Agreement reached on drugged driving definition


Hours before the final gavel fell Saturday, legislators resurrected a nearly dead bill about drugged driving, settling on a compromise they say will nevertheless help police nab more dangerous drivers.

Vermont has separate standards for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Law enforcement officials and prosecutors told legislators the standard for drugs it too high, making it nearly impossible to convict someone of DUI drugs.

A conference committee of three members each from the House and Senate traded proposals back and forth for three days, ultimately signing a version they said found the "sweet spot" Saturday just before 3:30 p.m.

"Under the influence of a drug" in the bill means a person's ability to operate a motor vehicle safely is "diminished or impaired to the slightest degree," the bill says. It specifically states that that definition does not apply to alcohol.

"These words went through many changes," said Sen. Alice Nitka, D-Windsor, who chaired the conference committee and serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Nitka said the bill is not zero-tolerance, but is a fair way to help police deal with drugged driving.

Law enforcement officials support that language, senators said. Defender General Matthew Valerio said it is a victory for police.


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