Law enforcement, prosecutors want same standard for drunk, drugged driving
Vermont's drugged-driving law is difficult to enforce and should be changed, a police officer and state prosecutor told lawmakers last week.
Police need to be able to charge a person with drugged driving as easily as they can charge someone with driving drunk, law enforcement officials told the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.
Legislators say drugged drivers are no safer than drunk ones and agree the statute needs a tweak, but they are struggling with how to tackle the matter.
The problem is that in Vermont, there are unequal burden-of-proof standards for DUI-drugs and DUI-alcohol, which make it harder to convict someone of driving under the influence of drugs.
To charge a person with DUI-alcohol in Vermont, a prosecutor must prove a person was impaired "to the slightest degree," or that his or her blood alcohol content was .08 or greater.
To prove drug-impaired driving, however, a prosecutor must show a person was "incapable of driving safely."
Vermont State Police Lt. John Flannigan, coordinator of the state's Drug Recognition Experts program at DPS, said police would like the law to be changed to a uniform standard of impairment.
Of all enforcement evaluations performed from 2005-2013, toxicology results showed that 42 percent of people were on central nervous system depressants such as sleep aids and anxiety medication, 23 percent were on marijuana and 21 percent were on narcotic painkillers, Flannigan said.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.