Lawmakers Mull Makeover Of DUI Drug Laws

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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.

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