Those requiring South Shore OUI defense should be aware of recent news reported by Massachusetts state statute Chapter 90, section 24 to drive while intoxicated on any substance, proving a drug OUI, as opposed to an alcohol OUI, can be more difficult.
That’s because while measuring the alcohol in your blood involves taking a breathalyzer test, most drugs aren’t going to show up that way. Certain signs of drug impairment – like pupil size or heart rate – aren’t as easy for law enforcement to spot. What’s more, just because you have drugs in your possession doesn’t automatically prove that you took them.
In other words, you don’t need to necessarily be an expert to recognize when someone is drunk. However proving that someone is under the influence of drugs is tougher.
According to the law, in order to secure a conviction on a South Shore OUI charge, prosecutors need to show that you took drugs you were not legally authorized to take, that those drugs caused you to be impaired, that you were driving a motor vehicle and that you were on a public street. This may sound straightforward, but unless the agency has an expert to testify, proving you were impaired is not as simple as it seems.
So what many law enforcement offices do is hire or train Drug Recognition Experts (DRE’s). These are law enforcement officers who have gone through fairly intensive training to recognize whether an individual is under the influence of drugs. The testimony of these individuals can be quite compelling in court. That doesn’t mean you can’t beat the charge with the help of a skilled South Shore defense attorney, but it does make the job more challenging.
These so-called “experts” offer nothing more than their opinion about a driver’s state of intoxication — much like Massachusetts field sobriety test results, that opinion can be challenged.
The problem for many South Shore law enforcement agencies is that having a DRE is expensive.
In 1995, the state started a Drug Evaluation Classification program, which purported to give police the ability to identify the specific effects of drug intoxication. Right now, there are about 75 DRE’s in Massachusetts. Police don’t feel that’s enough.
The training takes a great deal of time. A certified DRE will have completed 80 hours of instruction in the classroom, and then conduct drug impairment examinations on at least 12 drugged individuals. Then, they must pass a five-hour written examination. Because the state hasn’t funded the courses for two years now, the cost must be absorbed by the agency, which, in addition to paying for the actual training, must cope with being short of that officer during the training period.
So while most departments think it would be ideal to have one or two employed on the force, it’s often just not feasible. Sometimes, agencies have resorted to reaching out to a DRE on a neighboring force. But there are issues with this because the effects of certain drugs don’t last long. By the time the DRE arrives, the effects may no longer be evident.