House gives preliminary approval to drugged driving bill


House members Wednesday gave preliminary approval to a bill that establishes the same standard for drugged driving as for drunk driving.

The bill changes the law to use the same definition for "under the influence" of drugs as has been established for alcohol.

Current law says drugged driving can only be proven if a person demonstrates unsafe driving, which makes it nearly impossible to charge someone with drugged driving, police told the committee during testimony last month.

Meanwhile, the Vermont Supreme Court has ruled that "under the influence" of alcohol means that a person's full mental or physical abilities are diminished to the slightest degree.

The bill changes the law to say a person shall not operate a vehicle "when the person is under the influence of any other drug or under the combined influence of alcohol and any other drug."

The bill Wednesday afternoon was ordered to a third reading on a roll call vote of 138-2.

Rep. Carolyn Branagan, R-Georgia, voted no.

"This bill leaves too many chances for mistakes and has too many opportunities for misinterpretation," she said, according to the House Journal. "Let's hope the Senate can tighten up the language."


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