A recent report by The Drive indicates operating under the influence of drugs is a growing and serious problem in Massachusetts, but one police and government officials aren’t prepared to sufficiently take on.
NBC Boston reports the number of driver’s license revocations for operating under the influence of drugs has risen 65 percent over the last three years, with the legalization of marijuana and the rising tide of the opioid crisis blamed. Police say they are “constantly” responding to drugged-driving crashes and stopping motorists who are too high to drive safely. Further, not enough police officers have the proper specialized training necessary to identify a driver who is under the influence of drugs – and prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. That’s because drug impairment isn’t tested the same way as alcohol impairment. With alcohol, MGL ch. 90 section 24 indicates anyone with a blood-alcohol concentration that exceeds 0.08 is considered impaired. However, there isn’t the same kind of testing for drugs, though some states have set arbitrary limits. But a person who uses marijuana daily may have high levels of THC in their blood, yet not meet the criteria for being impaired; drugs tend to stay in the system longer than alcohol, meaning testing positive for it isn’t a surefire indicator of impairment.
That has implications not just for the criminal justice system, but also on civil impaired driving cases, spurred by the crashes these motorists cause. There is of course the indirect impact which is that if law enforcement is ineffective in identifying, arresting and prosecuting offenders, the streets aren’t as safe and we’re likely to see an increasing number of these offenders on our streets. The direct impact, though, is that evidence derived in the criminal case can also be used in civil litigation, though the processes are totally separate. Evidence of impairment can be used when working to establish a defendant’s negligence, or the failure to use reasonable care resulting in a foreseeable harm. Continue reading