Lawmakers Mull Makeover Of DUI Drug Laws

HUNTSVILLE, Ala.(WHNT)-Driving under the influence of drugs is clearly against the law in Alabama, but the challenge of proving it under existing codes is now the subject of brand new legislation in Montgomery.

Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) is drafting a bill that would allow law enforcement officers to administer a drug test to anyone they deem is under the influence of drugs, much like a breathalyzer exam is given to drivers who are suspected of being drunk. The legislation also sets a clear under-the-influence standard of five nanograms per milliliter of blood for a variety of drugs that range from marijuana to cocaine and meth.

Orr said there is no numerical standard under current DUI drug laws in Alabama, which relies solely on the judgment calls of officers.

“We really don’t have a clear law when it comes to illegal drugs or abused drugs,” said Orr. “There are no express amounts listed in the code of Alabama. There almost has to be a leap of faith by the court that if someone is doing drugs they are under the influence…The prosecutors say they really need some more definition in our law, and it will help them convict and get driving while drugging drivers off the road.”

The Alabama District Attorneys Association has already endorsed Senator Orr’s proposal.

Critics of the plan say officer can already administer drug tests by obtaining a search warrant, and worry that easier access could lead to higher bills for taxpayers.

“To me it comes down to a question of money, it’s money that the state of Alabama does not have,” said defense attorney Robert Payne. “At a time when the state budget is strained, and I know for a fact Department of Forensic Sciences is short on folks, this takes money away from what it should be used.”

Senator Orr said he’s not surprised that defense attorneys oppose his bill since it would take away a lot of current gray area. Lawmakers will review the legislation when they return to Montgomery in February.

2 comments

  • rockon

    While trying to establish a blood THC level like alcohol “seems to make sense”, it is a rabbit hole, as drugs levels, especially THC, do not correlate at all to impairment. Even with alcohol it’s an imperfect relationship. For instance, most people in society have seen tolerant drunks, who can at least somewhat function with high BAC’s (i.e .15BAC) and show little signs of impairment. By contrast, a person who may not be alcohol tolerant may show much impairment that even a lay person could see at a relatively low BAC. This is a problem even with decades and millions of dollars spent on research.

    All bets are off with drugs especially THC. You see, many times as the blood THC level of user goes down, impairment goes up!! That’s because THC leaves the blood and goes into the brain, for example, where it exerts most of its effects. Sound unpredictable? You bet!! The best policy for any illegal drug is zero tolerance, especially if the driver is impaired. Add in polydrug use, which is fast becoming the norm, and all bets are off again.

    Example: What if a driver were .05BAC, 1ng/ml parent THC, and 4ng/ml cocaine, all under these proposed per se “limits”. I would expect that a driver in this scenario would be impaired. In a vacuum world where the officer “knew: what was in the person’s blood, would the officer say, “Here’s your keys back sir, have a nice day?” Certainly not I hope!!

    I don’t speak with any sort of agenda or bias on this, other than to tell the truth as I see it and have experienced it. No, I don’t use drugs, never have and never will. But I do deal with them frequently.

    Zero tolerance for drivers impaired on illegal drugs especially is the best policy to protect the public from chemically impaired drivers.

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