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Monday, October 18, 2010

DUIs Involving Prescription Drugs Are Difficult To Prove

The road is a dangerous place for all drivers, accidents happen all the time and there are people out there who are intoxicated that share the roads with us. Traditionally, a DUI was given to people who drove under the influence of alcohol with a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher. Today, with illegal drug use as well as legal prescription drug use, more and more DUIs have to do with drugs in one way or the other. It is very difficult for police officers to determine whether or not someone on prescription medications is too impaired to drive, there is not a nationally accepted test that can quantify how much of a particular drug is in someone's system nor a level that has been set that, if crossed, would result in a DUI. A number of states do not even require a test to quantify the amount of drugs in a person's body in a DUI case, thus impairment is hard to prove. If a person is suspected of being impaired by prescription drugs and chooses to go to court and fight it, the jury is faced with a conundrum; how can a jury prove beyond a reasonable doubt that someone had too much of a particular drug to drive safely?

"What we and other states have run into historically is that there is a well-developed system to quantify the amount of alcohol in the human body, however, when you have oxycodone or an opiate, we do not have a well-developed way to quantify the amount of drugs so that a jury can then compare that value to a standard established as an unlawful when operating an automobile", stated Rob Parker, a Brevard County, Fla., prosecutor. In 2007, a man was charged with four counts of DUI after a crash. Police observed that the 33-year-old driver looked intoxicated with bloodshot eyes, droopy eyelids, and he had difficulty speaking. A blood sample was taken from the driver which tested positive for prescription medication. The driver was acquitted by the jury on the DUI chargers in August, "the jury heard all of that and could not conclude that he was DUI with drugs beyond reasonable doubt," Parker said. There is no doubt that the driver is back on the road putting more peoples' lives at risk.

States need to employ Drug Recognition Experts, (DREs), to go to the scene of a crime to run tests on drivers suspected of being under the influence of drugs in order to determine whether or not the driver is actually impaired. DRE's are police officers who have completed specialized training in detecting impairment due to drugs and it can take three to six months for an officer to become a DRE. Even if a quantitative test is developed, we know that everyone is different and how much of a certain drug it would take to impair one person may be different than another.

USA Today

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