Montpellier, VT- As Americans are moving towards a broad legalization of marijuana, lawmakers across the country are taking preemptive steps to assure drugged driving doesn’t become the problem drunken driving is by introducing laws enhanced DUI-drug laws. Such is the case in Vermont, but a recently introduced drugged driving law is having trouble gaining traction because state legislators are concerned about infringing on drivers’ rights.
The bill lawmakers are mulling, H. 501, would lower standard of proof necessary to convict a person of driving under the influence of drugs.
Under current law, in order to secure a conviction for DUI-drugs, prosecutors must prove that the suspected drugged driver is unable to safely operate their motor vehicle. This standard, prosecutors say, allow many people to dodge charges because DUI attorneys are able to argue their clients may have been on drugs, but the state cannot prove they were driving unsafely, according to Valley News.
But H. 105 would change that standard and prohibit a person from driving if they are impaired in the “slightest degree.” Additionally, if a person has the metabolized byproducts of drugs like marijuana or cocaine in their system can be charged with a DUI. This standard is troubling since a person can be charged with a DUI even when they are not impaired. For instance, someone who smokes marijuana one day would have THC in their system days or weeks after the drug’s effects have worn off.
While lawmakers in Vermont would agrees it’s important to keep drugged drivers off the road, they believe the law would subject motorists to unnecessary drug tests.
In one committee meeting to discuss the law, Rep. Anne Donahue, R-Northfield, said, “A person who is affected in the slightest degree by a medication is not necessarily in the least bit impaired.”
Law enforcement and prosecutors assured lawmakers that people would not be subjected to unnecessary drug tests. Before charging a person with DUI-drugs, they are evaluated by a Drug Recognition Expert who rules out health conditions or mental issues before a person is asked to consent to a chemical test. Those in favor passage of the law said they treat someone admitting to taking prescription drugs in the same way they treat drivers who admit to drinking; they need proof before filing formal charges.
Refusing to submit to a chemical test would carry a different set of penalties which include mandatory suspension of driving privileges.
Lawmakers however were unconvinced and have declined to pass the bill at this time. The committee is continuing to take questions and hear testimony. They indicated that if the state added more Drug Recognition Experts the law would be in better standing for passage.
If you have been charged with a DUI-drugs or DUI-alcohol, you need an aggressive defense. A conviction for either charge can have very negative ramifications for an individual so it is critical to retain a DWI attorney. In many cases, your legal counsel can fight to have the charges reduced or negotiate for a plea bargain.