to consider the ruling an invitation to bogus defenses based on spurious medical conditions.
The man will now be required to complete 12 months in a drug treatment program and will then serve 180 days in jail. He will also need to finish 200 hours of community service, be a part of a DUI impact panel, serve four years of probation and pay thousands of dollars in fees and fines. During the trial, the man testified that directly before the accident he began to feel dizzy, light-headed and disoriented. The man's lawyer successfully argued that the man was suffering from low blood sugar at the time of the crash and apparently blacked out before striking the motorcycle.
Although deadly accidents can and do happen because of poor choices, the facts in this case pointed to a possible medical reason for why this particular tragedy occurred. While the man admitted to using marijuana, he denied having used it more recently than a few days before the accident. Legally, it does not matter how recent the marijuana use was -- what matters is that drivers are not allowed to have the drug in their system when driving.
The fact that the driver's marijuana use may not have been recent enough for it to affect his driving, however, may have been a consideration in the judge's conclusion that the man's medical condition may have been responsible for the crash. As a result of the plea agreement and the judge's sentencing decision, the driver will have to serve some jail time for the DUI conviction, but he will be given an opportunity for rehabilitation and will not be required to serve any prison time.
Source: The Journal Star, "Judge finds 'extraordinary circumstances' in DUI fatal," Andy Kravetz, Aug. 2, 2012