Burlington, VT-Motorists who have be drinking are pretty easy for police spot; they drive erratically, have blood shot eyes and often smell of alcohol. But it’s a different story for drugged drivers. Because Vermont could follow in the footsteps of Alaska and Colorado, state lawmakers are concerned that stoned driving could become a greater problem, and endanger more motorists, so they are thinking of ways to get ahead of the problem.
The Insurance Journal reports that the Vermont House Transportation Committee is considering a bill that would allow police to use new technology that tests a driver’s saliva for a variety of drugs on the roadside. These machines, which operate similar to a breathalyzer, are able to determine whether a driver has is on marijuana, opiates, cocaine, amphetamines, methamphetamines, methadone and benzodiazepines.
Lawmakers and State Police believe this legislation is necessary because of the increase in drugged driving fatalities. According to the Insurance Journal, out of the 44 traffic fatalities in the state last year, 9 involved stoned drivers and 6 involved drunken drivers.
Currently, fourteen states have laws similar the one Vermont lawmaker are considering, but recent efforts in states such as Virginia
Civil rights groups and DUI attorneys are critical of these roadside saliva tests for a number of reasons. For one, marijuana remains in a person’s system for days and weeks after they smoke and are no longer intoxicated.
Speaking to Insurance Journal, Lt. Garry Scott of the State Police Crash Reconstruction Team said that the roadside tests they are considering test only for the short-acting component in marijuana. But that reassurance in unlikely to assuage critics.
Another objection to roadside saliva tests is the fact that a person’s saliva contains their DNA and collecting such is a violation of a person’s protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. Additionally, unlike with alcohol for which there are scientifically-established standards for determining intoxication, the same cannot be said for marijuana and other prescription or illicit drugs.
Vermont legislators are also considering HB 228 which would make it illegal to operate a vehicle with a detectible amount any regulated drug. This law should be especially troubling since almost any who takes medication on a daily basis could be arrested and charged with even though aren’t actually impaired or breaking the law.
In the absence of roadside tests, police have to rely on their observations to determine if a driver is under the influence. Simply being charged with DUI whether its, drugs or alcohol, can cause a person to unnecessarily lose their driver’s license, even if they weren’t impaired or haven’t even been convicted. It takes weeks or months for police to get the results of blood tests or urine tests so some drivers could be unfairly charged with DUI.
Drugged driving charges are serious and any one facing these charges needs to contact a Vermont DUI attorney in immediately. If you are facing drugged or drunken driving charges, USAttorneys can connect you with an outstanding attorney to work on your DUI defense.