Sacramento, CA -Everyone knows it’s wrong to have a few drinks and get behind the wheel, however many people don’t think twice about taking pharmaceuticals and driving. Some lawmakers in California are aiming to change that by changing the state’s DUI laws to cover prescriptions drugs.
Last year, a study conducted by the California Office of Traffic Safety found that at least half of drivers on the road tested positive for marijuana and pharmaceutical drugs. Close to twice the amount of weekend and nighttime drivers who tested positive for alcohols use.
State DUI laws have a specific legal parameter to with someone with drunken driving. In California, like the majority of states if a person’s blood alcohol level in above .08 percent they can be charged with DUI, but those who take pharmaceuticals or medical marijuana can fall through the cracks and may not face driving under the influence charges, though that is not always the case.
Senator Lou Correa of Santa Ana has introduced a bill S.B. 298 would make driving with a detectable amount of Class I through Class IV drugs illegal unless you have a prescription, including medical marijuana, according to NBC news. The law primarily applies to users who take pharmaceuticals not prescribed to them, but carries the risk of ensnaring those who aren’t directly under the influence of a drug.
“If you have drugs in your system, you should not be on the road,” Correa said in a news release
While this bill has the approval of police and numerous lawmakers, those critical of the law it say it could end up landing those who take one of their wife’s muscle relaxers, or who have to take medications for chronic pain in jail.
Unlike alcohol pharmaceuticals and marijuana stay in the body much longer; they can be detected for days or months, long after it actually impairs a driver. A person can smoke medical marijuana or take a pharmaceutical one day and be charged with a DUI the next.
S.B. 298 however does not outline how much of a “traceable amount” of drugs in a person’s system warrants a DUI charge. This could lead to some unnecessary and unjustified DUI charges unless lawmakers develop clearer guidelines. Lawmakers in Washington and Colorado have struggled with passing DUI marijuana laws because determining what level of THC in the blood warrants intoxication is problematic.
Although it’s already illegal to driver impaired by any substance, this law attempts to catch individuals who don’t have the outward appearance of intoxication. Cases of driving under the influence have been reduced significantly reaching their lowest levels in four decades, but still thousands of people are killed by intoxicated drivers every year; California lawmakers want to address this problem.
Driving while intoxicated is wrong; it’s dangerous and can put the driver’s and other motorist’s life and safety at risk. Despite this many people still get behind the wheel when they shouldn’t and some people get charged even when they aren’t intoxicated. Everyone charged with a DUI needs legal representation. With the help of an attorney they may be able to have the charges dismissed or at the least appeal for a lesser charge.