Proving drugged driving is still difficult, despite advances

| Jul 10, 2017 | Field Sobriety Tests

As opioid use in this country has reached epidemic status, the number of drivers on the road who are under the influence of these and/or other types of drugs has become an increasing concern for law enforcement and prosecutors here in Maryland and throughout the U.S. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a quarter of drivers have some type of drug in their system, including illegal drugs as well as legally-obtained prescription medication.

Proving that a driver is under the influence of drugs, however, is more difficult than proving that someone is driving drunk. One man in recovery, who admits to driving high (sometimes under the influence of heroin) on over 100 occasions, says, “In your mind, you think, there’s really no way they can prove (it). It’s not like I can blow into a machine and it’s going to say what I’ve used.”

Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger acknowledges that officers don’t yet have the tools they need to determine the type or level of drugs in a driver’s system, as a breathalyzer can measure the amount of alcohol in a person’s blood. He says that officers are “moving into an area where you have to prove intoxication from a different substance.”

The Maryland State Police have a unit of troopers called the State Police Impaired Driving Effort (SPIDRE) made up of drug recognition experts (DRE) who have been specially trained to conduct a drug evaluation on drivers suspected of being under the influence of drugs. Their 12-step roadside evaluation includes a measurement of pulse, temperature and blood pressure.

These DREs can ask a driver to submit to a blood test. However, Maryland has no standard for the level of drugs that can be in a driver’s system before he or she is deemed to be impaired. Further, getting the results of a blood test can take months. As one state trooper who is a DRE notes, “Unfortunately, in Maryland, there is no measurement for drugs.”

If you have been arrested for driving under the influence of drugs, it’s essential to hire an experienced attorney who can effectively challenge the evidence in court. Depending on the circumstances, an attorney can also work to get you into a rehabilitation program in lieu of prison, where you can more effectively deal with any additional issues you may have.

Source: WBAL-TV Baltimore, “Drugged driving difficult to enforce, prosecute,” Deborah Weiner, July 05, 2017

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