Synthetic drugs are causing a real dilemma for states striving to enforce laws against driving under the influence. Depending on the type of drug a driver uses to get high, prosecutors can find it next to impossible to obtain a DUI conviction. Is that fair? How can states standardize how they handle and punish drug DUI cases? What safeguards should be in place to protect defendants?
An Associate Press article recently analyzed the case of 18-year-old Kristian Roggio, who suffered fatal injuries when another driver crossed a road in Brooklyn and collided with her car. Police maintain that the offending driver got high after inhaling aerosol dust cleaner, and they charged him with vehicular manslaughter. However, the New York Supreme Court threw out those charges, because that particular substance didn’t appear on the state’s list of banned substances. The Court decided that case nine years ago, but problems regarding how to identify and prosecute drug DUIs in New York and beyond persist to this day.
Authorities try to keep the list of banned drugs current; New York State’s list is 34 pages long. However, to ensure that substances don’t appear on the list of DUI-eligible substances, the manufacturers of synthetic drugs merely need to tweak the formulations a bit.
13 states have laws like New York’s, while 37 states and Washington, D.C., have statutes that allow DUI charges based on officers’ observations of drivers and/or on a more broad definition of a drug. The New York legislature is now considering legislation that would expand the state’s definition of DUI as well.
California’s law allows for an intoxication charge if a driver uses any drug that causes impairment. Under Vehicle Code 23152, a first offense can land you in jail for up to six months, and a second offense can lead to a year behind bars.
The effective Los Angeles DUI defense attorneys at the Kraut Law Group can help you pursue fair treatment and justice. Call us for a confidential consultation.