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Pennsylvania Puts Additional Drug Recognition Experts on the Road

From American Banking & Market News:

In Pennsylvania’s latest effort to bolster highway safety, 11 state troopers and five municipal police officers have been certified by the International Association of Chiefs of Police as drug recognition experts, or DREs, Pennsylvania State Police acting Commissioner Frank Noonan announced today.

“The Drug Evaluation and Classification Program is a national effort to train police officers to determine when an individual has been driving under the influence of drugs and to identify the type of drug causing the impairment,” Noonan said.

The program also trains officers to recognize whether an individual is suffering from a medical condition rather than drug impairment, he said.

“Alcohol is the intoxicant most often responsible for impaired driving, but it’s not the only one that renders individuals incapable of safe driving,” Noonan said. “Drug Recognition Experts are trained to determine if a driver is under the influence of illegal drugs, prescription drugs or any other substance that impairs a person’s ability to operate a vehicle safely.”

Motorists should know that they may be incapable of driving safely and can be charged with driving under the influence after ingesting any intoxicating substance, whether the substance is legal or illegal, prescribed by a physician or purchased over the counter, Noonan said.

Posted: 4/7/2011 3:14:00 PM

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MADD same message with a new twist

From EMC Ottawa South:

MADD for years has provided national education campaigns targeted at youth 16-18 years of age with unprecedented success rates due to diligently visiting high school after high school across Canada.

But as the times change, so does their message. MADD has updated their educational message to include the new and prevalent issue of drugs and driving. It is relevant now to have an anti drug-use and driving message specifically geared toward Marijuana.

"Everyone understands not to drink and drive but not everyone knows what technically constitutes impaired driving. Marijuana is easier to access for youth and has now risen above alcohol considering impaired driving rates," said Greg Thomson, MADD victim service representative.

Posted: 2/3/2011 2:26:00 PM

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Woman accused of killing C.H.P. officer gave birth six weeks before preliminary hearing

From ksby.com:

We learned exclusively today that California Highway Patrol Officer Brett Oswald and Kaylee Weisenberg were not the only ones involved in the June crash that took Oswald's life.

It was revealed that Weisenberg, who is accused of hitting and killing Oswald with a car, was pregnant at the time of the crash.

She gave birth six weeks ago to a baby who has been present for both days of Weisenberg's preliminary hearing.

She is facing four charges, including murder and driving under the influence.

Investigators say Weisenberg tested positive for meth after the crash.

"With the concentrations that are here, it would be my opinion that Ms. Weisenberg was affected at the time by her methamphetamine use," said Barry Logan, a toxicologist who testified.

Posted: 12/23/2010 1:43:00 PM

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December Named National Impaired Driving Prevention Month

In a presidential proclamation, President Barack Obama named the month of December National Impaired Driving Prevention Month.  In his proclamation he states, “Impaired driving and its consequences can seriously alter or even destroy lives and property in a moment. This reckless behavior not only includes drunk driving, but also the growing problem of drugged driving. Drugs, including those prescribed by a physician, can impair judgment and motor skills. It is crucial that we encourage our young people and fellow citizens to make responsible decisions when driving or riding as a passenger, especially if drug use is apparent.”

This statement coincides with the recent release by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) of new data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). One in three fatally injured drivers (33%) with known drug test results in the United States tested positive for drugs other than alcohol in 2009. While the number of drivers killed in motor vehicle crashes has declined over the past five years, the number of drivers positive for drugs has increased by 5%.

Posted: 12/3/2010 12:15:00 PM

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Prescription-based DUIs draw attention from police

From The Sierra Vista Herald:

When police officer James Boubelik pulls someone over for reckless driving, he looks for clues of impairment like dilated pupils, slurred speech or the smell of alcohol.

But it’s more than just alcohol and illegal drugs that Boubelik and other officers are looking for these days. They’re also looking for drivers impaired by legal, prescription drugs — harder to recognize than drunken driving and sometimes harder to prosecute.

Posted: 11/18/2010 1:56:00 PM

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NJ college places ban on boozy energy drinks

From the ABC News:

It's cheap, it comes in tall cans, and it contains caffeine, other common energy-drink ingredients — and as much alcohol as four beers.

After students at northern New Jersey's Ramapo College were hospitalized last month after drinking Four Loko, the college president ordered that it and similar drinks be banned — and he's encouraging other colleges and the state to follow suit.

Posted: 10/19/2010 1:08:00 PM

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Driving while on prescriptions a growing issue for police and the courts

From NorthJersey.com:

As more doctors prescribe Xanax, Vicodin and Oxycodone, police are seeing a rise in more DWIs, not with driving under the influence of alcohol, but with drivers on legally obtained painkillers. According to the federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), statistics speak for themselves. Between 1997 and 2007, according to a University of Michigan study, treatment admissions for prescription painkillers increased more than 400 percent. The DEA said that between 2004 and 2008, the number of visits to hospital emergency departments involving the non-medical use of narcotic painkillers increased 111 percent. Area cops are reporting making more prescription medication-related DWI arrests and area lawyers are now vigorously defending those cases in court.

