Police in New York are reporting that drug DUI cases are on the rise, which likely means that Massachusetts drug OUI cases are on the rise as well due to prescription drug abuse and an increased emphasis on enforcement.
The problem with this charge is that police are far behind in getting proper training to determine when someone is under the influence of drugs. Every law enforcement officer gets months of training to figure out when someone has been drinking and driving, but drugs are a different story. Drugs also stay in a person’s system longer than alcohol, making such training suspect at best.
Consulting with an experienced Massachusetts OUI attorney is critical in cases like this because law enforcement officers sometimes get cases like these wrong. In cases where a person has used prescription drugs and driven, officers often lack the ability to properly make the determination of whether they have broken state law.
Very few officers are trained in as drug recognition experts. In fact, the group in Florida that trains officers reports that there are just over 5,000 officers certified as drug recognition experts in the world. That means that less than 1/10 of 1 percent of all officers worldwide hold this distinction.
The odds of small towns throughout Massachusetts having these experts are low. And an experienced Massachusetts Drug OUI lawyer places as much faith in these “experts” as they do in common OUI testing like field sobriety tests and breathalyzers. Much of what is used to determine OUI in Massachusetts is flawed and that can be pointed out in defense of the client.
According to the story out of New York, there were 352 arrests in 2008 in a three-county area north of New York City. The number dropped to 326 in 2010. Numbers overall are on the rise compared to 2001, when there were 145 drivers charged with the crime.
The interesting thing about the statistics is that this is such a low number of cases. The population in the three-county area is nearly 1.4 million and yet only 300 people a year face these charges. This is either because few people in this area use prescription drugs, which is unlikely, or police just don’t know how to recognize and deal with the issue.
Officers quoted in the story say they are getting more and more training to recognize drug OUI cases, but they still aren’t at the point where they can properly spot it. One officer admits that while there are breath testing devices that can provide estimates of blood alcohol levels in drivers, there is no such device for drug OUI cases.
This means that a driver who is charged with drug OUI in Massachusetts is arrested solely based on an officer’s observations. If the person has balance problems and fails a field sobriety test, the officer could blame it on drugs, but that could be a defense. What happens if there are no drugs found in the vehicle and the driver doesn’t admit to taking any drugs? How can an officer legitimately file a charge without any evidence that a drug was consumed?
These are issues that must be addressed by an experienced Massachusetts OUI lawyer. A driver cannot leave this up to chance because there are many options and defenses that a suspect can put together.
Michael DelSignore is a criminal defense lawyer in Massachusetts, who represents clients facing drunk driving charges, as well as other misdemeanor and felony offenses.
More Blog Entries:
Allegations of DUI Drugs in Massachusetts Best Handled by Aggressive DUI Defense Attorney: June 9, 2011
Drugged-driving arrests soar as prescription abuse, police training rise, by Ken Valenti, lohud.com