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Appeals Court Upholds Six-Year Prison Sentence in Teen Driver's DUI Case

A teen's fateful decision to drive after having smoked marijuana ultimately resulted in one death and the teen receiving a six-year prison sentence for DUI. The Illinois Appellate Court issued a ruling in the case, deciding that marijuana's inclusion in the DUI statute did not violate the Constitution and, even when the person convicted of DUI is a youthful, inexperienced driver with no history of criminal transgressions, sentences that include jail time are not inappropriate.

A teen's fateful decision to drive after having smoked marijuana ultimately resulted in one death and the teen receiving a six-year prison sentence for DUI. The Illinois Appellate Court issued a ruling in the case, deciding that marijuana's inclusion in the DUI statute did not violate the Constitution and, even when the person convicted of DUI is a youthful, inexperienced driver with no history of criminal transgressions, sentences that include jail time are not inappropriate.

Krystin Rennie was 16 years old when her boyfriend convinced her to drive him home in June 2010. Although Rennie had been smoking marijuana during the day, including just an hour earlier, she agreed. On the trip, the teen, who had never driven at night before, crossed the center line of the road and slammed into a motorcycle driven by Dale King. The crash seriously and permanently injured King and killed the man's wife.

Rennie was found guilty of driving under the influence of marijuana. She received a sentence of six years in prison. The teen appealed, challenging both her conviction and sentence, but her arguments were unsuccessful.

The court rejected the idea that including marijuana in a DUI statute violated the due process rights of the driver. The teen pointed to the changing legal landscape in some locations as proof that marijuana should not fall under the DUI statute, This approach did not work, since the statute only violated Rennie's due process rights if the state had no legitimate grounds for enacting it. Due to "the variation in impairment from drug to drug and from person to person," the state had a legitimate basis for creating a law banning driving while under the influence of drugs in order to protect the public against the dangers posed by people driving while impaired as a result of drug consumption.

The teen also advanced an equal protection claim based upon marijuana's inclusion in a statute that also covered other, "harder" drugs. The DUI statute, though, didn't just include hard drugs plus marijuana. It covered a wide range of intoxicating substances. The statute treated all users of intoxicating substances equally, whether the driver was high on PCP, marijuana, or prescription narcotics, so there was no equal protection problem.

The court also upheld the teen's sentence, despite her argument that she should have received probation. Given that her wreck resulted in a death, the sentencing range spanned from three to 12 years, absent extraordinary circumstances. Rennie claimed that her case offered those circumstances, given her youth, inexperience as a driver, and lack of criminal record. These facts were mitigating factors in arriving at a sentence for the teen, but they did not rise to the level of "extraordinary" that would require giving Rennie a sentence of probation.

In DUI cases, even a first offense may have extremely dire consequences, especially if a serious injury or death is involved. To protect the rights of yourself or a loved one facing a DUI, reach out to the DuPage County DUI defense attorneys at Martin & Kent. Our attorneys can help you assess your case and zealously put forward the best defense possible.

Contact us online or by calling (888) 388-9151 to schedule your confidential initial consultation at no charge.

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