Posted: 10/14/2010 2:51:00 PM

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Testimony continues in alleged drunken-driving case

From the North & South Brunswick Sentinel:

A woman accused of fatally killing an 18-year-old South Brunswick woman in 2007 had a blood-alcohol level of 0.19 at the time of the crash, expert witnesses are testifying.

Dr. Edward J. Barbieri, who is a forensic toxicologist, assistant lab director and toxicology tech leader at NMS Labs, the facility that handled Green’s blood sample, testified on Sept. 15 that the concentration of ethyl alcohol found in Green’s blood were 159, 161 and 161 milligrams per deciliter, resulting in a reported number of 0.159 per a test called a headspace gas chromatograph. He testified that the samples were not tampered with and that quality controls were run to assure accuracy.

Posted: 9/23/2010 10:44:00 AM

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Woman's blood alcohol content topples state records

From the Rapid City Journal:

A Sturgis woman had a record-setting blood alcohol level of .708 when she was found on Dec. 1 behind the wheel of a stolen vehicle.

Her blood alcohol was almost nine times the level at which South Dakota authorities presume a person is intoxicated.

Checks with local and state labs where blood alcohol levels are tested suggest Engle's reading may be the highest ever recorded in South Dakota.

Meade County State's Attorney Jesse Sondreal's research indicates that a blood alcohol level of .40 is considered a lethal dose for about 50 percent of the population.

"Engle's was almost double that," Sondreal said.

Posted: 12/30/2009 10:01:00 AM

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Officers’ New Tool Against D.W.I.: Syringe

From The New York Times:

When Officer Darryll Dowell of the Nampa Police Department is on patrol, he will pull up at a stoplight and start casing the vehicle next to him. Nowadays, his eyes will also focus on the driver’s arms, searching for a plump, bouncy vein.

“I was looking at people’s arms and hands, thinking, ‘I could draw from that,’ ” Officer Dowell said.

The thought stems from training he and a select cadre of officers in Idaho and Texas have received in recent months in drawing blood from people suspected of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The aim of the federal program is to determine if drawing blood by law-enforcement officers can be an effective tool against drunken drivers and aid in their prosecution.

If the results seem promising after a year or two, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will encourage law-enforcement officers nationwide to undergo similar training.

The Supreme Court ruled in 1966 that the police could have blood tests forcibly done on a drunken-driving suspect without a warrant, as long as they were based on a reasonable suspicion that a suspect was intoxicated, and they were done after an arrest and carried out in a medically approved manner.

The practice of law-enforcement officers drawing blood, first done in Arizona in 1995, has raised concerns, though, about safety and the credibility of the evidence.

“I would imagine that a lot of people would be wary of having their blood drawn by an officer on the hood of their police vehicle,” said Steve Oberman, chairman of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers’ committee on driving while intoxicated.

For years, defense lawyers in Idaho advised clients to always refuse breath tests, Christine Starr, a prosecutor in Ada County, said. When the state toughened the penalties for refusing the tests a few years ago, the problem lessened, but it is still the main reason that drunken-driving cases go to trial in the Boise region, Ms. Starr said.

Idaho had a 20 percent breath test refusal rate in 2005, compared with 22 percent nationally, according to a study by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.

Ms. Starr said she hoped the new system would cut down on the number of drunken-driving trials.

The officer phlebotomists are generally trained under the same program as other phlebotomists in their state, but under a highly compressed schedule. The officers are trained to take blood from the elbow crease, the forearm and the back of the hand. If none are accessible, they are instructed to take the suspect to a hospital for testing.

Though most legal experts agree that blood tests measure blood alcohol more accurately than breath tests, Mr. Oberman said they could be fraught with problems, too. Vials can be mixed up, preservative levels in the tubes used to collect the blood can be off or the blood can be stored improperly, causing it to ferment and have a higher alcohol content.

Mr. Oberman said law enforcement agencies should also be concerned “about possible malpractice cases over somebody who was not properly trained.”

Alan Haywood, the law enforcement phlebotomy coordinator in Arizona, is directing the training programs in Idaho and Texas. Mr. Haywood said that officers were exposed to some extra on-the-job risk if they drew blood, but that good training and safe practices reduced the concerns.

In Phoenix, Detective Kemp Layden, who oversees drug recognition, phlebotomy and field sobriety, said there were about 120 officers certified to draw blood. Typically, a suspect is brought to a precinct or mobile booking van for the blood draw.

Under the state’s implied consent law, drivers who refuse to voluntarily submit to the test lose their license for a year, so most comply. For the approximately 5 percent who refuse, the officer obtains a search warrant from an on-call judge and the suspect can be restrained if needed to obtain a sample, Detective Layden said.

Between 300 to 400 blood tests are done in an average month in Phoenix, the nation’s fifth-largest city. During holiday months that number can rise to 500, said Detective Layden, who reviews each case to make sure legal procedures were followed.

Posted: 9/14/2009 2:48:00 PM

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