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Truck Drivers at Risk of Arrest as Police Cannot Differentiate Legal Hemp from Illegal Marijuana

joliet  marijuana hemp lawyers

Law enforcement officials across the country are struggling to adapt to the provisions of the 2018 Farm Bill that differentiated hemp, now an agricultural commodity, from marijuana, which remains a Schedule 1 controlled substance. The Farm Bill legalized the regulated production of hemp as well as the interstate transport of hemp. As a result of police confusion, there have already been two highly publicized cases of confusion in early 2019. In both cases, interstate truckers were wrongfully arrested on marijuana trafficking charges when their cargo was actually legal hemp.

Differentiating Industrial Hemp from Illegal Marijuana

The main problem is that hemp and marijuana are just different strains of the Cannabis sativa L. plant, varying primarily in their THC content. Neither police officers nor drug-sniffing dogs nor quick “does it contain any THC?” roadside tests can tell the difference. Legal hemp and illegal marijuana look the same and smell the same. Chemical testing of an 18,000-pound load of hemp may take weeks, in part due to backlogs at testing labs, by which point a semitrailer of plant material worth over $500,000 may be unsaleable.

Hemp, sometimes referred to as industrial hemp, is defined as the cannabis plant and any part of it which contains less than 0.3% THC on a dry-weight basis. THC is the psychoactive compound that makes a person “high.” By comparison, recreational marijuana strains typically contain at least 5% THC, and some varieties contain as much as 30% THC.

Wrongful Drug Arrests and Law Enforcement Concerns

Several arrests of truck drivers hauling hemp have been highly publicized in the first quarter of 2019. For example, near Boise, Idaho, state police seized 6,700 pounds of hemp that they believed was marijuana and held the truck driver in jail for four days before releasing him on a $100,000 bond. The case is now being reviewed by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Both the trucking company and the buyer to whom the hemp was being delivered have filed lawsuits demanding the return of the product.

In Pawhuska, Oklahoma, a city police officer stopped a semi for running a stoplight and noticed a strong smell of marijuana. The two truck drivers and two accompanying security guards were all arrested and jailed. Subsequent testing showed that two of 11 samples tested at 0.4% to 0.5% THC, just over the legal hemp level of 0.3% but far below the level that would be considered “good” recreational marijuana.

Law enforcement officials respond with fears that drug traffickers will hide high-THC marijuana in loads of industrial hemp. The American Trucking Association has simply recommended that motor carriers “continue to exercise caution.”

Get an Aggressive Will County Criminal Defense Lawyer on Your Side

If you have been arrested on the highways of Will County for a traffic violation that led to charges of drug possession, you need a skilled Joliet criminal defense lawyer to fight for your rights. Contact the Law Offices of Jack L. Zaremba at 815-740-4025; we respond to calls day or night.

When is Theft Considered a Felony in Illinois?

joliet felony theft lawyers

Shoplifting is often seen as a minor criminal offense by the general public. Many adults remember attempting to steal a candy bar as a child or know somebody who has swiped a lipstick or two from a drug store. These instances of theft may seem harmless, but stealing is not a victimless crime. Retail stores are constantly looking for ways to mitigate the losses from shoplifting and states are increasingly becoming stricter with punitive consequences for theft. Furthermore, shoplifting high-value items can be considered a felony offense in Illinois. If you have been charged with theft in Illinois, you may be facing a felony which can have life-altering consequences.

Defining Theft as Per Illinois Law

Illinois Statute 720 ILCS 5/16-1 defines theft as obtaining someone else’s property through deception, threat, or without consent. A person may also be charged with theft if he or she knowing buys or otherwise obtains stolen property. The severity of punishment for those convicted of theft is typically determined by the total value of the property that was stolen. If the item which was stolen costs less than $500, it is typically considered a Class A misdemeanor offense. This is punishable by less than one year in prison and up to $2,500 in fines.

