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Massachusetts Police Train to Fight Drugged Driving

Massachusetts has had a long-standing problem with heroin use and abuse of prescription opiates, and now there is a growing problem with people abusing prescription depressants such as Xanax, Klonopin, Valium, and other benzodiazepines.  Not only are many people abusing these powerful drugs, they are also getting behind the wheel of a car after doing so, and that is an even greater problem, because they are putting others at risk.

drugs-defect-pills-300x226With marijuana now being legal in Massachusetts, many police, law enforcement agencies, and personnel now believe that we will continue to see an increase in the amount of people driving under the influence of cannabis and a corresponding increase in the number of drugged driving accidents.  In response to this, more police officers in Massachusetts have decided to get trained as Drug Recognition Experts (DREs), according to a recent news article from NBC Boston.

The first thing that must be understood is that it is harder to prove in court a person is under the influence of drugs, and especially a specific drug, than it is to prove someone is drunk.  This is not only true with behavioral clues, but also from chemical testing.  As our Boston drugged driving accident lawyers can explain, a breath alcohol test (commonly called by the old brand name Breathalyzer) can detect how much alcohol a person currently has in his or her system.  After the effects of the alcohol are gone, the person will generally have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.0 grams of ethanol per hundred milliliters of blood.  This is also true of urine testing and blood testing.

However, when a person uses heroin or marijuana, they would “fail” a drug test weeks later when they are completely sober.  The reason they would fail a drug test is because metabolites of many drugs will say in a person’s system for a long time.  If you tested a drug user’s hair sample, you might be able to go back six months and find out if a person had used drugs.  While this is helpful for probation officers to tell if a person had violated his or her probation, it does little to prove that they are currently under the influence of drugs in terms of a drugged driving case.

For this reason, police have to rely on how a person is behaving and also the physical clues on a person.  While some drugs give on an odor that can help, Valium, for example, does not.  While someone may appear sluggish or tired, since the officer has never seen that person before, this could be how they appear all the time.

The DRE course is supposed to teach officers to recognize subtle clues.  One of the major clues is a person’s pupil diameter and how they react to stimulus light. A vertical gaze nystagmus is also a major clue.  While a person’s eyes might not track equally side to side from alcohol, drugs won’t have an effect.  However, the up and down tracking (vertical) of person’s eyes may be affected by dissociative drugs like phencyclidine (PCP).  This is what the officers are trained for, and this can be used as evidence in your civil car accident lawsuit.

If you or someone you love has been injured a Boston drunk driving accident, call for a free and confidential appointment at 1-888-367-2900.

Additional Resources:

High Behind the Wheel: Drunk vs. Drugged Driving, August 29, 2016, By Ally Donnelly, NBC Boston

More Blog Entries:

Bruins Star Ray Bourque Arrested for Drunk Driving After Car Accident, July 5, 2016, Boston Drunk Driving Injury Lawyer Blog