Newsbrief: Utah Drugged Driving Bill on the Move 1/31/03

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A bill that would make drivers involved in fatal accidents guilty of vehicular homicide if they had even trace amounts of illicit drugs in their systems passed in the Utah Senate Tuesday. The bill would also criminalize driving with any illicit drug metabolites in the body. It must still pass the Utah House of Representatives, where it was sent to the Standing Committee Friday. While the bill contains some safeguards to prevent overly broad enforcement, it is of a piece with drug czar John Walters' national "zero tolerance" anti-drugged driving campaign announced in November (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/264.html#druggeddriving).

Under SB007, the "Automobile Homicide Amendments," introduced by Sen. Carlene Walker (R-Halliday), prosecutors will not have to prove actual impairment caused by the presence of drugs, merely that drugs were present in the driver's system. And unlike Utah's approach with alcohol, which sets a blood concentration (0.08%) above which impairment is assumed, "any measurable amount of a Schedule I or Schedule II controlled substance" is assumed as a matter of law to indicate impairment.

"It is not quite a zero tolerance policy, but it is the same philosophy," Walker told the Deseret News. "It's just one more tool to get those with drugs in their system off the roads," she said.

The bill requires prosecutors to prove that the fatal accident was caused by negligence and that proscribed drugs were present in the driver's blood. According to Paul Boyden, director of the Statewide Association of Prosecutors, the bill was amended to remove prosecution for the presence of "metabolites," the minute traces that remain in the body for days or weeks after ingestions. But in amending the bill, lawmakers made it a separate crime to drive "if the person has any measurable controlled substance or metabolite of a controlled substance in the person's body."

The bill's language also contains two affirmative defenses: That the drug was legitimately prescribed by or a physician or if the drug was ingested unwittingly.

Even supporters such as Boyden conceded that drugged driving incidents were both rare and highly publicized in the media. Boyden also told the Deseret News the law could be abused by overzealous prosecutors going after people who had used drugs days or weeks earlier. "Nothing can stop an over-zealous prosecutor," he quipped.

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Issue #274, 1/31/03 The Road to Mérida: Interviews with Participants in the "Out from the Shadows" Campaign | Road to Mérida: Dr. Silvia Inchaurraga, Argentine Harm Reductionist | Road to Mérida: Sala Errata | Ed Rosenthal Convicted, Faces 10-Year Mandatory Minimum for Oakland Medical Marijuana Grow | Bush Treatment Initiative Draws Mixed Reviews from Reformers | Into the Morass: Green Berets in Colombia as "War on Drugs" Morphs into "War on Terror" | Drug Czar Says Nevada Election Laws Don't Apply to His Politicking | Latin American Anti-Prohibition Conference, Feb. 12-15, Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico | Cumbre Internacional Sobre Legalización, 15-Dec Febrero, Mérida, México | Cúpula Internacional sobre Legalização, 15-Dec de Fevereiro, Mérida, México | Newsbrief: Violence Continues as Talks Begin in Bolivia -- Coca Growers, Workers, Indians Present Demands | Newsbrief: DEA Moving to Schedule Two More Hallucinogens | Newsbrief: Utah Drugged Driving Bill on the Move | Newsbrief: Colorado Bill Equating Meth Manufacture and Child Abuse Moves Forward | Newsbrief: Asian Drug Abolition Mania Spreading -- Malaysia Calls for "Total War," Drug Free Southeast Asia by 2015 | Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cop Story | Newsbrief: Judge Kane Speaks Out Again, Lambasts Federal Drug War | DC Job Opportunity at DRCNet -- Campus Coordinator | The Reformer's Calendar

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