Felony Theft Convictions Can Result in Jail Time

Illinois courts penalize those convicted of theft based on three main factors: the nature of the offense, the market value of the stolen goods, and whether or not the defendant had any prior convictions. The severity of a theft conviction is increased if the theft took place in a school, place of worship, or on governmental property. Theft committed at one of these locations or committed by a person with prior related convictions is often considered a Class 4 felony offense. It is punishable by up to three years in prison. A Class 3 felony is assigned to those defendants who are accused of stealing items $500-$10,000 in value directly from the owner’s person. Theft of property valued at $10,000-$100,000 is a Class 2 felony punishable by three to seven years in prison. A theft of property with a value of $100,000-$500,000 is a Class 1 felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. The most serious felony conviction, a Class X felony, is assigned to those accused of stealing property which is $1,000,000 in value or more. A Class X felony theft conviction can result in up to 30 years’ imprisonment. Defendants convicted of a Class 4 felony – Class X felony can be fined up to $25,000 in addition to jail time.

Contact a Will County Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are facing theft charges, call the Law Offices of Jack L. Zaremba to speak with an experienced Joliet criminal defense lawyer today. Call us at (815) 740-4025 to schedule a free consultation.

Is a Medical Condition or Act of God a Valid DUI Defense?

joliet aggravated dui lawyers

If you have been charged aggravated driving under the influence (DUI) because you caused an accident in which other people were seriously were seriously injured, you may feel there are extenuating circumstances that should be considered in your case. Whenever there are unusual circumstances in a legal case, it may be worth taking the case to trial so that all the facts can be laid out for a judge or jury to consider. Even if you are still found guilty, mitigating circumstances can be considered in sentencing.

However, your attorney will also carefully investigate the law and any case precedents to determine your chances of winning.

A Recent Example

A recent Illinois case provides a useful illustration of these principles. This defendant was charged with aggravated DUI because she caused a collision with injuries, and she tested positive for marijuana. In her defense, the woman argued that she was not impaired by marijuana at the time, although she admitted to illegal marijuana use in the past. Instead, she argued, her medical condition of low blood pressure had caused her to lose consciousness, leading to the collision.

The driver’s argument was bolstered by witness testimony. Her passenger testified that the driver appeared to “fall asleep” and lost control of the car. He grabbed the wheel but could not respond fast enough to avoid the collision. The driver also had three witnesses who saw her shortly before the accident and would testify that she was not impaired. The prosecution presented no evidence of impairment other than the drug test. Based on all of these facts, the defendant argued that while she had caused the accident, she was not driving impaired at the time and thus should not be found guilty of DUI.

The court, however, ruled that she was legally impaired based on the fact that she tested over the legal limit for marijuana . The fact that her driving may not have been actually drug-impaired was irrelevant. The state is not required to prove actual physical or mental impairment in this case, only that the driver met the criteria for per se DUI by being over the legal limit for marijuana.

Mitigating Circumstances Can Influence the Outcome of a DUI Case

If the driver in this case had tested positive for some type of intoxicant but was below the legal limit , her arguments might have swayed the court’s decision. If she made a good case that she was not impaired by intoxicants but rather was affected by an “act of God” related to her medical condition, she might have been found not guilty of DUI. Alternatively, if the driver in this case had only been charged with reckless driving rather than DUI, she could well have been found not guilty on the reckless driving charge if the jury was convinced by the medical evidence.

In its written opinion on this case, the Illinois Supreme Court declared that this defendant had the right to present an affirmative defense involving an “act of God” such as a sudden unforeseeable medical condition that rendered the driver incapable of controlling her vehicle. However, it was simply not a winning defense in this particular case of per se DUI.

Call an Aggressive Will County DUI Lawyer to Defend You

If you have been charged with a DUI case, a skilled Joliet DUI defense lawyer may be able to make a convincing argument to have the case against you reduced or dropped. Contact the Law Offices of Jack L. Zaremba at 815-740-4025 for a free consultation.

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